Indonesian history

Brief history of Indonesia summarized

A brief look at Indonesian history, in a nutshell.

Indonesia in ancient times

The history of Indonesia begins when the first settlers arrived about 40,000 years ago, when the sea level was lower and it was linked to Asia by a land bridge. Then, at the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 BC, a new wave of people arrived.

At first they hunted animals, gathered shellfish and plants for food. Around 2,500 BC they learned to cultivate taro, bananas, millet and rice. Early farmers also made pottery, but all of their tools were made of stone.

However, by 700 BC the Indonesians had learned to make bronze and iron. In addition, the cultivation of wet rice was introduced at that time. Indonesian villages were forced to cooperate to regulate the water supply to their fields. Over time organized kingdoms arose.

From about 400 BC the Indonesians traded with other nations such as China and India. Hinduism and Buddhism were also introduced to Indonesia and took over.

By the 8th century AD, Indonesian civilization was flourishing. Among the kingdoms was a Hindu kingdom in central Java called Sailandra. There was also the great Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya in South Sumatra.

From the 7th to the 13th centuries Sriwijaya prospered and became a maritime empire controlling West Java and part of the Malay Peninsula. It was also a center of Buddhist learning. However, in the 13th century the Sriwijaya empire split into separate states.

Meanwhile, Islam was brought to Indonesia by Indian merchants. It first acquired a stake in Aceh, in North Sumatra, and in the following centuries spread throughout the rest of Indonesia.

However, in the 13th and 14th centuries a Hindu kingdom flourished. It was called the Majapahit Empire. It was founded in 1292 and soon came to dominate most of Indonesia. However, in the early 15th century the Majapahit Empire went into rapid decline.

Colonial Indonesian

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia, changing the course of its history. At that time there was a great demand in Europe for spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and mace.

Huge profits could be made by transporting them to Europe and selling them. Therefore, the Portuguese decided to seize the Moluccas, the main source of spices. In 1511 they captured Melaka, an important port. They also captured the Moluccas.

However, in the early 17th century, the Portuguese lost their position to the Dutch. The first Dutch fleet sailed from Holland in 1595 under the command of Cornelis de Houtman. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed to control trade with Indonesia. In 1605 they took Tidore and Ambon from the Dutch.

In 1619 the company captured Batavia. In 1641 they took Melaka. During the 17th century the Dutch gradually extended their power to Java and the Moluccas. However, they had little influence in the rest of Indonesia. Also, during the 18th century, the Dutch East India Company fell into debt. Finally, in 1799, the Dutch government took over their territories.

In 1806 the British and Dutch went to war. In 1811, the British under Lord Minto set sail for Batavia. The British soon captured all Dutch possessions in Indonesia. The British abolished slavery and also divided the country into areas called residences for administration.

However, in 1816, Indonesia was returned to the Dutch by the British. Many Indonesians resisted the return of the Dutch. However, the Dutch eventually defeated them and regained control.

However, in 1825 the Java war began, in central Java. It was led by Prince Diponegoro. However, the war ended with Dutch victory in 1830. Diponegoro went into exile and died in 1855.

Also, during the 19th century, the Dutch extended their control to other parts of Indonesia. In 1825 they took Pelambang on Sumatra. They also fought wars with the Balinese in 1848, 1849, 1858 and 1868, being one of the bloodiest periods in their history. However, Bali was not finally conquered until 1906.

In 1873 the Dutch went to war with Aceh. The war continued until 1908. Meanwhile, in 1894 the Dutch captured Lombok and in 1905 they captured all of Sulawesi.

Meanwhile, the Dutch brazenly exploited the Indonesians. In 1830 the Dutch introduced the cultural system. Indonesian farmers were forced to allocate 20% of their land to the production of crops for export.

The Dutch government only paid them a nominal sum for them. Indonesians were forced to grow coffee, indigo, tea, pepper, cinnamon, and sugar. As a result of this measure, rice production was reduced.

