|Indonesia Table of Contents
The key to Dutch commercial success in Indonesia was the security of its base of operations at Batavia. The security issue involved the VOC in the internal politics of Java. The earliest governor generals had not intended to become involved in Java's politics. They had envisioned the company as primarily a maritime power, consisting of a network of forts and heavily defended trading routes. But during the seventeenth century and especially the eighteenth century, the Dutch found themselves caught up in Java's perennial political instability. Defense of VOC interests required the raising of armies and collection of revenue from rulers and the general population to pay for them.
By the 1620s, Sultan Agung of Mataram had conquered Surabaya, a powerful rival state, extended his power on Java as far west as Cirebon, occupied the island of Madura after a bloody campaign, and forced the sultans of Banjarmasin and Sukadana on Kalimantan (known during the colonial era as Borneo) to become his tributaries. Batavia, already threatened by the hostile sultan of Banten, was besieged by Mataram forces by both land and sea in 1628-29. The siege was unsuccessful, and Sultan Agung had to accept the company's continued existence on Java. Royal poets and chroniclers, however, portrayed Dutch diplomatic missions to the Mataram court after 1629 as expressions of humble submission. The ruler turned his attention eastward, devastating the Hindu-Buddhist state of Balambangan but suffering defeat in his attempt to conquer the intrepid Balinese.
A revolt against Sultan Agung's successor, Amangkurat I (reigned 1646-77), in 1671 led the ruler, much resented for his harsh policies, to seek Dutch assistance against the rebels. When his palace was captured by the rebels, Amangkurat I sought refuge on VOC-controlled territory in 1677, where he died. His successor, Amangkurat II (reigned 1677-1703) gave the VOC monopolies over the sugar, rice, opium, and textile trade in Mataram territory in exchange for the VOC's military support in his efforts to regain the throne. Amangkurat II also agreed to the cession of the Priangan Districts south of Batavia. In 1684 the crown prince of Banten, involved in a revolt against his own father, asked for Dutch aid and in return was obliged to make concessions that essentially spelled the end of the kingdom's independence.
In the eighteenth century, Mataram experienced continued struggles for power among royal contenders. The First Javanese War of Succession (1704-08) resulted in Pakubuwona I (reigned 1705-19) assuming the throne with Dutch aid; in return, he gave the VOC the privilege of building forts anywhere it wished in Java, the right to station a VOC garrison at the royal court paid for by the royal treasury, an annual grant to Batavia of a large amount of rice for twenty-five years, and the promise that Javanese ships would not sail east of the island of Lombok or beyond the bounds of the Java Sea. The Second Javanese War of Succession (1719-23) resulted in the installation of Amangkurat IV (reigned 1719-26) as king, and further concessions were made to the VOC.
The Third Javanese War of Succession (1746-55) was decisive because it resulted in the division of Mataram into the states of Surakarta and Yogyakarta, each with its own sultan. Two years after Pakubuwona II (reigned 1725-49) had agreed to lease the north coast of Java to the VOC, Javanese princes led by Mangkubumi rebelled in 1745 precipitating war against the Dutch. The war dragged on until 1755, when the Treaty of Giyanti was ratified, recognizing Pakubuwona III (reigned 1749-55) as ruler of Surakarta and Mangkubumi (who took the title of sultan and the name Hamengkubuwono) as ruler of Yogyakarta. In 1757 a new state, Mangkunegaran, was carved from Surakarta territory. Banten, meanwhile, had become a territory of the VOC in 1753. The policy of divide and rule brought a measure of peace to Java thereafter, but the VOC had little time to enjoy the fruits of its many decades of involvement in court politics.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress