Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

developed in the hands of Chinese miners amid the peace and security which British rule has brought to these once lawless lands. The value of the tin output for the year 1905 amounted to $69,460,993 (£8,104,199). Although agricultural enterprise in the Malay States is assuming considerable proportions and a growing importance, the total value of the principal agricultural products, including timber, for the year 1905 only aggregated $2,435,513 (£289,143).

The whole of the Malay Peninsula is one vast forest, through which flow countless streams that form one of the most lavish water-systems in the world. The rivers, though many of them are of imposing appearance and of considerable length, are uniformly shallow, only a few on the west coast being navigable by ships for a distance of some 40 m. from their mouths. In spite of the notable development above referred to, only a very small fraction of the entire area of the states has as yet been touched either by mining or agricultural enterprise. It is not too much to assert that the larger half of the forest-lands has never been trodden by the foot of man. (For information concerning the botany, geology, &c., of the Malay States see Malay Peninsula. For the ethnology see Malays.)

Perak is situated between the parallels 3° 37′ and 6° 5′ N. and 100° 3′ to 101° 51′ E. on the western side of the Malay Peninsula. It is bounded on the N. by the British possession of Province Wellesley and the Malay state of Kedah; on the S. by the protected native state of Selangor; on the E. by the protected native state of Pahang and the independent states of Kelantan and Petani; and on the W. by the Straits of Malacca. The coast-line is about 90 m. in length. The extreme distance from the most northerly to the most southerly portions of the state is about 172 m., and the greatest breadth from east to west is about 100 m. The total area of the country is estimated at about 10,000 sq. m.

The Perak river, which runs in a southerly direction almost parallel with the coast for nearly 150 m. of its course, is navigable for small steamers for about 40 m. from its mouth, and by native trading boats for nearly 200 m. The Plus, Batang, Padang and Kinta rivers are its principal tributaries, all of them falling into the Perak on its left bank. The other principal rivers of the state are the Krian, Kurau, Larut and Bruas to the north of the mouth of the Perak, and the Bernam to the south. None of these rivers is of any great importance as a waterway, although the Bernam River is navigable for small steamers for nearly 100 m. of its course. The mountain ranges, which cover a considerable area, run from the north-east to the south-west. The highest altitudes attained by them do not exceed 7500 ft., but they average about 2500 ft. They are all thickly covered with jungle. The ranges are two, running parallel to one another, with the valley of the Perak between them. The larger is a portion of the main chain, which runs down the peninsula from north to south. The lesser is situated in the district of Larut. There are several hill sanatoria in the state at heights which vary from 2500 to 4700 ft. above sea-level, but the extreme humidity of the atmosphere renders the coolness thus obtainable the reverse of enjoyable.

Mr Leonard Wray, curator of the Perak museum, writes as follows on the subject of the geological formation of the state: “There are really only four formations represented—firstly, the granitic rocks; secondly, a large series of beds of Geology. gneiss, quartzite, schist and sandstone, overlaid in many places by thick beds of crystalline limestone; thirdly, small sheets of trap rock; and fourthly, river-gravels and other Quaternary deposits. The granites are of many varieties, and also, in all probability, of several different geological periods. The series of quartzites, schists, and limestone are of great age, but as no fossils have ever been found in any of them, nothing definite can be stated as to their exact chronological position. Their lithological characteristics and the total absence of all organic remains point to the Archaean period. The failure to discover signs of life in them is, of course, merely negative evidence, and the finding of a single fossil would at once upset it. However, until this happens they may be conveniently classed as Laurentian. It is at present impossible to form anything approaching an accurate estimate of the thickness of this extensive series, but it is probable that it is somewhere between 4000 and 5000 ft. Unconformability has been noticed between the limestones and the beds beneath, but whether this is sufficient to separate them or not is a matter for future investigation. . . . The taller hills are exclusively composed of granite, as also are some of the lower ones. . . . The ores of the following metals have been found in the formations named: Granite—tin, lead, iron, arsenic, tungsten and titanium; Laurentian—tin, gold, lead, silver, iron, arsenic, copper, zinc, tungsten, manganese and bismuth; Quaternary—tin, gold, copper, tungsten, iron and titanium. This is not to be considered a complete list, as small quantities of other metals have also been found.”

