Dutch Imperialism


Map of Dutch Colonies

Map of Dutch Colonies

   Imperialism of Indonesian Islands

 Early in the 18th century, Dutch East India Company established control over most of the 3000-mile-long chain of Indonesian islands. The lands of Southeast Asia were perfect for plantation agriculture. The major focus was on sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, rubber, coconuts, bananas, and pineapple. As these products became more important in the world trade markets, European power raced to each other to claim lands.

The Dutch East India Company seized Malacca from the Portuguese. Then, the discovery of oil and tin on the islands and the desire for more rubber plantations drove the Dutch to slowly expand their control over Celebes, part of Borneo, the Moluccas and some other islands.

Management of plantations and trade brought a large Dutch population to the islands. Dutch thought of Indonesia as their home. They moved their and created a rigid social class system there. The Dutch forced farmers to plant one-fifth of their land in specified export crops.                 



            Borneo is an area with most of the biodiversity on earth. According to ancient Chinese, Indian and Javanese manuscripts, western coastal cities of Borneo have become trading ports since the first millennium. In Chinese manuscripts, goldcamphortortoiseshells, hornbill ivoryrhinoceros horn, crane crestbeeswax, lakawood (a scented heartwood and root wood of a thick liana, edible bird’s nests and various spices were among the most valuable items from Borneo. The Indians called Borneo the land of gold, and the Javanese named Borneo the Diamond Island. Archaeological findings in the delta river of Sarawak reveal that the area was once a thriving trade center between India and China from the sixth century until about 1300 AD.

In the 18th century, Borneo was called South Kalimantan by the Dutch. In the early 19th century, British and Dutch governments signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 to exchange trading ports under their controls and assert spheres of influences, in which indirectly set apart the two parts of Borneo into British and Dutch controlled areas. China has had historical trading links with the inhabitants of the island. Some of the Chinese beads and wares found their way deep into the interior of Borneo.

Moreover in the 19th century, the Dutch admitted the founding of district kingdoms with native leaders who were under the power of the Dutch.

Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest. To the west of Borneo are the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. To the south is Java. To the east is the island of Sulawesi (Celebes) 


            The Portuguese were the first to refer to Sulawesi as ‘Celebes’. The name ‘Sulawesi’ possibly comes from the words sula (‘island’) and besi (‘iron’) and may refer to the historical export of iron from the rich Lake Matano irondeposits.

            The people of Sulawesi are famous for their dedication to their diverse art abilities, which include potteryweaving, and dancing. Their pottery was originally made specifically for the purpose of storing rice and water, but when the Dutch arrived, it became useful for commercial exporting and sale, and was noted for its details.

            Starting in the 13th century, access to prestige trade goods and to sources of iron started to alter long-standing cultural patterns, and to permit ambitious individuals to build larger political units. By 1400, a number of nascent agricultural principalities had arisen in the western Cenrana valley, as well as on the south coast and on the east coast near modern Parepare.

The first Europeans to visit the island were Portuguese sailors in 1525, sent from the Moluccas in search of gold, which the islands had the reputation of producing. The Dutch arrived in 1605 and were quickly followed by the English, who established a factory in Makassar. From 1660, the Dutch were at war with Gowa, the major Makassar west coast power. In 1669, Admiral Speelman forced the ruler, Sultan Hasanuddin, to sign the Treaty of Bongaya, which handed control of trade to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were aided in their conquest by the Bugis warlord Arung Palakka, ruler of the Bugis kingdom of Bone. The Dutch built a fort at Ujung Pandang, while Arung Palakka became the regional overlord and Bone the dominant kingdom. Political and cultural development seemed to have slowed. In 1905, the entire island became part of the Dutch state colony of the Netherlands East Indies until Japanese occupation in World War II.


            The Maluku Islands, also known as the Moluccas, the Spice Islands, are an archipelago in Indonesia, lying east of Sulawesi (Celebes), west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the “Spice Islands” by the Chinese and Europeans.

            The native Bandanese people traded spices with other Asian nations, such as China, since at least the time of the Roman Empire. With the rise of Islam, the trade became dominated by Muslim traders. With Arabic traders came not just Islam, but a new technique of social organization, the sultanate, which replaced local councils of rich men on the more important islands, and proved more effective in dealing with outsiders.

Because of the high value that the spices had in Europe and the large incomes that it produced, the Dutch and British were soon involved in conflicts to try to gain a monopoly over the region. The fighting for control over these small islands became very intense with the Dutch even giving the island of Manhattan to the British in exchange for, among other things, a small island that gave the Dutch full control over the Banda archipelago. The Bandanese people lost the most in the fighting with most of the people being either slaughtered or enslaved by the Dutch. Over 6,000 were killed during the Spice Wars.

