The Story of Indonesia: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Independence

The Story of Indonesia

The Story of Indonesia.png

The Story of Indonesia:
Colonialism, Nationalism, and Independence

"Look at a map of the world. Look at the great mass of islands that trails from the underbelly of mainland Southeast Asia.
Squint, and you won’t be able to see the red lines marking the political boundaries. This is the Archipelago, and this is its story."
– Tim Hannigan, "A Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices, and Tsunamis."

Acknowledgements, etc.


Indiae Orientalis, 17th century map by Nicolaes Visscher II

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Throughout my life I've been fascinated with my home country of Indonesia. A vast republic with incredible diversity and unending contradictions that has a long and rich history stretching back more than a thousand years. When I finally got myself invested into alternate history, one of the things I set out to do was to write an alternate history focusing on the story of Indonesia. There were many attempts at doing this, with many interesting ideas. My first attempt at such a timeline was written on the Alternate History Wiki and entitled "Demokrasi Liberal," which was a timeline where Indonesia's brief experiment with democracy in the 1950's doesn't end in catastrophe and results in a chaotic democracy. I eventually saw several significant flaws in the timeline and it was eventually abandoned. Still, I continued to work on other projects also on the same topic, the survival of Indonesia's unstable democracy.

There are many other variants of "Demokrasi Liberal" that I worked on. Including "
Father of Parliament" and "Tanah Air," the latter also being my first attempt at writing on this site. Eventually I collaborated with The Man from Gianyar to create the "Garudaverse." But finally, after taking a break from alternate history for a few months to deal with personal issues, I've returned and decided to finally hammer out a new timeline. One that combines my plans from my old timelines with fresh ideas and new insight I've learned since I began writing on that fateful day in June 2021. Now I would also like to take a moment to take a moment to thank all of those who have helped me write this timeline, both directly and indirectly. In particular, Firststooge, who has given me a number of sources and advice, and The Man from Gianyar for all the help with writing. Thus, I present to you, the Story of Indonesia.

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Sounds interesting. As a Dutchman, the Netherlands being the former colonizer of Indonesia, I'm wondering where you're going with this.
Chapter I: Ethical colonialism?
Chapter I:
Ethical Colonialism?


A lithograph of the house of the resident of Surabaya

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Dutch colonial policy underwent the most important change in its history. The phase of conquest in search of glory and new territory was in the process of completion and it was soon replaced by concern over the welfare of their new colonial subjects. Driven by humanitarian and liberal ideals, combined with Dutch business interests, a new generation of colonial administrators were on their way to their eastern colony with new ideas and lessons from Eduard Douwes Dekker's Max Havelaar, a book which denounced the Dutch exploitation, in their minds. Meanwhile, Dutch and foreign businesses were seeking new opportunities for investment and the extraction of raw materials in the colony. As a result, Indonesian labour was very much needed for their enterprises. The liberals and humanitarians justified what the businessmen expected to be profitable, and the "Ethical policy" was born.

One of the main supporters of the "Ethical policy" was Conrad Theodore Van Deventer, who published an in the Dutch journal de Gids entitled "Een eereschuld," which literally translates to "A debt of honor." In the article, Van Deventer argued that the Netherlands owed the Indonesians a debt for all the wealth the Dutch had extracted from their lands. This was to be repaid, Van Deventer suggested, by prioritizing colonial policy to be in the interests of Indonesians. By 1901, the "Ethical policy" was officially endorsed by the government when Queen Wilhelmina announced an enquiry into welfare in Java. A year later, in 1902, Alexander W. F. Idenburg was appointed Minister of Colonies. As minister and later governor-general, Idenburg was the most prominent person to put the "Ethical policy" into practice and new policies regarding education, irrigation and emigration were soon planned. The Ethical policy was underway.

Meanwhile, the arrival and establishment of Dutch enterprises rapidly changed the economic environment of Indonesia. In the newly-conquered outer islands, these new enterprises heavily increased the production of tropical crops which were to be exported abroad. For example, the tobacco company Deli Maatschappij (Deli Company), rapidly developed many tobacco plantations on the eastern coast of Sumatra. Other Dutch enterprises also expanded rapidly, with the production of pepper, tea, rubber, and sugar rising dramatically. After the importation of the Hevea brasiliensis tree, rubber also became an important natural resource for the Dutch. While the discovery of oil deposits in Sumatra and Kalimantan led to large amounts of foreign investment. Shipping also became a lucrative business, with the Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (Royal Mail Steam Packet Company) virtually handling all colonial government shipping throughout the colony.

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A lithograph of a Chinese slum in Batavia

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