During the 19th century, the Dutch possessions and hegemony were expanded, reaching their greatest territorial extent in the early 20th century. The Dutch East Indies was one of the most valuable colonies under European rule,
and contributed to Dutch global prominence in spice and cash crop
trade in the 19th to early 20th century.
The colonial social order was based on rigid racial and social structures with a Dutch elite living separate from but linked to their native subjects.
The term Indonesia
came into use for the geographical location after 1880. In the early 20th century, local intellectuals began developing the concept of Indonesia
as a nation state, and set the stage for an independence movement.
Scholars writing in English use the terms Indië
, the Dutch East Indies
, the Netherlands Indies
, and colonial Indonesia
Expansion of the Dutch East Indies in the Indonesian Archipelago
Centuries before Europeans arrived, the Indonesian archipelago
supported various states, including commercially oriented coastal trading states and inland agrarian states (the most important were Srivijaya
The islands were known to the Europeans and were sporadically visited by expeditions such as that of Marco Polo
in 1292, and his fellow Italian Odoric of Pordenone
in 1321. The first Europeans to establish themselves in Indonesia were the Portuguese
in 1512. Following disruption of Dutch access to spices,
the first Dutch
expedition set sail for the East Indies in 1595 to access spices directly from Asia
. When it made a 400% profit on its return, other Dutch expeditions soon followed. Recognising the potential of the East Indies
trade, the Dutch government amalgamated the competing companies into the United East India Company
(Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie
The VOC was granted a charter to wage war, build fortresses, and make treaties across Asia.
A capital was established in Batavia
), which became the center of the VOC's Asian trading network.
To their original monopolies on nutmeg
, the company and later colonial administrations introduced non-indigenous cash crops
, and safeguarded their commercial interests by taking over surrounding territory.
Smuggling, the ongoing expense of war, corruption, and mismanagement led to bankruptcy by the end of the 18th century. The company was formally dissolved in 1800 and its colonial possessions in the Indonesian archipelago
(including much of Java
, parts of Sumatra
, much of Maluku
, and the hinterlands of ports such as Makasar
, and Kupang
) were nationalized under the Dutch Republic as the Dutch East Indies.
From the arrival of the first Dutch ships in the late 16th century, to the declaration of independence in 1945, Dutch control over the Indonesian archipelago was always tenuous.
Although Java was dominated by the Dutch,
many areas remained independent throughout much of this time, including Aceh
There were numerous wars and disturbances across the archipelago as various indigenous groups resisted efforts to establish a Dutch hegemony, which weakened Dutch control and tied up its military forces.
Piracy remained a problem until the mid-19th century.
Finally in the early 20th century, imperial dominance was extended across what was to become the territory of modern-day Indonesia.
Since the establishment of the VOC in the 17th century, the expansion of Dutch territory had been a business matter. Graaf van den Bosch
's governor-generalship (1830–1835) confirmed profitability as the foundation of official policy, restricting its attention to Java, Sumatra and Bangka
However, from about 1840, Dutch national expansionism saw them wage a series of wars to enlarge and consolidate their possessions in the outer islands.
Motivations included: the protection of areas already held; the intervention of Dutch officials ambitious for glory or promotion; and to establish Dutch claims throughout the archipelago to prevent intervention from other Western powers during the European push for colonial possessions
As exploitation of Indonesian resources expanded off Java, most of the outer islands came under direct Dutch government control or influence.
The Dutch subjugated the Minangkabau
of Sumatra in the Padri War
and the Java War
(1825–30) ended significant Javanese resistance.
The Banjarmasin War
(1859–1863) in southeast Kalimantan resulted in the defeat of the Sultan.
After failed expeditions to conquer Bali in 1846
, an 1849 intervention
brought northern Bali under Dutch control. The most prolonged military expedition was the Aceh War
in which a Dutch invasion in 1873 was met with indigenous guerrilla resistance and ended with an Acehnese surrender in 1912.
Disturbances continued to break out on both Java and Sumatra
during the remainder of the 19th century.
However, the island of Lombokcame under Dutch control
resistance in northern Sumatra was quashed in 1895.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the balance of military power shifted towards the industrialising Dutch and against pre-industrial independent indigenous Indonesian polities
as the technology gap widened.
Military leaders and Dutch politicians believed they had a moral duty to free the native Indonesian peoples from indigenous rulers who were considered oppressive, backward, or disrespectful of international law.
Although Indonesian rebellions broke out, direct colonial rule was extended throughout the rest of the archipelago from 1901 to 1910 and control taken from the remaining independent local rulers.
was occupied in 1905–06, the island of Bali was subjugated with military conquests in 1906
, as were the remaining independent kingdoms in Maluku, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Nusa Tenggara
Other rulers including the Sultans of Tidore
in Maluku, Pontianak
(Kalimantan), and Palembang
in Sumatra, requested Dutch protection from independent neighbours thereby avoiding Dutch military conquest and were able to negotiate better conditions under colonial rule.
