The Netherlands as an Imperial Power in South-East Asia in the Nineteenth Century and After

  • S. L. Van der Wal


THE British historian Richard Pares once said that ‘the most important thing in the history of an empire is the history of its mother-country’.1 We can extend his epigram by saying that the next most important thing in the history of an empire is the history of the territory towards which the expansion of the mother-country has been directed. We can also modify it in as much as the history of an empire may include a phase in which the colony, not the mother-country, assumes overriding and perhaps — for the continued existence of the empire — even decisive importance. As regards the history of the Dutch empire in Asia, we can go along with Pares until the late nineteenth century. The Dutch East Indies were ruled and exploited in accordance with the ideas and needs of the mother-country until 1870, a date which ushered in a period during which the colony’s modern, post-1900 development was prepared and initiated. It is with respect to this later period, and particularly to the years after the turn of the century, that Pares’s statement requires the correction I have mentioned, namely that the importance of the colony to the history of the empire may outweigh that of the mother-country, and may indeed ultimately determine the fate of that empire.


Political Reform Colonial Power Imperial Power Indonesian Archipelago Colonial Policy 
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Further Reading

1. Collections of Documents

  1. S. L. van der Wal: I Het Onderwijsbeleid in Nederlands-Indië, 1900–1940 (Groningen, 1963).Google Scholar
  2. S. L. van der Wal: II–III De Volksraad en de staatkundige ontwikkeling van Nederlands-Indië, Eerste stuk 1891–1926 and Tweede Stuk 1927–1942 (Groningen, 1964–5).Google Scholar
  3. S. L. van der Wal: IV De opkomst van de nationalistische heweging in Nederlands-Indië (Groningen, 1967). The main source for these publications, with an introduction and survey of the documents in English, is the archives of the former Ministry of Colonies.Google Scholar

2. Secondary Works

  1. Coolhaas, W. PH.: A Critical Survey of Studies on Dutch Colonial History (The Hague, 1960) contains a very useful bibliographical introduction to the history of Dutch colonialism; ch. iv deals with the Netherlands East Indies between 1795 and 1950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Vlekke, B. H. M.: Nusantara, a History of the East Indian Archipelago (4th ed., The Hague, 1959). A well-written introduction to the history of Dutch imperialism in South-East Asia.Google Scholar
  3. Furnwall, J. S.: Netherlands India: a Study of a Plural Economy (Cambridge, 1944; repr. 1967) deals mainly with the nineteenth century.Google Scholar
  4. Gonggrijp, G.: Schets ener Economische Geschiedenis van Indonesië (Haarlem, 1957). A very good outline of the economic history of the Netherlands East Indies.Google Scholar
  5. Baudet, H. and Brugmans, I. J. (ed.): Balans van Beleid (Assen, 1961). A series of essays on Dutch colonial policy in the twentieth century; a useful summary in English, ‘Colonial Policy Weighed: the Last Fifty Years of the Dutch East Indies in Retrospect’, was published in Acta Historiae Neerlandica, 1 (1966) 212–45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. L. Van der Wal

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