This book is written by two Dutch experts in colonial expansion. They have applied modern concepts like economic history, networks, and the geographic...moreThis book is written by two Dutch experts in colonial expansion. They have applied modern concepts like economic history, networks, and the geographical and biological determinism of Jared Diamond to the world in the 17th and 18th century, before Britain became the world's dominant power. These modern concepts make it easier to accept some of the authors' conclusions compared to books of an earlier generation: we "recognise" this book. The book would have been even better if the authors had elaborated more on quite a few subjects. Still it seems a book that is worth reading even for those not specifically interested in Dutch history. It covers much of the globe from Brazil to Persia, paying least attention to Europe.(less)
The introduction at the start of the 20th century of the Ethical Policy to raise the living standard of the native population of the Dutch East Indies...moreThe introduction at the start of the 20th century of the Ethical Policy to raise the living standard of the native population of the Dutch East Indies coincided with the introduction of the bolt action rifle. Before the Ethical Policy the conquest of the archipelago's outer territories was deemed too expensive, and with just 4,000 Europeans in the archipelago in 1852, there had not been enough boots on the ground. The fire power of the new riffles made conquest a lot more economical.
The Ethical Policy had ended "the veneration of Mammon" of the colonial government. At the same time a breach of ethical norms set by the Europeans (slavery, suttees, but also smuggling and ransacking) had become a casus belli. It would lead to one of the bloodiest periods of Dutch colonial history. As it is today, the army was seen as an instrument for the spread of civilisation. As an additional benefit, conquest would save the archipelago from British and American interference and thus protect the pax Neerlandica.
Ewald Vanvugt has used the conquest of Lombok to look at the political and cultural effects of such a war on the colonial power.
Unfortunately we learn little about the consequences of the conquest for the people on Lombok. What happened to the raja's land that had generated such generous cash flows? Had the colonial government received any later income from the conquest? The protracted wars in Aceh were so expensive that taxes were raised in the Indies ("paid for by Javanese farmers") and Holland. The conquest of Lombok had also generated a loss. Equally, some of Mr. Vanvugt's quotes are unfortunate. There has never been proof of signs stating "no dogs or natives allowed" in the Dutch East Indies. Pramoedya Ananta Toer is quoted a few times. Pak Pram presented a view on history aimed at nation building, which is not always in line with more neutral observers.
Churchill has called Britain's colonial wars "a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples" (quoted in Richard Toye's Churchill's Empire). Mr. Vanvugt has not mentioned anything equivalent. However you see the same social Darwinism and belief in Western superiority at work, albeit in a more modest form.(less)