Indonesia History: From its Origins to Dutch Rule

(Republik Indonesia). State of Southeast Asia (1,910,931 km²). Capital: Jakarta. Administrative division: provinces (32), special districts (1), autonomous province (1). Population: 248,818,100 (2013 estimate). Language: Bahasa-Indonesia (official), Javanese. Religion: Muslims 87.2%, Protestants 7%, Catholics 2.9%, Hindus 1.7%, Buddhists 0.7%, others 0.5%. Currency unit: Indonesian rupiah (100 sen). Human Development Index: 0.684 (108th place). Borders: Andaman Sea, Malaysia and Celebes Sea (N), Papua New Guinea (E), Arafura Sea and Timor Sea and East Timor (S), Indian Ocean (W). Member of: APEC, ASEAN, OCI, UN and WTO.


The vast island area that constitutes the Indonesian Republic did not have, before the colonial period, a history characterized by unitary institutions. If ethnically Indonesia has fairly compact characters, it must be remembered that on the one hand these characters are also present in foreign regions (Malay Peninsula and Northern Borneo, in particular); and how, on the other hand, the separation of the territory into large islands (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Celebes) and minor archipelagos has facilitated different forms of development in the various regions. It can thus be seen that the island of Java has always been the human and historical center of the Indonesian area, the seat of almost all the major powers who have spread their influence on the surrounding territories from here. Only in some cases has Sumatra been able to play an alternative function, while the other regions (among other things, relatively depopulated) have always had, from a human and historical point of view, a peripheral function. The other salient feature of the Indonesian world is that of having developed a relatively modest indigenous civilization, but to have known, on the other hand, welcome and reshape elements of almost all the major cultures of the world: from the Indian one, thanks to whose mediation the country emerges from prehistory; to the Islamic one, adopted starting from the sec. Visit for Asia recent history.

XV-XVI; to the European one, forcibly experienced during the colonial period; to the Chinese one, present with minority communities, but economically significant. The Indian world enters Indonesia in the first centuries of our era. The first major local political formation is the The Indian world enters Indonesia in the first centuries of our era. The first major local political formation is the The Indian world enters Indonesia in the first centuries of our era. The first major local political formation is the kingdom of Srivijaya, whose center was Sumatra, in the region of today’s city of Palembang. In 992 Dharmavamsa (ruler of the first state of Java of which there is relatively certain information) attacked Sumatra and later, in 1035, Arialanga, another great ruler from Bali, agreed with the kings of Sumatra on a division of the spheres of influence on the ‘archipelago. In the sec. XIII King Kertanagara set up an expansionist policy tending to establish a single empire over the entire archipelago. In this same century, meanwhile, the kingdom of Majapahit flourished in Java, the last great Hindu kingdom in Indonesian history, which united most of the islands of the archipelago in a feudal structure, establishing the hegemony of Java under the almighty prime minister Gajah Mada. With the beginning of the century. XV the power of the kingdom of Majapahit quickly crumbled, while the gradual penetration of Islam intervened, as a new fact, to substantially modify the history of the archipelago. Penetrated gradually and peacefully through the trade routes (already at the end of the thirteenth century there were Islamic colonies in Sumatra), Islam exercised a profound cultural influence and the Muslim kingdoms that were formed could count on the consent and support of the population. At the beginning of the century. XVI began the contacts with the Europeans who had to transform the Indonesia in the first theater of colonial rule.

The first contacts with the Westerners occurred through the Portuguese who, to obtain the monopoly of the spice trade, occupied Malacca on the Malay peninsula in 1511; shortly afterwards the Dutch, attracted by the spice trade, also became interested in Indonesia; already in 1602 they had founded the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie). Commercial competition soon gave rise to hostility between Portugal and Holland; by stipulating agreements with the most powerful indigenous states, which were formally left independent but conditioned to Dutch interests, and occupying the smaller islands, the Company gradually acquired control of the islands, but only after having conquered Malacca in 1641 was it able to definitively oust the Portuguese from ‘archipelago. The Company, which had to defend its interests also against the Spaniards and the English, based its policy on the agricultural exploitation of the islands, obtained by imposing itself by force on the local sultans and harshly exploiting the work of the indigenous people; its activity was concentrated above all in Java, where political control was also more rigid. In 1799, victim of the economic policy of exploitation it set up, burdened by debts, the Company was dissolved and its business was taken over by the Dutch government. Conquered by the English during the Napoleonic wars, with the treaties of 1814 and 1824 the islands were returned to Holland, against which there was a series of revolts that lasted until 1910 and prevented it from imposing its constant dominion.

Indonesia History - From its Origins to Dutch Rule