History of Indonesia

For more than three centuries most of the area now comprising Indonesia was ruled by the Netherlands under a system designed to serve the economic needs of the metropolitan power. Unlike the British in India or the United States in the Philippines, the Dutch saw no need to bring significant numbers of Indonesians into government or to start preparing them to manage their own affairs. The 1930 census, the last before Indonesia’s independence, showed there were 208,269 Dutch living in Indonesia. They ran virtually everything, including serving as postmen in the capital city of Batavia. M.C. Ricklefs in his study A History of Modern Indonesia quotes Dutch governor-general B.C. de Jonge (1931-36) as saying, “we have ruled here for 300 years with the whip and the club, and we shall still be doing it for another 300 years.” Education for the local people was also not high on the Dutch agenda, with the result that there were only a few hundred Indonesian college graduates out of a total population estimated at 70 million at the time of independence. A large number of those graduates were in politically acceptable fields such as medicine and engineering. Economists, political scientists, and administrative specialists were in very short supply.


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