View the original article here.
I might be doing an injustice to Peter Carey. I notice from your letter that elsewhere he did talk about the Java War as caused, in part, by the after effects of Raffles’ rule. But in the article I criticised – not a word.
“The idea that the partition of Mataram territory was a plain and simple case of nefarious “divide-and-rule” policy engineered by the Dutch – taken as a given by most Indonesians today (a very simplistic reading, not least given that by the mid 18th Century the VOC was in terminal decline and Royal Java was showing signs of resurgence). You find this idea crudely proclaimed all over contemporary British writing.”
Yes this ‘divide and rule’ mantra has always seemed somewhat illogical to me for the simple reason that a place has to be a unified whole before you can set out to divide it. And there was of course no such thing as a unified Indonesia in the 18th and 19th centuries. In fact it would be perfectly reasonable to say that a unification of sorts (if one doesn’t take into account wishful non-thinking about Majapahit) only came about through Dutch military activities under the administration of Van Heutsz in the first decade of last century.
Where there was some kind of territorial unity as in Mataram the division into the two principalities was largely the handiwork of the sultan Pakubuwana’s III’s uncle, Mangkubumi, who took up arms against his nephew shortly after the latter’s accession and was supported in this enterprise by another nephew, Mangkunegara. The Company was drawn into this conflict on the side of the Susuhunan but unable to subject his rebellious uncle and cousin. In a conference aiming at reconciliation the three parties agreed to the division of Mataram.
There was no need for a divide and rule policy here because the Susuhunan was in the Company’s pocket ever since one of his predecessors had to be restored to the throne with the help of the Company after he had been driven out by the troops of his Madurese enemy Trunajoyo.
Clive Day’s judgment that the native rulers would have fought among themselves, with or without the Dutch, seems reasonable enough.
But the ‘divide and rule’ slogan will, no doubt, remain the basis for the pseudo-sophisticated analysis of colonial policy. Recently it was pushed to the fore again on the ‘Dutch warcrimes’ thread by a contributor who managed to sound even more ignorant on this point than Purba Negoro.
I recently found this long list (that doesn’t seem to be complete however) of popular Dutch language literature about Indonesia, mostly post war.: http://home.wxs.nl/~eljee/Boeken.htm
(For those who don’t know: scholarly literature, mostly English language, can be found via Excerpta Indonesica, a searchable database maintained by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Solutheast Asian and Caribbean Studies)