Sumatra's East Coast Residency

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Sumatra's East Coast Residency
Residentie Oostkust van Sumatra
Residency of Dutch East Indies

Malay-language map of East Sumatra Residency (1909)
• 1930
94,583[1] km2 (36,519 sq mi)
• 1930
• Established
• Disestablished
Today part ofNorth Sumatra and Riau

Sumatra's East Coast Residency (Dutch: Residentie Oostkust van Sumatra) was an administrative subdivision of the Dutch East Indies with its capital in Medan. It was located in northern Sumatra.[3][4]


From the early 19th century the Dutch gradually took control of Sumatra, starting from the south. In Eastern Indonesia, the sultanates of Asahan, Serdang, Deli and Langkat were subjugated between 1662 and 1865, and these sultans were subsequently used by the Dutch to indirectly rule the 'native states', as they became known. The inland Batak areas were under Dutch control by 1895. The East Coast Residency was established in 1873, and took its final form in 1908 after Tamiang, a small area in the north, was transferred to Aceh[5][6]


In 1863, the first Dutch settler, Jacobus Nienjuys, arrived and began to plant tobacco, nutmeg and coconut. Others followed, and established plantations to grow tropical crops such as tobacco, rubber, palm oil and coffee. These plants grew very well in the region's volcanic soil. By 1938, there were 10,026 square kilometers of plantations in the northern part of the residency, known as the Estates Area.[7]


In 1938, all ten residences on the island of Sumatra were brought together to form the Gouvernement of Sumatra, with Medan as its capital. The head of each residency was a resident. Under the resident, there were assistant residents, controllers and district administrators, who were responsible for the subdivisions of the residency. In East Sumatra, as well as the directly governed areas, there were 34 native states, which were autonomous to a degree, They comprised:[8]

The towns of Medan, Pematang Siantar, Tandjong Balai, Tebing Tinggi and Bindjei were enclaves within the native states. The first two were governed by a mayor, and the latter three by the assistant resident.[9]


Before 1863, when the first Europeans arrived, the region was populated by a few thousand Malays. As labourers from outside the region were brought in to work on the plantations, the population grew rapidly. Initially these immigrant workers came directly from China, and from 1872, Java. In the late 1880s, the number of Chinese labourers brought in by the tobacco companies reached 20,000 per year. The work force on the coffee, rubber, tea and oil-palm plantations, which began to be planted in the late 1890s, was entirely ethnic Javanese.[10][11]

Sumatra East Coast Population[12]
Year Europeans Natives Chinese Other
1880 522 90,000 25,700 2,533
1900 2,079 306,035 103,768 9,208
1915 5,200 681,000 132,000 14,320
1930 11,079 1,470,395 192,822 18,904

As of 1938, the "native" population was dominated by ethnic Javanese, mostly from central Java, followed by Bataks. There were also Banjar people from southern Borneo and Mandailing people from west Sumatra. Most of the "other orientals" were from China, but there were also Indians and Arabs. Most of the managers of the tobacco plantations and half the managers of the rubber, tea and oil plantations were Dutch, but there were also other Europeans and Americans.[13][14]


  1. ^ Dootjes 1938, p. 47.
  2. ^ Dootjes 1938, p. 50.
  3. ^ Topografische Inrichting (Batavia) (1915), Schetskaart van het noordelijk gedeelte der Residentie Oostkust van Sumatra, Topographische Inrichting, retrieved 5 January 2023
  4. ^ Heyligers, Ch A (1912), De agrarische aangelegenheden in de Residentie Oostkust van Sumatra, J. Hallermann, retrieved 5 January 2023
  5. ^ Cribb 2013, pp. 115–116, 127.
  6. ^ Reid 2014, pp. 3–4.
  7. ^ Dootjes 1939, pp. 45–27.
  8. ^ Dootjes 1939, p. 52.
  9. ^ Dootjes 1939, p. 53.
  10. ^ Dootjes 1939, pp. 49–50.
  11. ^ Reid 2014, pp. 43–44.
  12. ^ Dootjes 1939, p. 50.
  13. ^ Dootjes 1939, pp. 50–51.
  14. ^ Reid 2014, p. 41.


  • Cribb, Robert; Kahin, Audrey (2004). Historical Dictionary of Indonesia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810849358.
  • Cribb, Robert (2013). Historical Atlas of Indonesia. Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-0985-1.
  • Dootjes, F.J.J. (November 1938). "Deli, the Land of Agricultural Enterprises". In Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (ed.). Bulletin of the Colonial Institute of Amsterdam. Vol. 2. Kominklijk Instituut voor de Troopen. pp. 45–55.
  • Reid, Anthony (2014). The Blood of the People: Revolution & the End of Traditional Rule in Northern Sumatra. Singapore: NUS Press. ISBN 978-9971-69-637-5.
  • Ricklefs, M.C. (2008) [1981], A History of Modern Indonesia Since c. 1200 (4th ed.), Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 978-0-230-54686-8