Sugar: The Sweet Beginning of Dutch Colonialism in Java

Sugar The Sweet Beginning of Dutch Colonialism in Java – Hey there, fellow travel enthusiasts! If you’ve ever been curious about the roots of Dutch colonialism in Java and how it all started with the sweetness of sugar, you’re in for a treat. Join us on a journey through time as we unravel the history of Java, exploring the origins of colonialism and the impact it had on this vibrant Indonesian island.

The Sweet Journey of Sugar: A Historical Prelude

Picture this: a world where the simple sweetness of sugar, cultivated from humble sugarcane, became a global economic powerhouse. The demand for sugar skyrocketed, leading European powers to venture into new territories, bringing slavery to the forefront and sparking revolutions and brutal wars.

The geographical center of sugarcane cultivation gradually shifted worldwide over 3,000 years. As sugar became a sought-after commodity in the global market, it garnered significant attention from colonial governments.

Now, let’s dive into the heart of our story—the Dutch colonialism in Java, known locally as the Onderneming.

Onderneming: The Birth of a New Farming System

The Dutch, driven by the immense demand for sugar, established the Onderneming in Java during the mid-1800s. This system marked the beginning of a dark era—slavery, exploitation, and the forced cultivation of sugarcane by the Javanese people.

The Javanese were compelled to plant and tend to sugarcane for the colonial rulers, sending their yield to Dutch-owned plantations and factories. By the 1850s, detailed plans were drafted, identifying water catchment areas within a 4-7 kilometer radius of each factory.

Millions of Javanese people were involved in the processing and transportation of sugar—whether through forced or voluntary labor. By the mid-19th century, Java’s sugar production contributed a third of the Dutch government’s income and 4% of the Netherlands’ GDP.

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A researcher, Dr. Posthumus, posing with one-year-old sugarcane in the experimental field of the Java Sugar Industry Experimental Garden in Pasuruan, 1927.
A researcher, Dr. Posthumus, posing with one-year-old sugarcane in the experimental field of the Java Sugar Industry Experimental Garden in Pasuruan, 1927.

Evolution of the System: From Forced Labor to Contract Workers

In 1870, the Agrarian Law was enacted in the Netherlands, abolishing forced labor and allowing private companies to lease land in sparsely populated areas. This shift in the workforce—from forced family units to contracted servants, mostly illiterate farmers from Java and Singapore—fueled extensive investment in larger plantations.

The reach of these plantations extended to the western part of Java and Sumatra, with 94 Dutch water-powered sugar mills processing raw sugarcane into refined sugar.

One notable private Dutch-owned company, Van Nelle, emerged as a giant in the industry. Starting as a small grocery store in Rotterdam, Van Nelle transformed into the largest sugar processing industry in Java.

Van Nelle’s Journey: From Rotterdam to Java’s Heart

Johannes and Hendrica van Nelle, the founders, initially ran a simple store in Rotterdam selling coffee, tea, and tobacco. Their business flourished as the Dutch colonized Java, prompting them to establish their own sugarcane plantations.

As the Van Nelle family’s business expanded, their Rotterdam store evolved into a major industrial company. They set up their industrial office in Semarang, complete with their own sugarcane plantations.

The vast colonies in Java played a crucial role for Van Nelle—they supplied raw materials like sugarcane and served as a target market for the finished products. With expanding plantations and increased production quality, Van Nelle transformed into a European giant in sugar processing.

Conclusion: The Sweet Legacy of Java’s Colonial Past

In the mid-1800s, Java became one of the most financially rewarding colonies globally. The sweetness of sugar, however, marked the beginning of a complex and challenging chapter in Indonesian history—the era of Dutch colonialism.

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Now, as you plan your journey to Java, consider the profound history that shaped this enchanting island. And if you’re seeking a personalized experience, look no further than Java Private Tour. With English-speaking, friendly, and knowledgeable guides, flexible schedules, and a fleet of certified local guides and private vehicles, Java Private Tour comes highly recommended, even by embassies of satisfied friendly nations.

Embark on a tour with Java Private Tour, your gateway to discovering the rich tapestry of Java’s history and culture. Because sometimes, the sweetest stories unfold in the most unexpected places. BOOK HERE TODAY


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