The Bird's Head Peninsula
(Western New Guinea
), was brought under Dutch administration in 1920. This final territorial range would form the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.
World War II and independence
The Netherlands capitulated their European territory to Germany
on May 14, 1940. The royal family fled to exile in Britain. Germany and Japan were Axis allies. On 27 September 1940, Germany, Hungary
, and Japan
signed a treaty outlining "spheres of influence". The Dutch East Indies fell into Japan's sphere.
The Netherlands, Britain and the United States tried to defend the colony from the Japanese forces as they moved south in late 1941 in search of Dutch oil.
On 10 January 1942, during the Dutch East Indies Campaign
, Japanese forces invaded the Dutch East Indies as part of the Pacific War
The rubber plantations and oil fields of the Dutch East Indies were considered crucial for the Japanese war effort. Allied forces were quickly overwhelmed by the Japanese and on 8 March 1942 the Royal Dutch East Indies Army
surrendered in Java.
Fuelled by the Japanese Light of Asia
and the Indonesian National Awakening
, a vast majority of the indigenous Dutch East Indies population first welcomed the Japanese as liberators from the colonial Dutch empire, but this sentiment quickly changed as the occupation turned out to be far more oppressive and ruinous than the Dutch colonial government. The Japanese occupation
during World War II brought about the fall of the colonial state in Indonesia,
as the Japanese removed as much of the Dutch government structure as they could, replacing it with their own regime.
Although the top positions were held by the Japanese, the internment of all Dutch citizens meant that Indonesians filled many leadership and administrative positions. In contrast to Dutch repression of Indonesian nationalism, the Japanese allowed indigenous leaders to forge links amongst the masses, and they trained and armed the younger generations.
According to a UN report, four million people died in Indonesia as a result of the Japanese occupation.
Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, nationalist leaders Sukarno
and Mohammad Hatta
declared Indonesian independence. A four and a half-year struggle
followed as the Dutch tried to re-establish their colony; although Dutch forces re-occupied most of Indonesia's territory a guerrilla struggle ensued, and the majority of Indonesians, and ultimately international opinion, favoured Indonesian independence. The Netherlands committed war crimes : summary and arbitrary killings of Indonesian villagers and farmers, torture of Indonesian prisoners and execution of prisoners. Ad van Liempt documented the mass murder of 364 Indonesians by Dutch soldiers in the village of Galoeng Galoeng. Alfred Edelstein and Karin van Coevorden, documented later the execution of hundreds of men in the village of Rawagede
In December 1949, the Netherlands formally recognized Indonesian sovereignty with the exception of the Netherlands New Guinea
(Western New Guinea
's government campaigned for Indonesian control of the territory, and with pressure from the United States, the Netherlands agreed to the New York Agreement
which ceded the territory to Indonesian administration in May 1963.
The Governor-General's palace in Batavia (1880-1900)
Since the VOC era, the highest Dutch authority in the colony resided with the 'Office of the Governor-General'. During the Dutch East Indies era the Governor-General functioned as chief executive president of colonial government and served as commander-in-chief
of the colonial (KNIL
) army. Until 1903 all government officials and organisations were formal agents of the Governor-General and were entirely dependent on the central administration of the 'Office of the Governor-General' for their budgets.
Until 1815 the Governor-General had the absolute right to ban, censor or restrict any publication in the colony. The so-called Exorbitant powers
of the Governor-General allowed him to exile anyone regarded as subversive and dangerous to peace and order, without involving any Court of Law.
Until 1848 the Governor-General was directly appointed by the Dutch monarch, and in later years via the Crown and on advice of the Dutch metropolitan cabinet. During two periods (1815–1835 and 1854–1925) the Governor-General ruled jointly with an advisory board called the Raad van Indie
(Indies Council). Colonial policy
and strategy were the responsibility of the Ministry of Colonies
based in The Hague
. From 1815 to 1848 the Ministry was under direct authority of the Dutch King. In the 20th century the colony gradually developed as a state distinct from the Dutch metropole with treasury separated in 1903, public loans being contracted by the colony from 1913, and quasi diplomatic ties were established with Arabia to manage the Haji pilgrimage from the Dutch East Indies. In 1922 the colony came on equal footing with the Netherlands in the Dutch constitution, while remaining under the Ministry of Colonies.
House of the Resident (colonial administrator) in Surabaya
The Governor-General led a hierarchy of Dutch officials; the Residents, the Assistant Residents, and District Officers called Controllers. Traditional rulers who survived displacement by the Dutch conquests were installed as regents and indigenous aristocracy became an indigenous civil service. While they lost real control, their wealth and splendour under the Dutch grew.
This indirect rule did not disturb the peasantry and was cost-effective for the Dutch; in 1900, only 250 European and 1,500 indigenous civil servants, and 16,000 Dutch officers and men and 26,000 hired native troops, were required to rule 35 million colonial subjects.
