The Dutch in Indonesia – Daendels and Raffles

It is one of the great ironies of colonial history that to fully exploit that to fully their colony,

The Dutch had to first lose their shirts. The domination of Java – achieved at the expense of VOC bankruptcy – profited the Dutch handsomely in the 19th Century.

In the traumatic aftermatch of the VOC bankruptcy, there was a great indecision in Holland as to the course that should be steered in the Indies. In 1800, the Netherlands government assumed control of all former VOC possessions, now renamed Netherlands India, but for many years no one could figure out how to make them profitable. A number of factors, notably the Napoleonic Wars, compounded the confusion.
A new beginning of sorts was finally made under the iron rule of Governor-General Marshall Daendals (1808 – 11), a follower of Napoleon who wrought numerous administrative reforms, rebuilt Batavia, and constructed a post road the length of Java.

The English interregnum-a brief period of English rule under Thomas Stamford Raffles  (1811 – 1816) – followed. Raffless was in many ways an extraordinary man: a brilliant scholar, naturalist, linguist, diplomat and strategist, “discover” of Borobudur and author of the monumental History of Java. In 1811, he planned and led the successful English invasion of Java, and was then placed in charge of its government at the tender age of 32. His active mind and free trade philosophy led him to promulgate reforms almost daily, but the result was bureaucratic anarchy.

Essentially, Raffles wanted to replace the old mercantilism system (from which the colonial government derived its income through a monopoly on trade), by one which income was derived from taxes, and trade was unrestrained. This enormous tast was barely begun when the order, came from London, following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, to restore the Indies to the Dutch. Raffles’ legacy lived one, however. Many of his land taxes were eventually levied by the Dutch, and they in fact made possible the horrible exploitation of Java in later years. And his invasion of Yogyakarta in 1812 led ultimately to the cataclysmic Java War of 1825 – 30.

–> Read Also : The Dutch in Indonesia – From Carnage to Cultivation

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