The goal of reaching the Spice Islands, eventually to be enveloped by the Dutch East Indies Empire, led to the accidental discovery of the West Indies, and lit the fuse of centuries of rivalry between European maritime powers for control of money-spinning global markets and resources. The competition for the Spice Islands finally died whenFrance and Britain successfully smuggled seeds and plants to their own dominions onMauritiusGrenada and elsewhere, making spices a more commonplace and affordable commodity.

Java Island

  Java is the most populated island of Indonesia. Its borders consist of the Java sea on the north and the Indian ocean on the south. Bali is to the east and Sumatra to the west. Java has a great mountain range with active volcanoes; Semeru is its highest peak. The weather of Java is hot and damp in its lowlands; the highlands are much cooler.  Java also has important sea port locations. It is intensively farmed due to its fertile lands. Java was only colonized for a brief time by the British for five years (1811-16) they made great use of its port locations and its fertile lands to grow cash crops such as: sugar, coffee, tea, rubber, cocoa, corn, cassava, soybeans, and yams. Java was also captured by Japan in WWII.

            There are still effects of imperialism on Java; even though the British occupied it briefly it still uses an English/Indonesian educational system. But is lifestyle can be deeply compared to Japan’s because of Japan’s occupation of Java during WWII. Java is rich in dance schools, universities, handicrafts, textiles, and carving. All these reflect the English and Japanese rule. Even the names of cities in Java are pure Japanese.

            Java provides many natural resources due to its location; it consists of agriculture, forestry, fishery. It has many rice fields which are some used for cash crops and other for local villages. Corn is also another cash crop of Java that is grown across the whole island; it was first grown here by the British. 

 Sumatra Island 

Sumatra is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, and the South China and Java seas. It’s the western most Island of Indonesia. It also has a volcanic mountain range; on its lowlands it has swamp and some major rivers. Like Kampar, Indragiri, Hari, and Musi. It has a humid tropical climate and extremely heavy rainfall.  And very dense tropical forests, it grows many foods due to its fertile land. Such as, rice, corn, cash crops consist of, rubber, spices, tobacco, tea, coffee, and palm kernels. There is also some coal mining. 

Sumatra’s inhabitants are Malays, except for a small number of Chinese. Coastal Malays make up the largest ethnic group, followed by Minangkabaus, Bataks, and Acehnese. Of the many languages and dialects spoken, Bahasa Indonesia, the Malay-based national language, is the most widely understood. Islam is the predominant religion. Sumatra has a population of about 43,309,707. Major cities include Medan, Palembang, and Padang. Sumatra is neighboring to the Island of Java, many of history is identical of Java’s. The English took over Sumatra for some time leaving their presence in terms of education. They encouraged Chinese to come over and work in Sumatra’s fertile lands. The Japanese also took over this island and the names and language reflects this.

In conclusion these two islands are only briefly affected by imperialism because of their compact size and the rough waters that needed to be covered to  get to them, but even though impact is brief it is prominently shown.

















Cape Colony

The Dutch East India Company was a trading joint stock company which was chartered in 1602 to protect and control Dutch trade in the Indian Ocean and to help fight the 80 Year’s War against Spain and Portugal. It was given monopoly of trade in the East Indies. A small group of employees of the Dutch East India Company settled in the southern tip of Africa in 1952 to establish a station along company’s ships’ routes to the Far East. The Dutch told the colonists not to interact too much with the natives. Around 200 French Huguenots and Protestant refugees from Catholic France joined these Dutchmen from around 1688-1700. The church everyone attended was The Dutch Reformed Church which everyone would dress up for. The binding force for these culturally and linguistically separate groups of people was their commitment to the reformed faith. The Dutch government forbade using indigenous slaves from South Africa.

Because the Cape was isolated from the Netherlands, the spoken language slowly evolved into a dialect of Dutch called Afrikaans, which the Afrikaners take much pride in. The settlers were therefore called ‘Afrikaners’ which’s the Dutch-Afrikaans word for ‘African’ and was applied to the settlers by the Dutch in Europe. The Dutch despised this new language because they saw it as a corrupted version of their own language. Over time the some settlers known as the Trek Boers moved away from the cape further inland (north and east) and developed farms in these regions and also turned to raising cattle. Because this area became a settlement for the Dutch, they called it Cape Colony. There were frequent skirmishes with the native tribes over political autonomy which resulted in the natives being pushed into small and barren areas. This all was curbed as the British entered in 1795. Cape Town became a British Colony in 1806 after an Anglo-Boer War following a discovery of gold and diamonds in the area.





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“Geography of Java Island.”  30 March 2008.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://geography.howstuffworks.com/asia/geography-of-java-island.htm&gt;  02 April 2009.

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