year is 1949. following a four-year-long conflict and mounting international pressure the dutch government finally recognized the independence of its former colony of indonesia 350 years of dutch rule in the archipelago came to an end but how did this come to pass how did a state as small as the netherlands come into a position to control a colony almost 50 times its size and half the world away muslims and buddhists hindu kingdoms and over 600 native ethnic groups in the end they will all be subjects to the dutch republic.
the declaration of independence in 1581 the dutch republic was involved in an 80-year long war against its former overlord spain spain was by now a major colonial power with its influence reaching every corner of the known world bound to spain by a personal union under philip ii portugal with its own.
colonial empire was obliged to fight the dutch too the fledging state had a navy capable of fighting both the spanish and portuguese fleets and thus recognizing its strength employed a strategy of attacking the overseas possessions of its enemies diverting the attention from the european theater of war both the portuguese and spanish were firmly established in the indonesian archipelago holding on to the port city of malacca and the philippines respectively
the spice trade flowing through these lands was hugely lucrative and soon cut the attention of the dutch merchants peppercorn and cinnamon nutmeg cloves and others used in medicine as well for spicing up the meals of europe’s wealthy.
the first expedition sent by the dutch was under the command of cornelius de hautman hautman spent two years in lisbon a european capital of spice trade at the time gathering information about the archipelago and learning about possible trade prospects upon his return a trade company was formed and a first expedition outfitted in 1595 down the coast of africa along the cape of good hope and through the sunda strait the dutch sailed eventually reaching the island of bali the island kings concluded a treaty of friendship and trade and the dutch were able to purchase a few pots of peppercorn the purchase.
although small covered the costs of the entire expedition the successful competition of the voyage convinced the investors that the dutch can replace portugal as the main spice supplier to europe in 1598 five expeditions numbering 22 ships set for indonesia 13 of these ships went via the cape route and nine of them threw the magellan straits
the captain of one of the westward bound ships returned home sailing via the cape route and became the first dutchman to successfully circumnavigate the globe under the command of jacob van neck the second dutch expedition numbering eight ships reached the port city of bantam the bantamers by the time in conflict with the portuguese welcomed the dutch and traded willingly with them and as a result of that four ships loaded with peppercorn were sent home
the remaining ships traded along the northern coast of java the banda islands and ternate upon the return of the last ships of the expedition and closing of accounts a staggering 400 percent profit was declared in 1600 a trade mission under stephen van der hagen concluded a treaty with the ruler of amboyna the dutch were allowed to establish a fortress the so-called castel van vere and were promised
the delivery of all the clothes produced on the island this event set the blueprint for further dealings with the natives and can be considered as the start of the dutch colonization of indonesia the lucrative trade needed to be regulated prices were rising due to competition between the merchants of different companies the hostilities of the portuguese and the spanish was a cause of great concern.
furthermore the formation of the english east india company threatens to undermine the established dutch trading routes these factors convinced the dutch that only through a united national effort can they secure and expand their trade and thus the dutch east indies company was formed its goal gaining supremacy in the asian trading sphere.
its constitution was laid on in 1602 by the dutch states general it was granted monopoly on trade in the regions between the cape of good hope and the magellan straits the power to make treaties with the local rulers build forts maintain armed forces and garrisons and install officers of justice in the mainland’s netherlands each significant port city was to have a voc chamber with the biggest one being in amsterdam reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit of the dutch each chamber would set out ships independently.
but the profits and losses were to be shared by all following the founding of the company the dutch increased their efforts in maintaining and increasing their trade network new factories were established in java makassar ceylon and mainland india the struggle to oust the portuguese and spaniards from the archipelago at first had mixed successes however a portuguese fleet was destroyed in yahoo in 1602 but the attacks on malacca and philippines were beaten back the perceived unstable dutch position in the archipelago encouraged a new competitor.
the english east india company at first the english followed the dutch hoping to profit from the pioneer work of others english factories were established in aca jakarta and makassar allies at home against a common foe the spanish crown the dutch at first treated the english according to a policy of live and let live the dutch soon realized that the spice market.
in europe was limited further european competition in the archipelago was going to encourage the native rulers to sell the spices at a higher price while at the same time english merchants were to cut the selling price of the spices back in europe severely reducing the possibilities of a profitable trade therefore starting in 1608.
the dutch fleets and governors operating in indonesia were ordered to monopolize the trade and oust any further european competition incident after incident followed the two rival companies undermining each other’s trade in the region under the pressure from their respective governments the two sides met at london in 1613 and in hague in 1615 but no agreement was made following the failure of their negotiations.
the dutch finally resolved that the only method of maintaining and enlarging their trade was outright conquest the newly appointed governor of dutch indies jan cohen insisted on a policy of territorial expansion and expelling of the spaniards the portuguese and the english the spice trade was recognized as a matter of national security and therefore was to be defended and monopolized by all costs his first moves included securing.
the melakas and banda islands the factory at jakarta was enlarged and fortified against the expressed orders of the local ruler the pangaran of jahakarta and is suzerain the sultan of bantam encouraged by the english presence in the area the pangarang gave the ultimatum to the dutch to withdraw from their fort the dutch having refused the request to leave the fort braced themselves for battle and a four-month-long siege began zhang cohen retreated to the malaccas gathered.
a relief force and defeated the besieging forces and raised jakarta to the ground on its site a new city was founded one that would be the headquarters of the voc in the east in honor of the supposed ancestral tribe from which the dutch hail from the batavi the new city was named Batavia.
following the defeat of their main ally in the region the english were unable to cling to their holdings their factories were either destroyed or captured and they were over time ousted from the region the dutch at last had a free hand in dealings with the natives and steadily began expanding their influence while suppressing that of the portuguese and spain in 1641.
malacca was conquered and the spanish expelled from the malaccas leaving the dutch as the strongest european power in the archipelago in 1656 the sultan of ternate was captured and then later reinstated as the de facto vassal to the company the positions of the country on sumatra were secured after a punitive expedition against the sultan of palumbang in 1666.
the sultan of tedor recognized the dutch overlordship in 1667 makassar followed the same fate the dutch positions on java were secured in 1682 with the capture of ban 10 and in 1684 after an intervention in a civil war in the sultanate of mataram the strongest power on the island owing its rise to the throne to the dutch the new sultan gave vast political and economic consciousness to the dutch effectively becoming a client state at the turn of the century.
the vlc was at its zenith and an undisputed master of indonesia but its position was hard won the maintenance of the forts and armed forces piracy and wars with great britain steadily decreased the profits following the slow decline in the second half of the 18th century the fourth british dutch war proved disastrous for the company and it went bankrupt.
after the conquest of the mainland netherlands by the french in 1795 the voc was nationalized and finally dissolved in 1799 the dutch rule survived the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century only to be interrupted by the japanese occupation of indonesia in world war ii.
following the defeat of japan indonesian independence was declared in 1945 and the netherlands finally recognized the independence of the new country in 1949 their three and a half century long rule over the archipelago came to an end again.
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