From 1910, the Dutch created the most centralised state power in Southeast Asia
Politically, the highly centralised power structure, including the exorbitant powers of exile and censorship,
established by the Dutch administration was carried over into the new Indonesian republic.
A People's Council called the Volksraad
for the Dutch East Indies commenced in 1918. The Volksraad
was limited to an advisory role and only a small portion of the indigenous population were able to vote for its members. The Council comprised 30 indigenous members, 25 European and 5 from Chinese and other populations, and was reconstituted every four years. In 1925 the Volksraad was made a semilegislative body; although decisions were still made by the Dutch government, the governor-general was expected to consult the Volksraad
on major issues. The Volksraad
was dissolved in 1942 during the Japanese occupation.
The Supreme Court Building, Batavia
The Dutch government adapted the Dutch codes of law in its colony. The highest court of law, the Supreme Court in Batavia, dealt with appeals and monitored judges and courts throughout the colony. Six Councils of Justice (Raad van Justitie)
dealt mostly with crime committed by people in the European legal class
and only indirectly with the indigenous population. The Land Councils (Landraden)
dealt with civil matters and less serious offences like estate divorces, and matrimonial disputes. The indigenous population was subject to their respective adat
law and to indigenous regents and district courts, unless cases were escalated before Dutch judges.
Following Indonesian independence, the Dutch legal system was adopted and gradually a national legal system based on Indonesian precepts of law and justice was established.
By 1920 the Dutch had established 350 prisons throughout the colony. The Meester Cornelis
prison in Batavia incarcerated the most unruly inmates. In Sawah Loento
prison on Sumatra prisoners had to perform manual labour in the coal mines. Separate prisons were built for juveniles (West Java) and for women. In the female Boeloe
prison in Semarang inmates had the opportunity to learn a profession during their detention, such as sewing, weaving and making batik
. This training was held in high esteem and helped re-socialise women once they were outside the correctional facility.
In response to the communist uprising of 1926 the prison camp Boven-Digoel
was established in New Guinea
. As of 1927 political prisoners, including indigenous Indonesians espousing Indonesian independence, were 'exiled' to the outer islands.
The Dutch East Indies was divided into three Gouvernementen
- Groot Oost, Borneo and Sumatra - and three provincies
in Java. Provincies and Gouvernementen were both divided into Residencies, but while the Residencies under the provincies were divided again into regentschappen
, Residencies under Gouvermenten were divided into Afdeelingen
first before being subdivided into regentschappen
The KNIL was not part of the Royal Netherlands Army
, but a separate military arm commanded by the Governor-General and funded by the colonial budget. The KNIL was not allowed to recruit Dutch conscripts and had the nature of a 'Foreign Legion
' recruiting not only Dutch volunteers, but many other European nationalities (especially German, Belgian and Swiss mercenaries).
While most officers were Europeans, the majority of soldiers were indigenous Indonesians, the largest contingent of which were Javanese
Dutch policy before the 1870s was to take full charge of strategic points and work out treaties with the local leaders elsewhere so they would remain in control and co-operate. The policy failed in Aceh
, in northern Sumatra, where the sultan tolerated pirates who raided commerce in the Strait of Malacca
. Britain was a protector of Aceh and it granted the Dutch request to conduct their anti-piracy campaign. The campaign quickly drove out the sultan but across Aceh numerous local Muslim leaders mobilised and fought the Dutch in four decades of very expensive guerrilla war, with high levels of atrocities on both sides.
Colonial military authorities tried to forestall a war against the population by means of a ‘strategy of awe’. When a guerrilla war did take place the Dutch used either a slow, violent occupation or a campaign of destruction.
Decorated indigenous KNIL soldiers, 1927
By 1900 the archipelago was considered "pacified" and the KNIL was mainly involved with military police tasks. The nature of the KNIL changed in 1917 when the colonial government introduced obligatory military service
for all male conscripts in the European legal class
and in 1922 a supplemental legal enactment introduced the creation of a ‘Home guard’ (Dutch
) for European conscripts older than 32.
Petitions by Indonesian nationalists to establish military service for indigenous people were rejected. In July 1941 the Volksraad
passed law creating a native militia of 18,000 by a majority of 43 to 4, with only the moderate Great Indonesia Party objecting. After the declaration of war with Japan, over 100,000 natives volunteered.
The KNIL hastily and inadequately attempted to transform them into a modern military force able to protect the Dutch East Indies from Imperial Japanese invasion. On the eve of the Japanese invasion in December 1941, Dutch regular troops in the East Indies comprised about 1,000 officers and 34,000 men, of whom 28,000 were indigenous. During the Dutch East Indies campaign
of 1941–42 the KNIL and the Allied forces were quickly defeated.
All European soldiers, which in practice included all able bodied Indo-European males were interned by the Japanese as POW
's. 25% of the POW's did not survive their internment.
