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Banditry in West Java, 1869-1942

Margreet van Till

Publication Year: 2011

Banditry was rife around Batavia (modern Jarkata) during the late colonial period. Banditry in West Java identifies the bandits and describes their working methods and their motives, which at times went beyond simple self-enrichment. The author also explores the world of the robbers' victims, mainly city-dwellers, who viewed the bandits as the antithesis of civilization and made them into convenient objects onto which respectable citizens projected their own preoccupations with sex, violence, and magic. The colonial police force in the Dutch East Indies was reformed in the early 1920s, and banditry was subsequently brought under control. However, the bandit tradition lived on in Javanese popular imagination and folk culture, particularly in the tales of Si Pitung, a Robin Hood figure who flourished in nineteenth-century Batavia.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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List of illustrations and maps

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pp. 11-25

This article comes from the Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad, one of the most influential newspapers in Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. The leafy lanes of the city — which was also known as . . .

The Setting

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1 Batavia and the Ommelanden

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pp. 19-43

In the spring of 1869, Batavia was preparing to celebrate its 250th anniversary.1 The ‘Coen festival’ — named after Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the city’s founder — was to take place from 25 to 28 May and would . . .

The Bandits

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2 The Economics of Banditry

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pp. 47-62

Pondering the prominent social status of certain known robbers in Javanese desas, the former Resident G.L. Gonggrijp remarked in 1911: ‘I have been thinking that we might convert all Java’s villeins into villains. . . .

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3 The Organizational Structure of Criminal Gangs

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pp. 63-78

This chapter will examine the factors that helped to make robbery a lucrative occupation. The individualism of indigenous entrepreneurs, which has been identified as a major stumbling-block in building up a . . .

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4 Firearms

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pp. 79-91

Judging by the available statistics, the Europeans in Batavia had little cause to fear that they might fall victim to robbery. If such a mishap did occur, however, it was certainly not unrealistic to fear that the robbers . . .

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5 Jagos, jimats, and dukuns

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pp. 92-104

Bandits had other weapons besides firearms. They were also feared for their magical powers and physical strength, fears that escalated and spread among the European and Eurasian populations around 1915. . . .

The City-Dwekekrs

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6 Progress and Degeneration

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pp. 107-119

In the early twentieth century, progressive politicians and leaders of public opinion sought to improve the poor social conditions in the Ommelanden through new infrastructure, a more effective police force, and changes in . . .

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7 From Bandit Novels to Detective Stories

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pp. 120-135

The years 1915–20 in the Dutch East Indies have been described by some authors — such as the historian Henri Baudet — as the watershed between the modern age and the legendary tempo doeloe, the good old days. . . .

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8 The Bandit Si Pitung and Popular History

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pp. 136-151

A round the mid-twentieth century, Batavian banditry started to disappear from popular Dutch historiography. Two books were published just after the Second World War: the memoirs of I.H. Misset, Batavia’s chief . . .

The State

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9 The Fight Against Crime

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pp. 155-185

Notwithstanding the long history of banditry in the Dutch East Indies, the story of the concerted effort to stamp it out does not start until 1903. Voices had been raised earlier in favour of forming a more modern . . .

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Concluding Remarks

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pp. 186-191

The temptation to write a book that would focus on the sensational exploits of a few bandit chiefs was something I was determined to resist. Not because no such figures existed in the Dutch East Indies, but . . .


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pp. 192-211


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pp. 212-241


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pp. 242-243


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pp. 244-250


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pp. 251-275


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pp. 276-282

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695859
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695026

Page Count: 292
Illustrations: 26 images
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New

OCLC Number: 826442857
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Banditry in West Java, 1869-1942

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Outlaws -- Indonesia -- Jawa Barat -- History.
  • Brigands and robbers -- Indonesia -- Jawa Barat -- History.
  • Outlaws -- Indonesia -- Jakarta -- History.
  • Brigands and robbers -- Indonesia -- Jakarta -- History.
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