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MALAYSIA: Handbook of the Federated Malay States …Second Edition.



Scarce – the definitive official overview of the Federated Malay States at the beginning of the 20th Century, during the rubber and tin boom; richly illustrated with 5 folding maps and 7 photographic plates, by Sir H. Conway Belfield, the British Resident in Selangor.

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8°: vi, 174 pp., plus 5 folding maps (4 coloured) on thin paper and 7 photographic plates, bound in original printed card covers with brown cloth spine (Good, text with some sporadic marginal foxing and some folding to some corners, some underlining in pencil; Map #1 (Malay Peninsula) with small tear near hinge with no loss closed by old repair; Map #2 (Perak) with large tear through much of upper-right corner with no loss partially closed with old repairs, some creasing; Map #5 (Pahang) with marginal tear at hinge with no loss closed with old repair; covers lightly toned with light edge-wear and faint abrasions).



The Federated Malay States (FMS) was a British Protectorate on the Malay Peninsula formed in 1895 with the joining of the four hitherto independent kingdoms of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang.  The FMS was distinct from the British Crown Colony of Straits Settlements (Singapore, Penang, Malacca and Dinding) and the ‘unfederated’ states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu.  While the chief British official of the protectorate, the Resident General, in Kuala Lumpur, possessed broad powers over the economy, military and external affairs, the sultans of each constituent state maintained considerable autonomy over internal affairs.  The FMS existed until 1946, whereupon it was amended and expanded, eventually becoming the modern independent nation of Malaysia in 1963.

The present work is the finest and most authoritative general overview of the FMS made during the protectorate’s early period, which was also a time of great prosperity and expansion brought about the rubber and tin boom.  The work was authored by Sir Henry Conway Belfield, who then served as the Resident (chief British official) in Selangor.  The work has much of the feel of an almanac, packed with intriguing information, but is better-written and of a more coherent format than most works of its kind.  Belfield, an erudite Oxfordian and highly competent administrator, was able to use his official position to gain access to the best sources, intelligence which he lays out in a manner quite pleasing to the reader.  All considered, the Belfield’s Handbook is a seminal source on Malaysian history during this critical period.

The text is divided into five parts: Part I is a general overview of the Federated Malay States (pp. 1-32); Part II concerns Perak (pp. 33-66); Part III covers Selangor (pp. 67-84); Part IV features Negeri Sembilan (pp. 85-94) and Part V showcases Pahang (pp. 95-142).  Each part features well-ordered sections detailing various aspects of the each jurisdiction’s official establishment; topography; boundaries; geology; climate; demographics (the 1901 Census shows that the FMS had  a total population of 665,000); history; military establishment; economy (especially the all-important rubber and tin industries, as well as the agrarian sector); the entertaining ‘Hints to New Arrivals’: transportation (the FMS then possessed 396.25 miles of railway lines); as well as other curious matters.

Importantly, each section features its own fine folding map, from the best and most recent sources, variously printed by the London firm of Waterlow & Sons or the British Army’s Ordnance Survey Office in Southampton.  The maps are as follows:

1. Malay Peninsula (London: Waterlow & Sons), printed in full colour, 29.5 x 22 cm.

2. Alfred E. Young, Chief Surveyor, Map of Perak 1901 (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1901), highly detailed official topographical survey, 61 x 47 cm.

3. Selangor 1902 (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1901), coloured agricultural (green) and mining areas (blue), 34.5 x 27.5 cm.

4. Sketch Map of Negeri Sembilan (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1901), printed in red and black, 41.5 x 31 cm.

5. Map of Pahang Federated Malay States (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1901), printed in red and black, 36 x 31 cm.

Additionally, the work is augmented by seven full-page photographic plates depicting: a railway station; tin mine; the Perak River; 2 plates of limestone cliffs with railway lines at Kinta; Government Offices in Kuala Lumpur; and the Public Gardens at Kuala Lumpur.

The work also features three appendices.  The first, concern the shipping lines and routes.  The second, provides hints for English planters in Malaya.  The third, describes the Straits Settlements, Britain’s Crown Colony on the Malay Peninsula (including Georgetown, Malacca and Singapore).

The first edition of the Handbook was issued in 1903, with the present improved second following in 1904.  A third, and final, edition was published in 1906.

All examples of the Handbook, in any of the three editions, are rare in commerce; we can trace only a few sales records from the last generation.


Sir Henry Conway Belfield: 28 Years in the Malayan Civil Service & Governor of Kenya

Sir Henry Conway Belfield (1855 – 1923) was an esteemed British colonial official.  Hailing from a good family, he was educated at Rugby School, before attending Oriel College, Oxford.  He worked as a barrister before joining the service of the Colonial Office in 1884.  He spent the next 28 years in British Malaya, rising to serve as the Resident of Negeri Sembilan (1901–2); Selangor (1902-10) and Perak (1910–12).  Belfield was promoted to serve as the Governor of Kenya (1912-7) during the critical period leading up to and during much of World War I.  He was a respected intellectual and author, in addition to the present Handbook, he wrote the Report Upon the Present Condition of Affairs in Labuan and Brunei (1905) and Gold Coast. Report Legislation Governing Alienation Native Lands Gold Coast Colony Ashanti (1912).

References: British Library: General Reference Collection 010055.g.29. / OCLC: 853460874.

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