Following World War II, a reconstituted KNIL joined with Dutch Army troops to re-establish colonial "law and order". Despite two successful military campaigns
in 1947 and 1948, Dutch efforts to re-establish their colony failed and the Netherlands recognised Indonesian sovereignty in December 1949.
The KNIL was disbanded by 26 July 1950 with its indigenous personnel being given the option of demobilising or joining the Indonesian military
At the time of disbandment the KNIL numbered 65,000, of whom 26,000 were incorporated into the new Indonesian Army. The remainder were either demobilised or transferred to the Netherlands Army.
Key officers in the Indonesian National Armed Forces
that were former KNIL soldiers include: Suharto
second president of Indonesia, A.H. Nasution
, commander of the Siliwangi Division
and Chief of Staff of the Indonesian army and A.E. Kawilarang
founder of the elite special forces Kopassus
In 1898, the population of Java numbered 28 million with another 7 million on Indonesia's outer islands.
The first half of 20th century saw large-scale immigration of Dutch and other Europeans to the colony, where they worked in either the government or private sectors. By 1930, there were more than 240,000 people with European legal status in the colony, making up less than 0.5% of the total population.
Almost 75% of these Europeans were in fact native Eurasians known as Indo-Europeans
1930 census of the Dutch East Indies
The Dutch colonialists formed a privileged upper social class of soldiers, administrators, managers, teachers and pioneers. They lived together with the "natives", but at the top of a rigid social and racial caste system
The Dutch East Indies had two legal classes of citizens; European and indigenous. A third class, Foreign Easterners, was added in 1920.
In 1901 the Dutch adopted what they called the Ethical Policy
, under which the colonial government had a duty to further the welfare of the Indonesian people in health and education. Other new measures under the policy included irrigation programs, transmigration
, communications, flood mitigation, industrialisation, and protection of native industry. Industrialisation
did not significantly affect the majority of Indonesians, and Indonesia remained an agricultural colony; by 1930, there were 17 cities with populations over 50,000 and their combined populations numbered 1.87 million of the colony's 60 million.
Students of the School Tot Opleiding Van Indische Artsen (STOVIA) aka Sekolah Doctor Jawa
The Dutch school system was extended to Indonesians with the most prestigious schools admitting Dutch children and those of the Indonesian upper class. A second tier of schooling was based on ethnicity with separate schools for Indonesians, Arabs, and Chinese being taught in Dutch and with a Dutch curriculum. Ordinary Indonesians were educated in Malay
in Roman alphabet with "link" schools preparing bright Indonesian students for entry into the Dutch-language schools.
Vocational schools and programs were set up by the Indies government to train indigenous Indonesians for specific roles in the colonial economy. Chinese and Arabs, officially termed "foreign orientals", could not enrol in either the vocational schools or primary schools.
Graduates of Dutch schools opened their own schools modelled on the Dutch school system, as did Christian missionaries, Theosophical Societies, and Indonesian cultural associations. This proliferation of schools was further boosted by new Muslim schools in the Western mould that also offered secular subjects.
According to the 1930 census, 6% of Indonesians were literate, however, this figure recognised only graduates from Western schools and those who could read and write in a language in the Roman alphabet. It did not include graduates of non-Western schools or those who could read but not write Arabic, Malay or Dutch, or those who could write in non-Roman alphabets such as Batak
, Chinese, or Arabic.
Dutch, Eurasian and Javanese professors of law at the opening of the Rechts Hogeschool in 1924
Some higher education institutions were also established. In 1898 the Dutch East Indies government established a school to train medical doctors
, named School tot Opleiding van Inlandsche Artsen
(STOVIA). Many STOVIA graduates later played important roles in Indonesia's national movement
toward independence as well in developing medical education in Indonesia, such as Dr. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo, who established the Budi Utomo
political society. De Technische Hoogeschool te Bandung
established in 1920 by the Dutch colonial administration to meet the needs of technical resources at its colony. One of Technische Hogeschool
graduate is Sukarno
whom later would lead the Indonesian National Revolution
. In 1924, the colonial government again decided to open a new tertiary-level educational facility, the Rechts Hogeschool
(RHS), to train civilian officers and servants. In 1927, STOVIA's status was changed to that of a full tertiary-level institution and its name was changed to Geneeskundige Hogeschool
(GHS). The GHS occupied the same main building and used the same teaching hospital as the current Faculty of Medicine of University of Indonesia
. The old links between the Netherlands and Indonesia are still clearly visible in such technological areas as irrigation
design. To this day, the ideas of Dutch colonial irrigation engineers continue to exert a strong influence over Indonesian design practices.
Moreover, the two highest internationally ranking universities of Indonesia, the University of Indonesia
est.1898 and the Bandung Institute of Technology
est.1920, were both founded during the colonial era.
Education reforms, and modest political reform, resulted in a small elite of highly educated indigenous Indonesians, who promoted the idea of an independent and unified "Indonesia" that would bring together disparate indigenous groups of the Dutch East Indies. A period termed the Indonesian National Revival
, the first half of the 20th century saw the nationalist movement develop strongly, but also face Dutch oppression.
