Resource Guide

Historical Statistical Materials on Malaya in London

Tamotsu Nishizawa

In September of last year, I conducted research for ten days in London on pre-World War II Malayan historical statistical materials. London is known as one of the best locations for finding public documents on prewar Malaya. Most materials are stored at the London School of Economics (LSE), the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the British Library, and the Public Record Office. LSE and SOAS were the most convenient sites to start work because the materials are stored in open stacks. Malaya was under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office (to which authority over the Straits Settlement was transferred from the India Office in 1867), so that from at least the second half of the 19th century, public documents were kept, not at the India Office Library and Records, but at the Public Record Office. This essay presents a general introduction of historical materials on Malaya, particularly on the abundant materials from the Straits Settlements (S.S.) and the Federated Malay States (F.M.S.).

My research at the Public Records Office was quite brief, but one can find comprehensive information on the public documents held by the Colonial Office in Index to British Colonial Office Files Pertaining to British Malaya, Vols. 1-12 (Kuala Lumpur, the collection was completed in 1990), by P. Kratoska of Singapore National University. The first nine volumes include CO 273: Straits Settlements. Original Correspondence, which contains the File List and Indexes for 1838-1946; Vols. 1-4: 1838-1900; Vols. 5-8: 1901-1919; and Vol. 9: 1920-46. Both CO 273 and CO 717: Malay States, Federated. Original Correspondence, 1920-50 are on microfilm. Regarding other colonial public documents at the Public Records Office, Vol. 1, Records of the Colonial Office, Dominions Office, Commonwealth Relations Office and Commonwealth Office by A. Thurston (1995) has recently been published, and Vol. 2, Cabinet, Foreign Office, Treasury and Other Records is scheduled for publication. The Public Record Office is also putting out volumes on individual countries: Vol. 1 Ghana has already been published, and Vol. 3 Malaya is scheduled for publication. Another useful work is Shimizu Hajime, editor, Eikoku kobunshokan no Nihon - Tonan Ajia kankei shiryo [Materials relative to Japan and Southeast Asia held at Britain's Public Record Office] (Aji-ken, 1992).

Amidst the extensive holdings of Malayan public documents at the Public Record Office, two particularly useful compendia of historical statistics are CO 277: Straits Settlements Miscellanea, Blue Books of Statistics, 1867-1939, 91 volumes, and CO 575: Federated Malay States Miscellanea, Manual of Statistics, 1904-1949, 38 volumes. These two collections have been microfilmed, and will soon be obtained by the Asian Historical Statistics Project. LSE holds Blue Books for 1873-79, 1884, 1887-1905, and 1908-38, while SOAS holds those for 1890-1938. In addition, both LSE and SOAS hold Straits Settlements Annual Reports for 1887-1891 and 1896-1938, while SOAS holds Federated Malay States Annual Reports, 1914-1935, as well as those publications' earlier versions, F.M.S. Administration Reports, 1895-97, 1900-01, and F.M.S. Year Book, 1924-28, 1929-31. In 1895, the four states of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Pahang were unified into the Federated Malay States, and SOAS holds annual reports for each of these states. Blue Books, Manual of Statistics, and the Annual Reports probably provide the most basic annual statistical materials on the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malayan States. For the period prior to 1935, when the Malayan Yearbook first appeared, annual statistical reports of the same nature for the regions provide reliable information, as do the British Parliamentary Papers (described below).

Censuses were conducted at ten-year intervals for the Straits Settlements from 1851 and for the Federated Malay States from 1891. The LSE holds the 1891 and 1901 Report on the Census of the Straits Settlements, and the 1921 and 1931 editions of The Census of British Malaya (The Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States and Protected States of Johore, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu, and Brunei). British Malaya's census was first conducted in 1921 under a single supervising official. Malayan Year Book, compiled in 1935 by the S.S. and F.M.S. Statistics Offices, was the first statistical annual to be published for Malaya. From this period, all official agencies poured forth a large volume of publications. Those held by LSE, for example, include:
Malaya Labour Dept., Reports, 1934-39, 1947-49, 1951-56
Malaya Medical Dept., Reports, 1946-51
F.M.S., Medical Dept., Reports, 1934-39
F.M.S., Crime Reports, 1934-39
F.M.S., Social and Economic Progress of Perak, Report, 1934-39
F.M.S., Progress of the People of Pahang, Report, 1934-39
Malaya Railways Report, 1934-39, 1946-52
Malaya Survey Depts., Reports, 1934-39
Malaya Agriculture Dept., Reports, 1934-40,1946-52
Malaya Rubber Statistics, 1930-66
Malaya Forest Reports, 1934-40, 1946-53

F.M.S., Mines Reports, 1934-39
Malaya Mines Reports, 1946-49

For the period prior to 1935, valuable information is included in the 'Statistical Abstracts' of the British Parliamentary Papers, especially 'Statistical Tables,' (Statistical Tables relating to the Colonial and other Possessions of the United Kingdom, otherwise Statistical Tables relating to British Colonies, Possessions, and Protectorates). A very useful guide to the British Parliamentary Papers is General Alphabetical Index to the Bills, Reports, Estimates, Accounts and Papers, printed by order of the House of Commons, and to the Papers presented by Command... Although there are some discrepancies according to the fiscal year, 'Statistical Tables' and 'Statistical Abstracts' list [information on] the Straits Settlements, Federated Malay States, and Protected (Unfederated) Malay States separately, and include basic statistics for the State of North Borneo and Territory of Sarawak. Statistics for the Straits Settlements are quite detailed, and its tables cover area, population, births and mortality, immigration, education, agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, wages, prices, public debt, finance, imports and exports, customs duties, mail, railways, shipping, telegraph and telephones, savings banks, crime, and others. The "Accounts and Papers" of the British Parliamentary Papers include yearly "Colonial Reports," which provide background information for use with these various statistical items.

I am at present inputting basic data on population, labor force, and education for the pre-Malayan Yearbook era from the British Parliamentary Papers' "Statistical Tables," "Abstracts," "Census," Blue Books, Manual of Statistics, and other sources. Thanks to assistance from LSE graduate students, the work is making slow but steady progress.

Hitotsubashi University, Institute of Economic Research