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The Encounter With Europe

In the early 16th century the Portuguese arrived in India. at that time there was a huge demand in Europe for spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and mace. Huge profits could be made by transporting them to Europe and selling them. The Portuguese therefore decided to seize the Moluccas, the chief source of spices. In 1511 they captured Melaka, an important port. They also captured the Moluccas.

However in the early 17th century the Portuguese lost their position to the Dutch. The first Dutch fleet sailed from Holland in 1595 under Cornelis de Houtman. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed to control trade with Indonesia. In 1605 they took Tidore and Ambon from the Dutch. In 1619 the company captured Batavia. in 1641 they took Melaka. During the 17th century the Dutch gradually extended their power of Java and the Moluccas. However they had little influence in the rest of Indonesia. The Dutch avoided direct administration until the mid 18th Century. Control was exercised thru local rulers who were also doubled as principal traders.

Moreover during the 18th century the Dutch East India Company slipped into debt. Finally in 1799 the Dutch government took over its territories. In 1806 the British and Dutch went to war. In 1811 the British under Lord Minto sailed to Batavia. The British soon captured all the Dutch possessions in Indonesia. The British abolished slavery and they also divided the country into areas called residencies for administration. However in 1816 the British handed Indonesia back to the Dutch. Many Indonesians resisted the return of the Dutch. However the Dutch eventually defeated them and regained control. In 1825 the Javanese War, in central Java, began. It was led by Prince Diponegoro. However the war ended with Dutch victory in 1830. Diponegoro went into exile and died in 1855.

Furthermore during the 19th century the Dutch extended their control over other parts of Indonesia. In 1825 they took Palembang in Sumatra. They also fought wars with the Balinese in 1848, 1849, 1858 and 1868. Bali was not finally conquered until 1906. In 1873 the Dutch went to war with Aceh. The war went on until 1908. Meanwhile in 1894 the Dutch captured Lombok and in 1905 they captured the whole of Sulawesi.

In 1830 the Dutch introduced the Kultuurstelsel (cultural system). Indonesian farmers were forced to put aside 20% of their land to grow crops for export. They were paid only a nominal sum by the Dutch government for them. Indonesians were forced to grow coffee, indigo, tea, pepper, cinnamon and sugar. As a result of this measure rice production was reduced. However in 1870 the Dutch switched to a free market system. The Dutch governments monopoly on sugar and other commodities was ended. Private plantations were created. However the Indonesians were not necessarily better off. Now they were employed as coolies on the great plantations.

In the early 20th century the Dutch decided to treat the Indonesians more fairly. They introduced what they called the ethical policy. This meant building schools and spending money on health care, sanitation and irrigation. However the new policy had little effect on the lives of most Indonesians.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 19:22:45 ZULU