The economic history of the colony was closely related to the economic health of the mother country.
Despite increasing returns from the Dutch system of land tax, Dutch finances had been severely affected by the cost of the Java War
and the Padri War
, and the Dutch loss of Belgium in 1830 brought the Netherlands to the brink of bankruptcy. In 1830, a new Governor-General
, Johannes van den Bosch
, was appointed to make the Indies pay their way through Dutch exploitation of its resources. With the Dutch achieving political domination throughout Java for the first time in 1830, it was possible to introduce an agricultural policy of government-controlled forced cultivation. Termed cultuurstelsel
(cultivation system) in Dutch and tanam paksa
(forced plantation) in Indonesia, farmers were required to deliver, as a form of tax, fixed amounts of specified crops, such as sugar or coffee.
Much of Java became a Dutch plantation and revenue rose continually through the 19th century which were reinvested into the Netherlands to save it from bankruptcy.
Between 1830 and 1870, 840 million guilder (8 billion euro in 2018
) were taken from the East Indies, on average making a third of the annual Dutch Government budget.
The Cultivation System, however, brought much economic hardship to Javanese peasants, who suffered famine and epidemics in the 1840s.
Critical public opinion in the Netherlands led to much of the Cultivation System's excesses being eliminated under the agrarian reforms of the "Liberal Period". Dutch private capital flowed in after 1850, especially in tin mining and plantation estate agriculture. The Marktavious Company's tin mines off the eastern Sumatra coast was financed by a syndicate of Dutch entrepreneurs, including the younger brother of King William III
. Mining began in 1860. In 1863 Jacob Nienhuys
obtained a concession from the Sultanate of Deli
) for a large tobacco estate (Deli Company
From 1870, the Indies were opened up to private enterprise and Dutch businessmen set up large, profitable plantations. Sugar production doubled between 1870 and 1885; new crops such as tea and cinchona flourished, and rubber was introduced, leading to dramatic increases in Dutch profits. Changes were not limited to Java, or agriculture; oil from Sumatra and Kalimantan
became a valuable resource for industrialising Europe. Dutch commercial interests expanded off Java to the outer islands with increasingly more territory coming under direct Dutch control or dominance in the latter half of the 19th century.
However, the resulting scarcity of land for rice production, combined with dramatically increasing populations, especially in Java, led to further hardships.
The colonial exploitation of Indonesia's wealth contributed to the industrialisation of the Netherlands, while simultaneously laying the foundation for the industrialisation of Indonesia. The Dutch introduced coffee, tea, cacao, tobacco and rubber and large expanses of Java became plantations cultivated by Javanese peasants, collected by Chinese intermediaries, and sold on overseas markets by European merchants.
In the late 19th century economic growth was based on heavy world demand for tea, coffee, and cinchona. The government invested heavily in a railroad network (240 km or 150 mi long in 1873, 1,900 km or 1,200 mi in 1900), as well as telegraph lines, and entrepreneurs opened banks, shops and newspapers. The Dutch East Indies produced most of the world's supply of quinine and pepper, over a third of its rubber, a quarter of its coconut products, and a fifth of its tea, sugar, coffee, and oil. The profit from the Dutch East Indies made the Netherlands one of the world's most significant colonial powers.
The Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij
shipping line supported the unification of the colonial economy and brought inter-island shipping through to Batavia, rather than through Singapore, thus focussing more economic activity on Java.
Workers pose at the site of a railway tunnel under construction in the mountains, 1910
The worldwide recession of the late 1880s and early 1890s
saw the commodity prices on which the colony depended collapse. Journalists and civil servants observed that the majority of the Indies population were no better off than under the previous regulated Cultivation System economy and tens of thousands starved.
Commodity prices recovered from the recession, leading to increased investment in the colony. The sugar, tin, copra
and coffee trade on which the colony had been built thrived, and rubber, tobacco, tea and oil also became principal exports.
Political reform increased the autonomy of the local colonial administration, moving away from central control from the Netherlands, whilst power was also diverged from the central Batavia government to more localised governing units.
The world economy recovered in the late 1890s and prosperity returned. Foreign investment, especially by the British, were encouraged. By 1900, foreign-held assets in the Netherlands Indies totalled about 750 million guilders ($300 million), mostly in Java.
After 1900 upgrading the infrastructure of ports and roads was a high priority for the Dutch, with the goal of modernising the economy, facilitating commerce, and speeding up military movements. By 1950 Dutch engineers had built and upgraded a road network with 12,000 km of asphalted surface, 41,000 km of metalled road area and 16,000 km of gravel surfaces.
In addition the Dutch built, 7,500 kilometres (4,700 mi) of railways, bridges, irrigation systems covering 1.4 million hectares (5,400 sq mi) of rice fields, several harbours, and 140 public drinking water systems. Wim Ravesteijn has said that, "With these public works, Dutch engineers constructed the material base of the colonial and postcolonial Indonesian state."
