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The Social World of Batavia

Europeans and Eurasians in Colonial Indonesia

Jean Gelman Taylor

Publication Year: 2009

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch established a trading base at the Indonesian site of Jacarta. What began as a minor colonial outpost under the name Batavia would become, over the next three centuries, the flourishing economic and political nucleus of the Dutch Asian Empire. In this pioneering study, Jean Gelman Taylor offers a comprehensive analysis of Batavia’s extraordinary social world—its marriage patterns, religious and social organizations, economic interests, and sexual roles. With an emphasis on the urban ruling elite, she argues that Europeans and Asians alike were profoundly altered by their merging, resulting in a distinctive hybrid, Indo-Dutch culture.
    Original in its focus on gender and use of varied sources—travelers’ accounts, newspapers, legal codes, genealogical data, photograph albums, paintings, and ceramics—The Social World of Batavia, first published in 1983, forged new paths in the study of colonial society. In this second edition, Gelman offers a new preface as well as an additional chapter tracing the development of these themes by a new generation of scholars.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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pp. xiii

This study could not have been made without help from many quarters. No one can write on Indonesia's colonial history without acknowledging an immense debt to the Dutch archivists and historians, and in particular to the late Drs. F. de Haan and J. A. van der Chijs. Nor can I begin without acknowledging the help of Dr. John R. W. Smail of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who guided me over a long period of research and writing.

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Guide to the Text

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pp. xv

For ease of reading, common English variants are used in the text for some place names in Europe and in Asia. Thus the English form The Hague is employed, rather than the Dutch 's-Gravenhage, and the Celebes rather than the Indonesian Sulawesi. Other place names in the Indonesian archipelago appear in standard Indonesian spelling. Sri Lanka is referred to in the text by the name the Dutch knew, Ceylon.

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xvii-xxiii

This study of the social world that grew out of relationships between European men and Asian women in ports along the trade routes of the Dutch East Indies Company was first published in 1983 with the subtitle "European and Eurasian in Dutch Asia." In his review of the book, Michael Adas called for further research to broaden the social profile of colonial-era communities...

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pp. xxv-xxx

This study describes a colonial society that was formed in Dutch settlements on the coasts of Asia and that evolved for a brief period into a ruling caste in the Indonesian archipelago. It surveys aspects of colonial life that are seldom treated in the general histories of Indonesia, where greater attention is given the political and economic relations between Dutch and Indonesian. The aim is to complement...

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1. Origins of the City of Batavia

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pp. 3-32

WHEN THE DUTCH NAVIGATOR Cornelis Houtman first put in at Jacatra on 13 November 1596, the town was a minor port lying across the mouth of the Ciliwung River on the northwest coast of Java. Its inhabitants, principally members of the Sundanese ethnic group and numbering several thousands, lived within a bamboo enclosure; there was a small settlement of Chinese...

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2. Growth of Settlement Society

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pp. 33-51

FROM THE MATERIAL PRESENTED thus far, one can see that the categories of actors composing Dutch colonial society were already determined by the 1640s, and that the laws directing their lives and the institutions giving their lives shape were set by that time. Also determined by the middle years of the century was the economic system of monopoly and control. It is thus clear,...

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3. The Web of Colonial Society: Batavia and Environs in the Eighteenth Century

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pp. 52-77

THE COMPANY SEAMAN AND POET Jan de Marre first sailed to Batavia early in the eighteenth century. Something of the impression the city made on the visitor after months at sea can be felt in this excerpt from his long poem "Batavia": O lovely Batavia, that holds me spellbound, There your Town Hall with its proudly arching vaults Rears its profile! How splendid is your situation! Your broad Canals, replenished with fresh water,...

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4. The Assault on Indies Culture

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pp. 78-113

BY THE MID-EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, when Baron van Imhoff took office, Indies society was formed. Its culture was clearly not Dutch any longer. Netherlands society at the time may be defined broadly as racially homogeneous, Calvinist, and patriarchal, its cities run by oligarchies of prosperous businessmen and its industries controlled by guilds. Thrift and sobriety were highly prized qualities.

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5. The Destruction of VOC Society and the Creation of the New Colonial

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pp. 114-134

THE THIRD IN THE SERIES of assaults launched on Mestizo society by outsiders began in 1816 when the British transferred the Indies government to commissioners-general of the Netherlands monarch. This assault was to succeed in destroying the Company's legacy, for it was political as well as cultural. Neither van Imhoff nor Radermacher and his friends had ever seriously considered...

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6. The Inner Life of Late Colonial Society

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pp. 135-158

UNLIKE THE COMPANY PERIOD, the nineteenth century is rich in personal records that have survived from members of the rapidly expanding Indies-based European group. No longer was the capturing of experience left to the traveler. Now the new settlers from various levels of colonial society felt compelled to commit their opinions to paper. Many of the writers were struck by the fact that...

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pp. 159-174

TO RECOUNT IN DETAIL the final dissolution of Mestizo culture and of colonial society as a whole entails quite a different study from this one, which has focused on the Dutch of Indonesia as a distinct community with values and folkways of its own. It requires an examination of the Asian communities of the archipelago on their own terms and the introduction of new sets of actors, such...

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New Explorations of European-Asian Encounters

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pp. 175-196

THE HISTORY NARRATED IN the first edition of The Social World of Batavia ended with Sukarno's proclamation of Indonesia's independence on 17 August 1945. Then the distinctive culture that I had termed Mestizo dissolved into its constituent parts, and Indonesians and Dutch went their separate ways. From 1949 the Republic of Indonesia set about distancing the new...


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pp. 199-204

Appendix 1

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pp. 205-220

Appendix 2

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pp. 221-224

Appendix 3

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pp. 225-229


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pp. 231-256


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pp. 257

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 259-272


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pp. 273-279

E-ISBN-13: 9780299232139
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299232146

Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Jakarta (Indonesia) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Jakarta (Indonesia) -- Social conditions.
  • Netherlands -- Colonies -- Indonesia -- History.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Indonesia -- Jakarta -- History.
  • Interracial marriage -- Indonesia.
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