Dutch legacy in Indonesia

Jul 2012
3,404
.
When we talk about India and the british empire, often we discuss all the thing that the british changed in India, and how those things modified the country.

How is that true for Indonesia? What type of influence had the dutch on modern day life, culture and organization?
 
May 2011
98
Cornwall/Java
It’s a curious thing that the “British legacy” in India is a much-discussed trope, and every two-bit travel writer who turns up in the Subcontinent seems to wander around collecting examples of fusty old colonels talking 1920s English, mock-tudor cottages amongst the deodars, and other Raj-redolent relics, while every visitor to Indonesia seems to forget that the Dutch were ever there, let alone for 350 years.

My own first impression on arrival in Indonesia was certainly that the colonial legacy was hard to discern; these days I’m a little better attuned.

It certainly does seem to be true, however, that it’s less instantly palpable than in India. There are probably several reasons for this. The first is that the Dutch did not create the same kind of extensive “Dutch-isised” clerical class and elite that was developed in India from a fairly early stage, and so that the equivalent of that archetypal Indian caste of the comedy throwback colonel with bristling moustache and Sandhurst accent doesn’t exist there.

The reach of the Dutch language was never as wide as that of English in India, and it has largely vanished altogether these days. It’s a rare thing to meet some crumbling old grandma who tries to talk to you in Dutch, and English has long since usurped whatever role as international language of choice Dutch once had there.

Also of key significance, I think, is the nature of the colonial disengagement in Indonesia. The British managed to leave India with a pantomime performance of best-of-friends good terms and stiff upper lips, and did hand over to a class who actually very much resembled themselves (Gandhi’s homespun image was only skin-deep, remember; and the likes of Nehru and – especially – Jinnah were sometimes more English than the English).

In Indonesia meanwhile the Dutch departure was protracted and ill-tempered, and had also been immediately preceded by the Japanese occupation which had gone a long way to obliterate the colonial cultural structures. The occupation rolled straight into the revolution, so those structures were never properly reconstructed before Independence, and in the subsequent years the relationship remained strained.

But despite all this, once you look closely there are plenty of traces. There is, of course, lots of Dutch architecture scattered around (usually crumbling, it must be said), and a certain preference for Dutch-style bakeries.
There are plenty of Dutch loanwords in the Indonesian language (although there are also plenty borrowed from English and even Portuguese too, it should be said).
And some aspects of the governmental and legal systems remain from the colonial era (particularly in the territorial breakdown, through provinces, regencies down through districts and ever downwards to RT and RW…)

The single biggest legacy, of course, is that Indonesia exists at all – the state is, after all, ultimately nothing more than the geographical limits of the Dutch East Indies at its extent at the time of World War II (though of course, the founders of independent Indonesia worked hard to deploy the legend of Majapahit as a means of brushing that particular point under the carpet).

What may be a surprise to many is that there is actually a certain degree of British influence in Indonesia, the upshot of a long-forgotten, but deeply consequential five-year episode between 1811-1816.

This, for example, is why they drive on the left in Indonesia, not on the Dutch-style right.
Here’s an article I did in History Today magazine last year on this very topic: Words and Images: When Raffles Ran Java

 
Apr 2010
1,038
evergreen state, USA
As is to be expected, there were inter-ethnic marriages between Dutch and locals. My last name is also Dutch, but not related to my line. The Dutch version is seen in South Africa, Zambia and Indonesia, when I Googled the name a couple of years ago. The Indonesian guy seemed to be quite prominent on the internet, and may have been in Aceh province.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,205
T'Republic of Yorkshire
This happens to be today's featured article on the English language version of Wikipedia:
[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1740_Batavia_massacre]1740 Batavia massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Not something I knew about before.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,205
T'Republic of Yorkshire
What may be a surprise to many is that there is actually a certain degree of British influence in Indonesia, the upshot of a long-forgotten, but deeply consequential five-year episode between 1811-1816.

