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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Timor-Leste (East Timor): History

This guide provides resources on the country's history, languages, and government.

For the purposes of this guide, the history of Timor-Leste has been broken down into three parts: Portuguese Colonialism, Indonesian Control, and Independence. Below are lists of books from the University Library that correspond to each moment in Timorese history.

Portuguese Colonialism

Timor-Leste became a Portuguese territory in the 16th century. It was known as "Timor Português" back then. In 1975, Portugal decolonized Timor-Leste.

Indonesian Control

In late-1975, Indonesia invaded Timor-Leste and took control of it. In 1999, there was a referendum on autonomy or independence, and 78.5 percent of Timorese favored independence. Shortly after, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor was established.


Timor-Leste became fully independent on May 20, 2002. It is one of the youngest countries in the world and is considered to be the first new sovereign state of the 21st century.