- Category: Stamps & a bit of history
- Published: Wednesday, 17 February 2016 19:09
- Written by Catpaw
- Hits: 1847
Ready for a history lesson? Buckle up, this one gets confusing at times.
Some of the world’s beautiful stamps came from the State of North Borneo. The little parcel of land (abt 31,106 sq.m) was given as a gift, leased, abandoned, flipped, invaded and conquered at a dizzying rate in the span of about 200 odd years. It belonged to the Sultan of Brunei, but was leased to Great Britain as a reward for aiding the Sultan in a civil war. For a few years, the British tried to settle the land, built a port, imported labour etc. By 1805 it was viewed as a white elephant - too expensive to administer and too difficult to fend off the numerous pirate attacks so the British abandoned the lease and left. 60 years later, the Americans took out a lease on the land but quickly sold the lease off. Post-Civil War United States had no appetite for Asian territories and auctioned off the lease to the American Trading Company of Borneo.
Their effort was equally short lived. Disease, expenses, deaths and difficulty keeping labour on the land forced the company to abandon the territory within a year. They hung onto the lease for 10 years and flipped it to Consul of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Hong Kong, Baron Gustav von Overbeck who then negotiated a new 10 year lease with the Sultan of Brunei. Despite his best efforts, von Overbeck couldn’t interest the Austro-Hungarian government in investing time, men and money on the land. He was saddled with a costly lease no one wanted. Overbeck tried to sell the lease off to the Italians as an Italian version of Devil’s Island, but the Italian government didn’t see a need for a penal colony so far afield.