This, for example, is why they drive on the left in Indonesia, not on the Dutch-style right.
Here’s an article I did in History Today magazine last year on this very topic: Words and Images: When Raffles Ran Java
The Brookes - the White Rajahs of Sarawak must have left some influence?
 
Jul 2012
3,404
.
Nice post timdog.

I also think it would be interesting to have some dutch forum member enlight us on the things netherland absorbed from its east india empire :)
 
May 2011
98
Cornwall/Java
@ Naomasa298 - The 1740 massacre of the Chinese in Batavia was a dreadful episode, and one that clearly indicates that the troublesome status of the Chinese in Southeast Asia has a long history.

Here's an account of what happened from a Dutch resident of the city, Ary Huysers:

An instantaneous cry of murder and horror resounded through the town, and the most dismal scene of barbarity and rapine presented itself on all sides. All the Chinese, without distinction, men, women, and children, were put to the sword. Neither pregnant women nor suckling infants were spared by the relentless assassins. The prisoners in chains, about a hundred in number, were at the same time slaughtered like sheep. European citizens, to whom some of the wealthy Chinese had fled for safety, violating every principle of humanity and morality, delivered them up to their sanguinary pursuers, and embezzled the property confided to them. In short, all the Chinese, guilty and innocent, were exterminated.


The episode had far-reaching consequences too, beyond Batavia, for it triggered the round of internecine fighting in the Mataram Kingdom of Central Java that ultimately led to the state’s partition into two rival principalities centred on Surakarta and Yogyakarta, realms that endure to this day.

The Brookes - the White Rajahs of Sarawak must have left some influence?

Sarawak was never part of the Dutch East Indies. It was British territory and subsequently became part of Malaysia.

Further south in Borneo there was another “white rajah” of sorts during Raffles’ reign in Java. His name was Alexander Hare, and he was responsible for an appalling little petty despotism in Banjarmasin which rather resembled Mr Kurtz’ insane Congo outpost in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Raffles not only tolerated, but helped support it as a potential permanent British toehold somewhere within the Dutch sphere – he sanctioned and organised the rounding up of Javanese people, particularly “women of loose morals”, on the dubious grounds that they might potentially commit a crime in the future, and then had them shipped out to Hare’s seamy cesspit where they were obliged to succumb to his unhinged whims.
It is one of the grubbier episodes of British involvement in Southeast Asia, known by the Dutch as the De Bandjermasinche Afschuwelijkheid, “The Banjarmasin Enormity”. Unsurprisingly, you’ll find no mention of it in Raffles’ various glowing biographies.

@The merchant of Venice – it would indeed be good to get some Dutch input. As far as I am aware there is a significant legacy of the colonial experience in the Netherlands. As with the various South Asian loanwords in English, various Indonesian words and concepts have entered colloquial Dutch.

There is a significant body of colonial literature from writers like Rob Nieuwenhuys, Albert Alberts, and the very recently deceased Hella Haasse.

There are also lots of Dutch people who are of Indonesian, or Indo-European origin (and handful of these have gone back in the other direction – there are a number of professional football players, from Holland but of at least partial Indonesian origin, who have rocked up, got fast track citizenship, an instant place in the national squad, and celebrity status, generally without being able to speak Indonesian properly. There’s also one such guy who is a large, totally non-ethnically-Asian Uruguayan, but that’s another story!).

Back on the subject of the British in Indonesia, here are another couple of articles you might find interesting.

This one is about the British attack on Yogyakarta, exactly 200 years ago.

And this one is about Britain’s forgotten toehold in Sumatra, Bengkulu…
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,087
Canary Islands-Spain
It is considered that 10,000 words entered modern Indonesian language from Dutch. These were mostly Dutch words but also other European languages words.
 
Mar 2012
18,030
In the bag of ecstatic squirt
It’s a curious thing that the “British legacy” in India is a much-discussed trope, and every two-bit travel writer who turns up in the Subcontinent seems to wander around collecting examples of fusty old colonels talking 1920s English, mock-tudor cottages amongst the deodars, and other Raj-redolent relics, while every visitor to Indonesia seems to forget that the Dutch were ever there, let alone for 350 years.

