European colonization of Timor started in the 16th century. Although Portuguese claimed the island of Timor in 1520, the Dutch (in Dutch East India Company) settled West Timor in 1640, forcing the Portuguese out to East Timor. The subsequent collapse of the company meant that in 1799 the area returned to official Dutch rule. Finally, in 1914 a treaty between Holland and Portugal that was originally signed in 1859 and modified in 1893 finalized border between East and West Timor.
Japan conquered the island as part of World War II in early 1942. August 17, 1945 saw Indonesian Independence declared, just three days after the Japanese surrender. The Dutch returned but faced a war with republican guerrillas, the eventual outcome of which was the proclamation of Republic of Indonesia in 1950, which made West Timor a part of East Nusa Tenggara.
West Timor has approximately 1.6 million inhabitants. The population is mostly of Malay, Papuan or Polynesian extraction, with a tiny ethnic Chinese group. About half of the population belongs to Atoni ethnicity. West Timor’s main religions are Catholic (56%), Protestant (35%) and Muslim (8%).