The early history of Perak is obscure, the only information on the subject being obtained from native traditions, which are altogether untrustworthy. According to these authorities, however, a settlement was first made by Malays in Perak at Bruas, and the capital History. was later moved to the banks of the Perak River, the site chosen being a little village called Temong, which lies some miles up stream from Kuala Kangsar, the present residence of the sultan. When the Malacca sultanate fell, owing to the invasion of the Portuguese in 1511, a member of that royal house is said to have migrated to Perak, and the present dynasty claims to have been descended from him. As this boast is also made by almost every ruling family in the peninsula, the tradition is not worthy of any special attention. What is more certain is the tradition that Perak was twice invaded by the Achinese, and its rulers carried off into captivity, one of them, Sultan Mansur Shah, subsequently becoming the ruler of Achin. The first European settlement in Perak was made by the Dutch in 1650, under a treaty entered into with the Achinese, but the natives of the country rose against the Dutch again and again, and it was abandoned in 1783, though it was afterwards reoccupied, the Dutch being finally ejected by the British in 1795. In 1818 the Siamese conquered Perak, but its independence was secured by a treaty between the British and Siamese governments in 1824. From that date until 1874 Perak was ruled by its own sultans, but in that year, owing to internal strife, Sultan Abdullah applied to the then governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Andrew Clarke, for the assistance of a British Resident. The treaty of Pangkor was concluded on the 20th of January 1874, and the first resident, Mr J. W. W. Birch, was murdered on the 2nd of November 1875. A punitive expedition became necessary; sultan Abdullah and the other chiefs concerned in the murder were banished, the actual murderers were hanged, and Raja Muda Jusuf was declared regent. He died in 1888, and was succeeded by the sultan Raja Idris, K.C.M.G., a most enlightened ruler, who was from the first a strong and intelligent advocate of British methods of administration. Sir Hugh Low was appointed resident, a position which he held until 1889, when he was succeeded by Sir Frank Swettenham. Since then the history of Perak has been one of continuous peace and growing prosperity and wealth. Although the federal capital is Kuala Lumpor in Selangor, Perak still enjoys the honour of being the senior and leading state of the federation.

By the census taken on the 5th of April 1891 the population of Perak was shown to be as follows: Europeans, 366; Eurasians, Jews and Armenians, 293; Malays, 96,719; Chinese, 94,345; Tamils, 13,086; aborigines, 5779; other nationalities, Population. 3666; thus making a grand total of 214,254, of whom 156,408 were males and 57,846 were females. The estimated population in 1905 was 400,000, of whom 200,000 were Chinese and 160,000 were Malays, but owing to the disparity of the proportions between the sexes the deaths in each year largely outnumber the births, and the increase in the population is accounted for solely by the number of immigrants, chiefly from the mainland of China, and to a lesser extent from India also.

The revenue of Perak in 1874 amounted to $226,333. That for 1905 amounted to $12,242,897. Of this latter sum $4,876,400 was derived from duty on exported tin, $2,489,300 from railway receipts, $505,300 from land revenue and $142,800 from postal and telegraphic revenue. The remainder is mainly derived from the revenue farms, which are leased to Chinese capitalists for a short term of years, conveying to the lessee the right to collect import duties upon opium, wine and spirits, to keep pawnbroking shops, and to keep public licensed gambling-houses for the use of Chinese only. The expenditure for 1905 amounted to $10,141,980. Of this sum $4,236,000 was expended upon railway upkeep and construction and $2,176,100 upon public works. The value of the imports into Perak during 1905 was over $20,000,000, and that of the exports exceeded $40,000,000, making a total of over $60,000,000, equivalent to about seven million sterling. The output of tin from Perak ranged between 18,960 tons, valued at $23,099,506 in 1899, and 26,600 tons, valued at $35,500,000, in 1905. The fluctuating character of the output is due, not to any exhaustion of the mineral deposits of the state—that is not to be anticipated for many years yet to come—but to the uncertainty of the labour supply. The mining population is recruited exclusively from the districts of southern China, and during certain years an increased demand for labourers in China itself, in French Indo-China, in the Dutch colonies, and in South Africa temporarily and adversely affected immigration to the Straits of Malacca. The output has, moreover, been affected from time to time by the price of tin, which was $32.20 per pikul in 1896, rose to $42.96 in 1898, to $74.15 in 1900, and averaged $80.60 in 1905. Exclusive of tin, the principal exports were $108,000 worth of Para rubber, $181,000 of copra, $54,000 of hides, $48,000 of patchouli, and considerable quantities of timber, rattans and other jungle produce. The agricultural development of the state is still in its infancy, but rubber is cultivated in rapidly increasing areas, and the known fertility of the soil, the steady and regular rainfall, the excellent means of communication, and the natural and artificial conditions of the country, justify the expectation that the future of Perak as an agricultural country will be prosperous.

Although so much has been done to develop the resources of Perak, by far the greater portion of the state is still covered by dense and virgin forest. In 1898 it was calculated that only 330,249 acres of land were occupied or cultivated out of a total acreage of 6,400,000.