The Colony of the Dutch East Indies

Interesting is that the Indonesia as we know it now, composed of many islands, only took shape during 300 years of colonization. It started with trade. Products that were rare or unknown in the Netherlands. Spices, porcelain, silk, satin, diamonds, sabers, gemstones, gold, and turtles! This brought profit for the entrepreneur.

The Malays were closely involved in this sea trade. Based on their language Malay, a "lingua franca" developed over the centuries on the various islands around the strait, a fairly simple trade language, making it easier for merchants and seafarers from different countries to communicate and trade with each other. This Malay later formed the basis for modern Indonesian or Bahassa Indonesia.

This was promoted by the Dutch.

The VOC was a trading company and did not see the spread of the Dutch language as one of its core activities. Dutch remained an official language, but only in a limited circle. (Toples in the toko). In 1602, the VOC, United East India Companies, was established. It was the world's first multinational corporation. The Company provided employment for several thousand people and maintained a fleet of more than 100 ships. Between 1590 and 1795, almost 4800 voyages to Asia were made. It had a whole network of factories. Not only factories were under its control, but it also owned entire regions and islands.

These areas were the beginning of the later Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies. The Strait of Malacca came under the control of the VOC, and they could deny access to these areas to competitors. Atjeh, located at the northernmost point of Sumatra, had long been fighting against the Indonesian government for its independence when the Netherlands declared war on Atjeh in 1873. A prolonged bloody struggle ensued. When the Republic of Indonesia became a reality in 1949, Atjeh protested because Atjeh had never been part of the Dutch East Indies! Their resistance was broken by the tsunami in December 2004.

In the period 1989-1998, 10,000 civilian casualties occurred. In the agreement on August 15, 2005, the formation of their own political parties was allowed. The VOC had less success with China and Japan. Attempts to trade with China failed, and in Japan, the VOC was only tolerated. Among other reasons, because the Dutch did not engage in missionary work! The Dutch did not go beyond the island of Deshima and were completely isolated from the Japanese population. Other trading companies were not allowed at all by the Japanese. Mainly because they, like the Spaniards and the Portuguese, brought their mission and tried to convert the Japanese.

They were literally slaughtered. (Deshima Nagasaki University)

The port of Nagasaki, photo from 1820, clearly showing the Dutch flag on the island of Dejima. (Nagasaki Municipal Museum) Due to a shortage of European women in the Dutch East Indies, a mixed culture emerged, along with an exchange of ideas and religions. In terms of religion, the Indonesian population did not feel oppressed. The Dutch intervened in conflicts between local rulers, and many of them considered the Dutch as their allies. In 1814, the term Dutch East Indies and a culture system were introduced, which was perceived negatively by the indigenous people.

The benefits were: an end to the ongoing wars in the previously almost moneyless economy, farmers were paid, prosperity increased, and indigenous trade and business activities grew. Investment was made in a railway network, building numerous bridges, and abolishing slavery. Slavery existed worldwide, including in the Dutch colony, especially in Suriname. What is not mentioned in history books is that a large part of the plantation owners in Suriname were originally English, French, German, Swiss, Spanish, or Portuguese. In the 17th century, the Netherlands was the first to engage in the slave trade through the West India Company. Thirty years after the British, on July 1, 1863, the Netherlands also abolished slavery. As compensation, the owners received 300 guilders for each slave, who then had to continue working on the plantation under state supervision for another 10 years before receiving full citizenship rights.

Queen Wilhelmina requested an investigation into repaying what had been gained in profit over the years, leading to the so-called Ethical Policy. "Irrigation, emigration, education" was the slogan. A debt of 40 million guilders was forgiven to allow a fresh start in Batavia. Education became accessible to the indigenous population, and the concept of nationalization was introduced by a small group of intellectuals. However, top bureaucratic positions remained in Dutch hands. The Ethical Policy did not fully meet the needs of the rapidly growing population. For example, in 1930 there were only 667 doctors in all of Java.

The time was ripe for Japan, which had no intention of granting independence to Indonesia. Indonesia was a crucial supplier of oil and rice. The Netherlands also did a lot of good for Indonesia; it was the best colony in the world. It put an end to wars between indigenous kingdoms, piracy, widow burning, headhunting, cannibalism, and sometimes feudal oppression. It also opened up all of the Dutch East Indies for the introduction of modern ideas and techniques in various fields.

There is a discussion about this in the History of Indonesia. Initially, the policy aimed at realizing its own interests and returns, which often took precedence.