Perhimpunan Pelajar-Pelajar Indonesia
(Indonesian Students Union) delegates in Youth Pledge
, an important event where Indonesian language
was decided to be the national language, 1928
Across the archipelago, hundreds of native languages are used, and Malay
or Portuguese Creole
, the existing languages of trade, were adopted. Prior to 1870, when Dutch colonial influence was largely restricted to Java, Malay was used in government schools and training programs such that graduates could communicate with groups from other regions who immigrated to Java.
The colonial government sought to standardise Malay based on the version from Riau and Malacca, and dictionaries were commissioned for governmental communication and schools for indigenous peoples.
In the early 20th century, Indonesia's independence leaders adopted a form of Malay from Riau, and called it Indonesian
. In the latter half of the 19th century, the rest of the archipelago, in which hundreds of language groups were used, was brought under Dutch control. In extending the native education program to these areas, the government stipulated this "standard Malay" as the language of the colony.
was not made the official language of the colony and was not widely used by the indigenous Indonesian population.
The majority of legally acknowledged Dutchmen were bilingual Indo-Eurasians.
Dutch was used by only a limited educated elite, and in 1942, around two percent of the total population in the Dutch East Indies spoke Dutch, including over 1 million indigenous Indonesians.
A number of Dutch loan words
are used in present-day Indonesian, particularly technical terms (see List of Dutch loan words in Indonesian
). These words generally had no alternative in Malay and were adopted into the Indonesian vocabulary giving a linguistic insight into which concepts are part of the Dutch colonial heritage. Hendrik Maier of the University of California says that about a fifth of the contemporary Indonesian language
can be traced to Dutch.
Most Dutch literature was written by Dutch and Indo-European authors. However, in the first half of the 20th century under the Ethical Policy, indigenous Indonesian authors and intellectuals came to the Netherlands to study and work. They wrote Dutch language literary works and published literature in literary reviews such as Het Getij
, De Gemeenschap
, Links Richten
, and Forum
. By exploring new literary themes and focusing on indigenous protagonists, they drew attention to indigenous culture and the indigenous plight. Examples include the Javanese prince and poet Noto Soeroto
, a writer and journalist, and the Dutch language writings of Soewarsih Djojopoespito
, Chairil Anwar
, Sutan Sjahrir
, and Sukarno
Much of the postcolonial discourse
in Dutch Indies literature has been written by Indo-European authors led by the "avant garde visionary" Tjalie Robinson
, who is the best-read Dutch author in contemporary Indonesia,
and second generation Indo-European immigrants such as Marion Bloem
The natural beauty of East Indies has inspired the works of artists and painters, that mostly capture the romantic scenes of colonial Indies. The term Mooi Indie
(Dutch for "Beautiful Indies") was originally coined as the title of 11 reproductions of Du Chattel's watercolor paintings which depicted the scene of East Indies published in Amsterdam in 1930. The term became famous in 1939 after S. Sudjojono used it to mock the painters that merely depict all pretty things about Indies. Mooi Indie
later would identified as the genre of painting that occurred during the colonial East Indies that capture the romantic depictions of the Indies as the main themes; mostly natural scenes of mountains, volcanoes, rice paddies, river valleys, villages, with scenes of native servants, nobles, and sometimes bare-chested native women. Some of the notable Mooi Indie
painters are European artists: F.J. du Chattel, Manus Bauer, Nieuwkamp, Isaac Israel, PAJ Moojen, Carel Dake and Romualdo Locatelli; East Indies-born Dutch painters: Henry van Velthuijzen, Charles Sayers, Ernest Dezentje, Leonard Eland and Jan Frank; Native painters: Raden Saleh
, Mas Pirngadi, Abdullah Surisubroto, Wakidi, Basuki Abdullah
, Mas Soeryo Soebanto and Henk Ngantunk; and also Chinese painters: Lee Man Fong
, Oei Tiang Oen and Siauw Tik Kwie. These painters usually exhibit their works in art galleries such as Bataviasche Kuntkringgebouw, Theosofie Vereeniging, Kunstzaal Kolff & Co and Hotel Des Indes
Theatre and film
cinema in Batu
A total of 112 fictional films
are known to have been produced in the Dutch East Indies between 1926 and the colony's dissolution in 1949. The earliest motion pictures, imported from abroad, were shown in late 1900,
and by the early 1920s imported serials
and fictional films were being shown, often with localised names.
Dutch companies were also producing documentary films about the Indies to be shown in the Netherlands.
The first locally produced film, Loetoeng Kasaroeng
, was directed by L. Heuveldorp and released on 31 December 1926.
Between 1926 and 1933 numerous other local productions were released. During the mid-1930s, production dropped as a result of the Great Depression
The rate of production declined again after the Japanese occupation
beginning in early 1942, closing all but one film studio.