My own first impression on arrival in Indonesia was certainly that the colonial legacy was hard to discern; these days I’m a little better attuned.

It certainly does seem to be true, however, that it’s less instantly palpable than in India. There are probably several reasons for this. The first is that the Dutch did not create the same kind of extensive “Dutch-isised” clerical class and elite that was developed in India from a fairly early stage, and so that the equivalent of that archetypal Indian caste of the comedy throwback colonel with bristling moustache and Sandhurst accent doesn’t exist there.

The reach of the Dutch language was never as wide as that of English in India, and it has largely vanished altogether these days. It’s a rare thing to meet some crumbling old grandma who tries to talk to you in Dutch, and English has long since usurped whatever role as international language of choice Dutch once had there.

Also of key significance, I think, is the nature of the colonial disengagement in Indonesia. The British managed to leave India with a pantomime performance of best-of-friends good terms and stiff upper lips, and did hand over to a class who actually very much resembled themselves (Gandhi’s homespun image was only skin-deep, remember; and the likes of Nehru and – especially – Jinnah were sometimes more English than the English).

In Indonesia meanwhile the Dutch departure was protracted and ill-tempered, and had also been immediately preceded by the Japanese occupation which had gone a long way to obliterate the colonial cultural structures. The occupation rolled straight into the revolution, so those structures were never properly reconstructed before Independence, and in the subsequent years the relationship remained strained.

But despite all this, once you look closely there are plenty of traces. There is, of course, lots of Dutch architecture scattered around (usually crumbling, it must be said), and a certain preference for Dutch-style bakeries.
There are plenty of Dutch loanwords in the Indonesian language (although there are also plenty borrowed from English and even Portuguese too, it should be said).
And some aspects of the governmental and legal systems remain from the colonial era (particularly in the territorial breakdown, through provinces, regencies down through districts and ever downwards to RT and RW…)

The single biggest legacy, of course, is that Indonesia exists at all – the state is, after all, ultimately nothing more than the geographical limits of the Dutch East Indies at its extent at the time of World War II (though of course, the founders of independent Indonesia worked hard to deploy the legend of Majapahit as a means of brushing that particular point under the carpet).

What may be a surprise to many is that there is actually a certain degree of British influence in Indonesia, the upshot of a long-forgotten, but deeply consequential five-year episode between 1811-1816.

This, for example, is why they drive on the left in Indonesia, not on the Dutch-style right.
Here’s an article I did in History Today magazine last year on this very topic: Words and Images: When Raffles Ran Java
Your observation that the Dutch presence in Indonesia can't be noticed these days is absolutely right because as you stated, the disengagement of the colonial masters from the colony was bitter because there was arms struggle, since after the Japanese surrendered om 1945, the Dutch Government tried to reestablish their colony but certainly the Indonesian natives had nothing to owe them since there was no tangible huge effort that was made by their former colonial masters to save them from the Japanese invaders, in contrast to the history of the Filipinos in remembering, the "I shall return," of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. liberation of the Philippines.

In my country, I have some friends who are interested in history and we discuss the relevance of European colonial powers during their time, and we always arrive at a conclusion that the worst colonial masters were the Dutch, on the ground that there was not much progress in terms of cultural alleviation of their colonies. I have very high regard to the Dutch ideals in terms of their kind of democracy as one of the best in the world, but they did not impart their culture the way the Spaniards, the French, the Portuguese and most of all the British and on the latter part of the history, the Americans shared their technology and knowledge to the people whom they occupied.

As it had been pointed out in some threads by some posters, when the British had their industrial revolution it reached India, by the time the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines they created universities and colleges and at least the Filipino elites were able to secure nice Western education as of 1600's, and when the Americans arrived in my country the failure of public education that the Spaniards started was massively introduced to the Filipinos.

However, such situation was not extensively done in Indonesia by the Dutch and had they established these educational institutions to create modernity in their colony, then the people that they colonized should be speaking their language with proficiency, but as you aptly stated, they don't.

I hope, that an Indonesian or Dutch will enlighten us more about this, matter.