The most populous inland of present-day Indonesia, Java was of interest to sixteenth-century Portuguese traders, who were promptly followed by the Dutch East India Company and the establishment of the port of Batavia in 1619 as an entrepôt for inter-Asian trade. When the Dutch Republic was invaded by Napoleonic armies in 1795, the company dissolved and a governor-general appointed, Herman Willem Daendels, who established an administrative system on the French model and constructed a postal road in large part with forced labor. In 1810, Napoleonic France then annexed the Netherlands outright, thereby making all Dutch colonies of strategic interest to Britain in its war with Napoleon. In 1811, a British invasion fleet arrived in Java, and Batavia surrendered shortly thereafter. The British controlled Java until 1816, when it was returned to the Netherlands. During the British occupation, the lieutenant-governor of Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, applied a “forward policy” in Java, claiming Borneo, the Celebes, the Moluccas, Java, and Sumatra, much to the annoyance of the British East India Company whose directors were skeptical of Java’s profitability. Raffles also conducted the first population census of Java and attempted economic, fiscal, and land tenure reforms - along with the abolition of slavery - but with little success before Java was returned to the Dutch.
   Through the introduction of the infamous “cultivation system,” whereby the Dutch government produced agricultural goods in Java for sale at auction back in Amsterdam, hundreds of millions of guilders flowed into the coffers of the Dutch treasury. Some reforms were introduced in response to violent rebellions between 1825 and 1830, but the population of Java suffered enormously under a system geared to the demands of Dutch consumers and negligent of the most elementary needs of Javanese producers. Central Java was struck by famine in 1849–1850. Incremental reforms were introduced starting in 1848, but it was not until the 1860s that most forced cultivation was phased out.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Bayly, C. A., and D.H.A. Kolff, eds. Two Colonial Empires: Comparative Essays on the History of India and Indonesia in the Nineteenth Century . Dortrecht: M. Nijhoff, 1986;
    Carey, Peter. The British in Java, 1811–1816: A Javanese Account . New York: Oxford University Press, 1992;
    Wesseling, H. L. The European Colonial Empires, 1815–1919 . Harlow: Pearson-Longman, 2004.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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