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Western History the Dutch in Java

Western History the Dutch in Java - Christensen 1 Brandon...

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Christensen 1 Brandon Christensen Dr. Mangin History 4BH MW 9:30 From Monopoly to Empire: The Dutch in Java 1808-1830 The history of the Dutch people on the tropical island of Java is one of cultural exchange and bigotry, trade and exploitation, and of course resistance and domination. Yet the course of empire in Java is hardly that of textbook imperialism. Indeed, we would not be speaking of the Dutch at all if the subject at hand did not pertain to an exception to the rule. However, the years from 1808-1830 in Java serve as somewhat of an aberrance for casual observers of Dutch historical anomalies, for over the course of these two decades the Dutch role pertaining to the people of Java transformed from one of monopoly privilege and relatively loose governance to one of a far more standard account of state imperialism. As the Dutch state absorbed the duties formerly relegated to a state-sponsored monopoly, the priorities of the Dutch in the region changed accordingly, as did the priorities of the Javanese elite. Profits and power were still the main motivators behind the actions of the Dutch and the elite of Javanese society, but the means of attaining such goals altered significantly with the advent of direct state governance, and ultimately culminated in a bloody, insurrectionary war that claimed the lives of over 215,000 people – both of Asian and European descent. Up until 1808, Dutch presence in Java was represented largely by a corporation known as the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), an organization that was granted a monopoly charter to do business in Southeast Asia by the Dutch state in 1602. This arrangement maintained a
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Christensen 2 relatively monotonous pattern of mercantilist trade until the Napoleonic Wars in Europe shattered the status quo and rearranged the global political order. Initially, the VOC was “not motivated to any great extent by deliberate, pre-meditated imperialism. The VOC was primarily a trading company […and] was initially averse to close involvement” 1 in the political affairs of the Javanese. However, by 1808, Dutch involvement in both the political and economic realms of Java had become intricately enmeshed in the affairs of Javanese society. Part of the reason for Dutch involvement in the internal affairs of the island’s politics stemmed from the hostile political climate of Java as “[…] the Company found itself inexorably sucked into Javanese affairs almost against its better judgment, egged on […] by the Javanese themselves” 2 , a historical pattern of Javanese society and, I would argue, the rest of the world that continues to play out to this day. Now, the fact that the VOC did not set out to embark upon imperial glory in no way means that the monopoly was a well-meaning corporation whose sole purpose in Java was to trade fairly with the Javanese. British historian J.S. Furnivall writes “most harm was probably done during the earlier days[…when]the suppression of the rice trade struck a vital
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