The majority of films produced during the occupation were Japanese propaganda shorts
Following the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence
in 1945 and during the ensuing revolution
several films were made, by both pro-Dutch and pro-Indonesian backers.
Theatre plays by playwrights such as Victor Ido
(1869–1948) were performed at the Schouwburg Weltevreden
, now known as Gedung Kesenian Jakarta
. A less elite form of theatre, popular with both European and indigenous people, were the travelling Indo
theatre shows known as Komedie Stamboel
, made popular by Auguste Mahieu (1865–1903).
The rich nature and culture of the Dutch East Indies attracted European intellectuals, scientists and researchers. Some notable scientists that conducted most of their important research in the East Indies archipelago are Teijsmann
. Many important art, culture and science institutions were established in Dutch East Indies. For example, the Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen
, (Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences
), the predecessor of the National Museum of Indonesia
, was established in 1778 with the aim to promote research and publish findings in the field of arts and sciences, especially history
. The Bogor Botanical Gardens
with Herbarium Bogoriense
and Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense
was a major centre for botanical research
established in 1817, with the aim to study the flora and fauna of the archipelago.
With growing interest in scientific research, the government of the Dutch East Indies established Natuurwetenschappelijke Raad voor Nederlandsch-Indië
(Scientific Council of the Dutch East Indies) in 1928.
It operates as the country's main research organization until the outbreak of World War II in Asia Pacific
in 1942. In 1948 the institute was renamed Organisatie voor Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek
(Organisation for Scientific Research). This organization was the predecessor of the current Indonesian Institute of Sciences
Dutch family enjoying a large Rijsttafel
The Dutch colonial families through their domestic servants and cooks were exposed to Indonesian cuisine, as the result they developed a taste for native tropical spices and dishes. A notable Dutch East Indies colonial dish is rijsttafel
, the rice table that consists of 7 to 40 popular dishes from across the colony. More an extravagant banquet than a dish, the Dutch colonials introduced the rice table not only so they could enjoy a wide array of dishes at a single setting but also to impress visitors with the exotic abundance of their colony.
Through colonialism the Dutch introduced European dishes such as bread
, barbecued steak
. As the producer of cash crops; coffee
and tea were also popular in the colonial East Indies. Bread, butter
, sandwiches filled with ham, cheese or fruit jam, poffertjes
and Dutch cheeses
were commonly consumed by colonial Dutch and Indos
during the colonial era. Some of the native upperclass ningrat
(nobles) and a few educated native were exposed to European cuisine, and it was held with high esteem as the cuisine of upperclass elite of Dutch East Indies society. This led to the adoption and fusion of European cuisine into Indonesian cuisine. Some dishes which were created during the colonial era are Dutch influenced: they include selat solo
(solo salad), bistik jawa (Javanese beef steak), semur
(from Dutch smoor
), sayur kacang merah (brenebon) and sop buntut
. Cakes and cookies also can trace their origin to Dutch influences; such as kue bolu (tart), pandan cake
, lapis legit (spekkoek
), spiku (lapis Surabaya), klappertaart
(coconut tart), and kaasstengels
(cheese cookies). Kue cubit
commonly found in front of schools and marketplaces are believed to be derived from poffertjes.
The 16th and 17th century arrival of European powers in Indonesia introduced masonry
construction to Indonesia where previously timber and its by-products had been almost exclusively used. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Batavia was a fortified brick and masonry city.
For almost two centuries, the colonialists did little to adapt their European architectural habits to the tropical climate.
They built row houses which were poorly ventilated with small windows, which was thought as protection against tropical diseases coming from tropical air.
Years later the Dutch learnt to adapt their architectural styles with local building features (long eaves, verandahs
, large windows and ventilation openings),
and the 18th century Dutch Indies country houses
was one of the first colonial buildings to incorporate Indonesian architectural elements and adapt to the climate, the known as Indies Style.
From the end of the 19th century, significant improvements to technology, communications and transportation brought new wealth to Java. Modernistic buildings, including train stations, business hotels, factories and office blocks, hospitals and education institutions, were influenced by international styles. The early 20th century trend was for modernist
influences—such as art-deco
—being expressed in essentially European buildings with Indonesian trim. Practical responses to the environment carried over from the earlier Indies Style, included overhanging eaves, larger windows and ventilation in the walls, which gave birth to the New Indies Style
The largest stock of colonial era buildings are in the large cities of Java, such as Bandung, Jakarta
, and Surabaya
. Notable architects and planners include Albert Aalbers
, Thomas Karsten
, Henri Maclaine Pont
, J. Gerber and C.P.W. Schoemaker
In the first three decades of the 20th century, the Department of Public Works funded major public buildings and introduced a town planning program under which the main towns and cities in Java and Sumatra were rebuilt and extended.
