In their search for spices, the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia in 1511, after their conquest of the Islamic kingdom of Malacca on the Malay Peninsula. They were followed by the Spaniards. Both began to propagate Christianity and were most successful in Maluku, also known as the Moluccas.
Meanwhile, the Dutch had started their quest for Indonesia spices to sell on the European market at big profit. For the purpose of more efficient and better organized merchant trade they established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602. To protect the merchants fleet from frequent pirate attacks on the high seas, Dutch warships were ordered to accompany it. After the nationalization of the VOC in 1799, the Dutch Government had a firm grip on the vital territories of the country.
People in those territories were forced to surrender their agricultural produce to the Dutch merchants. It was the beginning of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. Sunda Kelapa was renamed Batavia. Meanwhile, the Hindu Kingdom of Mataram converted to Islam and was ruled by the Muslim, Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo. He developed the political power of the state and was a keen patron of the arts and culture. In 1633 he introduced the Islamic Javanese calendar. Sultan Agung was a fierce enemy of the Dutch. In 1629 he sent his troops to attack Batavia, but they were repulsed by the troops of Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen.
After the seizure of Ambon in the Moluccas in 1605 and Banda Island in 1623, the Dutch secured the trade monopoly of the spice islands. A policy of ruthless exploitation by “divide and rule” tactics was carried out. In this way indigenous inter-island trade, like that between Makassar, Aceh, Mataram and Banten, as well as overseas trade, was gradually paralyzed. Indonesia was reduced to an agricultural country to supply European markets. At the some time, the Dutch adopted a so-called open- door policy toward the Chinese in order that they could serve as middlemen in their trade with Indonesia.
Sultan Hasanuddin of Goa waged a war against the Dutch in 1666. But was defeated and Goa became a vassal state of the VOC under the treaty of Bunggaya of 1667.
Prince Trunojoyo of Madura also fought the Dutch. He was defeated and killed in 1680. To reinforce their spice monopoly in the Moluccas, the Dutch undertook their notorious Hongi expeditions, whereby they burned down the clove gardens of the people in an effort to eliminate overproduction, which brought down the prices of cloves on the European markets. In these outrageous expeditions countless atrocities were commifted against people who defended their crops. In 1740 the Dutch suppressed a rebellion in Jakarta that was sparked by dissatisfied Chinese, who were later joined by Indonesians. Ten thousand Chinese were massacred.
The Kingdom of Mataram began to see its downfall after it was divided by the VOC into the Principalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta. However, mismanagement and corruption forced the VOC into bankruptcy and on December 31, 1799, all its territories in Indonesia were taken over by the Dutch Administration in Batavia.
In 1814 the British come to Indonesia and built Fort York in Bengkulu on the west coast of Sumatra. It was later renamed Fort Marlborough. During the Napoleonic wars in Europe when Holland was occupied by France, Indonesia fell under the rule of the British East India Company (1811-1816). Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles was appointed Lieutenant Governor General of Java and dependencies. He was subordinated to the Governor General in Bengal, India. Raffles introduced partial self-government and abolished the slave trade. In those days slaves were captured and traded by foreigners. He also introduced the land-tenure system, replacing the hated Dutch forced-agricultural system, whereby crops were grown and surrendered to the Government.
Borobudur and other temples were restored and research conducted. Raffles wrote his famous book, “The History of Java,” in which he described Java’s high civilization and culture. During the British stay in Sumatra (1814-1825), William Marsden wrote a similar book on the history of Sumatra, which was published in 1889. After the fall of Napoleon, and the end of the French occupation of Holland the British and Dutch signed a convention in London on August 13, 1814, in which it was agreed that Dutch colonial possessions dating from 1803 onwards should be returned to the Dutch Administration in Batavia. Thus, the Indonesian archipelago was recovered from the British in 1815.
Soon the Dutch intensified their colonial rule. But this only sparked widespread revolts to seize freedom. These revolts, however, were suppressed one after the other. To mention only a few: Thomas Matulessy, alias Pattimura, staged a revolt against the Dutch in the Moluccas (1816-1818). Prince Diponegoro of Mataram led the Java War from 1825 until 1830. Again, it was fierce struggle for freedom.
Tuanku Imam Bonjol led the Padri War in West Sumatra, while Teuku Umar headed the Aceh War in North Sumatra (1 873-1903). King Sisingamangaraja of the Bataks revolved against the Dutch in 1907. An attempt by the Dutch troops to occupy Bali in 1908 was repelled by King Udayana. Revolts were also staged in Goa, South Sulawesi, and in South Kalimantan.
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