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Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies, or Netherlands East Indies, (Dutch: Nederlands Indië) was the name of the colonies set up by the Dutch East India Company, which came under administration of the Netherlands during the 19th century (see Indonesia).
Adventurous reconnoitering in the late 16th century (J. H. Van Linschoten, 1582, and the daring adventures of Cornelis Houtman, 1592) paved the way for Houtman's voyage to Bantam, the chief port of Java, and back (1595-97), which raised a very modest profit. Dutch penetration into the East Indies, which was Portugal's sphere, was slow and discreet.
The Dutch East India Company, chartered in 1602, concentrated Dutch trade efforts under one directorate with a unified policy. In 1605 armed Dutch merchantmen captured the Portuguese fort at Amboyna in the Moluccas, which was developed into the first secure base of the V.O.C., as the Dutch called their Company. The Twelve Year's Truce signed in Antwerp in 1609 called a halt to formal hostilities between Spain (which controlled Portugal and its territories at the time) and the Seventeen Provinces. In the Indies, the foundation of Batavia formed the permanent center from which Dutch enterprises, more mercantile than colonial, could be coordinated. From it "the Dutch wove the immense web of traffic and exchange which would eventually make up their empire, a fragile and flexible one built, like the Portuguese empire, 'on the Phoenician model'." (Braudel 1984, p. 215)
One after another the Dutch took the great trading ports of the East Indies: Malacca in 1641; Achem (Aceh) the native kingdom in Sumatra, 1667; Macassar, 1669; finally Bantam itself, 1682. At the same time connections in the ports of India provided the printed cottons that the Dutch traded for pepper, the staple of the spice trade.
The greatest source of wealth in the East Indies, Fernand Braudel has noted, was the trade within the archipelago, what the Dutch called inlandse handel, where one commodity was exchanged for another, with profit at each turn, with silver from the Americas, more desirable in the East than in Europe.
By concentrating on monopolies in the fine spices, Dutch policy encouraged monoculture: Amboyna for cloves, Timor for sandalwood, the Bandas for mace and nutmeg. Monoculture linked island economies to the mercantile system to provide the missing necessities of life.
By 1700 a colonial pattern was well established; the V.O.C. had grown to become a state-within-a-state and the dominant power in the archipelago. After the company was liquidated in 1799, and after a British interregnum during the Napoleonic Wars, the Dutch government took over administration until the independence of Indonesia in 1949 following the Indonesian National Revolution.
- Braudel, Fernand, The perspective of the World, vol III in Civilization and Capitalism 1984
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