A lack of development in the Great Depression
, the turmoil of the Second World War
and the Indonesia's independence struggle
of the 1940s, and economic stagnation during the politically turbulent 1950s and 1960s, meant that much colonial architecture has been preserved through to recent decades.
Colonial homes were almost always the preserve of the wealthy Dutch, Indonesian and Chinese elites, however the styles were often rich and creative combinations of two cultures, so much so that the homes remain sought after into the 21st century.
Native architecture was arguably more influenced by the new European ideas than colonial architecture was influenced by Indonesian styles; and these Western elements continue to be a dominant influence on Indonesia's built environment today.
Javanese nobles adopted and mixed some aspects of European fashion, such as this couple in 1890.
Within the colony of the Dutch East Indies, fashion played an important role to define ones' status and social class. The European colonials wore European fashion straight out of the Netherlands, or even Paris, while the natives wore their traditional clothings that are distinct in every regions. As the years progressed and the Dutch influence became stronger, many natives began mixing European styles within their traditional clothing. High-ranking natives within the colony as well as nobility, would wear European style suits with their batik sarongs for special occasions and even for everyday use. More and more native Indonesians began to dress more European. This of course came with the idea that those who wore European clothing were more progressive and open towards a European society and the etiquette that came with it. More and more the European influence was gaining precedence within native Indonesians. This probably stems from the fact that many natives were treated better if they wore European clothing. Their European counterparts acknowledged them, and that in turn was most likely a catalyst for adoption western clothing into traditional Indonesian clothing.
Dutch colonial couple in the early 20th century wearing native batik
The fashion influences between colonials and natives was a reciprocal phenomenon. Just as the Europeans influences the natives, the natives too influenced the European colonials. For example, the thick European fabrics was considered too hot to wear in tropical climate. Thus, the light clothing of thin kebaya fabrics and the comfortable and easy to wear batik sarong are considered quite suitable for everyday clothing in hot and humid climate of the East Indies.
Later on in the history of the Dutch East Indies, as a new wave of Europeans were brought into the colony, many adopted the Indonesian styles, many even went so far as to wear traditional Javanese kebaya
at home. Batik
was also a big influence for the Dutch. The technique was so fascinating to them that they took the technique to their colonies in Africa where it was adopted with African patterns.
For the most part, Europeans in the Dutch East Indies, stuck to traditional European styles of dressing. Fashion trends from Paris were still highly regarded and considered the epitome of style. Women wore dresses and skirts and men wore pants and shirts.
Colonial heritage in the Netherlands
Dutch imperial imagery representing the Dutch East Indies (1916). The text reads "Our most precious jewel."
Universities such as the Royal Leiden University
founded in the 16th century have developed into leading knowledge centres about Southeast Asian and Indonesian studies.
Leiden University has produced academics such as Colonial adviser Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje
who specialised in native oriental (Indonesian) affairs, and it still has academics who specialise in Indonesian languages and cultures. Leiden University
and in particular KITLV
are educational and scientific institutions that to this day share both an intellectual and historical interest in Indonesian studies. Other scientific institutions in the Netherlands include the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum
, an anthropological museum with massive collections of Indonesian art, culture, ethnography and anthropology.
Dutch newsreel dated 1927 showing a Dutch East Indian fair in the Netherlands featuring Indo
and Indigenous people from the Dutch East Indies performing traditional dance and music in traditional attire
Many surviving colonial families and their descendants who moved back to the Netherlands after independence tended to look back on the colonial era with a sense of the power and prestige they had in the colony, with such items as the 1970s book Tempo Doeloe
(Old times) by author Rob Nieuwenhuys
, and other books and materials that became quite common in the 1970s and 1980s.
Moreover, since the 18th century Dutch literature has a large number of established authors, such as Louis Couperus
, the writer of "The Hidden Force", taking the colonial era as an important source of inspiration.
In fact one of the great masterpieces of Dutch literature
is the book "Max Havelaar
" written by Multatuli
The majority of Dutchmen that repatriated to the Netherlands after and during the Indonesian revolution are Indo
(Eurasian), native to the islands of the Dutch East Indies. This relatively large Eurasian population had developed over a period of 400 years and were classified by colonial law as belonging to the European legal community.
they are referred to as Indo
(short for Indo-European). Of the 296,200 so called Dutch 'repatriants' only 92,200 were expatriate Dutchmen born in the Netherlands.
Including their second generation descendants, they are currently the largest foreign born group in the Netherlands. In 2008, the Dutch Census Bureau for Statistics (CBS)
registered 387,000 first and second generation Indos living in the Netherlands.
Although considered fully assimilated into Dutch society, as the main ethnic minority in the Netherlands, these 'Repatriants' have played a pivotal role in introducing elements of Indonesian culture into Dutch mainstream culture. Practically each town in the Netherlands will have a 'Toko' (Dutch Indonesian Shop) or Indonesian restaurant
and many 'Pasar Malam
' (Night market in Malay/Indonesian) fairs are organised throughout the year.
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