However, in 1870 the Dutch switched to a free market system. The Dutch government’s monopoly on sugar and other commodities was ended. Private plantations were created. However, the Indonesians were not necessarily better off. Now they were employed as coolies on the big plantations.

In the early 20th century, the Dutch decided to treat Indonesians more fairly. They introduced what they called the ethical policy. This meant building schools and spending money on health care, sanitation, and irrigation. However, the new policy had little effect on the lives of most Indonesians.

However, it did mean that at least some Indonesians became highly educated and familiar with Western ideas such as liberalism and socialism. As a result, nationalist movements were formed in Indonesia at the beginning of the 20th century. They began to clamor for independence.

Then in 1940 the Germans occupied the Netherlands. In 1942 the Japanese invaded Indonesia. The last Dutch troops surrendered on March 8, 1942. At first, the Indonesians welcomed the Japanese as liberators. However, they soon became disillusioned. The Japanese were brutal and ruthlessly exploited Indonesia’s resources.

However, when the Japanese were losing the war, they began to favor Indonesian independence, hoping to make the Indonesians their allies. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. Young Indonesian nationalists were determined to assert the country’s independence before the Dutch could return.

A group of them kidnapped two nationalist leaders, Sukarno and Hatta. On August 17, Sukarno declared Indonesian independence, ending its history as a colony. He became the first president and Hatta the vice president.

However, the Dutch were not about to let Indonesia go so easily. At first, British troops landed in Indonesia. They tried to remain neutral although there were armed clashes between the British and Indonesians in some places.

However, by November 1946 the British had left and the Dutch had landed many men in Indonesia. In November, the Indonesians and the Dutch signed the Linggadjati agreement. The Dutch recognized the new republic, but only in Java and Sumatra. They still claim the rest of Indonesia. Furthermore, the agreement stated that the republic would join a federal union with the Netherlands in 1949.

Not surprisingly, neither side was happy with the deal. The Dutch built their force in an attempt to retake all of Indonesia. In the summer of 1947 they invaded the independent zones. However, they were forced to withdraw, partly due to Indonesian resistance and partly due to strong international condemnation (especially from the United States).

In December 1948 the Dutch tried to retake Indonesia. This time the Indonesians turned to guerrilla warfare and were successful. The Dutch faced strong condemnation from powers like the United States and realized that they could not win the war.

Finally, on November 2, 1949, the Dutch agreed to recognize Indonesia’s independence. His troops withdrew in December 1949.

Indonesian today

In the beginning, independent Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy. However, in February 1957, President Sukarno introduced a new political system, which he called “Guided Democracy.” The power of parliament was reduced and his own power greatly increased.

Their opponents formed a separate “parliament” called the PRRC (the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia). However, the army remained loyal to Sukarno and he remained in power. Meanwhile, in October 1957, the army took over the remaining Dutch companies in Indonesia. As a result, the army became rich.

Then, in the early 1960s, the economy faltered. There was very rapid inflation. In September 1965 the communists attempted a coup in Indonesia. They assassinated several generals. They also seized strategic points in Jakarta. However, General Suharto quickly took action.

The blow was crushed. President Sukarno gave Suharto powers to restore order. After the coup, Suharto arrested and executed a large number of communists. However, Sukarno lost support, and on March 11, 1966, he ceded his presidential powers to Suharto.

From 1966 Suharto ruled as a dictator (although elections were held every five years, democracy was a façade). However, Suharto brought stability and under his leadership the Indonesian economy recovered.

Starting in the 1960s, oil reserves in Indonesia were exploited. After 1973, Indonesians benefited from the high price of oil. Agriculture also became much more productive.

However, many Indonesians remained poor, and in 1997 Indonesia was hit by a financial crisis. As a result, the economy contracted. Indonesia was hit by unrest and Suharto resigned in May 1998. Democracy returned to Indonesia with elections, which were held in 1999.

At the beginning of the 21st century the Indonesian economy began to recover. Today, the Indonesian economy is growing steadily. Today the population of Indonesia is 261 million.

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