Diponegoro and the Java War (1825-1830)
( Dutch version )
After the annexation of The Netherlands by France in 1811, the British took over the remains of the VOC Empire. In the East Indies the British Governor Raffles, who founded Singapore (which very soon economically overpowered Batavia) in 1816 after his forced departure from Batavia, has put through a lot of reformations in his five years as Governor-Genearal of the former Dutch East Indies, at that time mainly Java.
The return of the Dutch in 1816 - 1820 was not problem-free. This was due to the fact that the Dutch wanted to turn a lot of the "reformations" around.
Financially the reinstatement of the East Indies was a disaster for the new and poor kingdom of William I.
In order to establish an equilibrium between England and the much feared France, the British wanted the new Dutch Kingdom (officially united with Belgium until 1839) to have a few colonies again. The British were even so kind as to give Holland a loan, so that they could keep head above water (financially). Monopolising the trade in opium eventually resulted in the needed profits only around 1828.This, in fact was the start of the so-called Indian Positive Balance ("Indisch Batig Saldo"). (see my introduction page)
The poor Holland (hardly any money in the bank) had to try to get back "old" authority over the East Indies. On top of it all there were large revolts from the moment that Holland returned to the East Indies, for instance the one on the Moluccas, headed by Pattimura .
Nobody wanted those Dutch, who tactlessly tried to turn back time to the good old days of the VOC, back.
One of the largest, and for the Netherlands the most expensive, revolt was the Java War under guidance of Diponegoro..
The real motive eventually was a problem with succession at the courts of Yogakarta. In the meantime, it was also a problem that the Javan nobility was not allowed to ask rent for the land anymore. This was one of the changes that Raffles and his predecessor"The Thundering Grande Lord" Daendels had put through.
The Dutch Daendels was indeed the General who invaded Holland supported by the French in 1794. During his East Indies period as Governor-General (1808-1811), he gave order to build the Grote Postweg ("Grand Postal Road ") from the West to the East of Java, thousands of peasants were forced to do this and died due to severe labour. After his return to Europe he joined Napoleon on his way to Moscow and finally died as Governor-General of the former slave fortress Elmina in the present state of Ghana (see my homepage)
The Java nobility was deprived of their income. This did not mean that the population had prospered, because the colonial authorities wanted to start collecting this. But that is really a completely different story.
Pangeran Prince Diponegoro
Continuing drought and a few failed harvests logically caused commotion amongst the population. And now those much-hated Dutch were back again!
The memory of the compulsory Lord services for Daendels for the construction of the Grand Postal Road from West- to East-Java was still fresh. The thundering Grande Lord prouded himself in the fact that the Grand Postal Road was built at minimal costs in only one year (naturally: the compulsory Lord services). Thousands of Javanese did not survive!
The personal frustrations of pangeran Prince Diponegoro would eventually be the cause of the outburst, because he was not chosen to be the next sultan of Yogakarta.
The construction of a road through his area was the spark that lit the fire. It has never become clear if this was connected to the Grand Postal Road.
Diponegoro became convinced that he was chosen by Allah to lead a rebellion against those secular Dutch. So then a, in the eyes of the Javanese, holy war started to which everybody, the nobility as well as the unhappy peasants, had to commit. Soon, Java was completely in frenzy. The Dutch did not understand at all....
The Dutch authorities were totally surprised by the massiveness of the rebellion and the fanatism. Defeat after defeat was suffered. It even looked like they had to give up Java again. This was not preferable because Java was to be the pillar on which the poor Dutch economy had to stand again. (!)
The "army" that was stationed in the East Indies had their hands full on all those other local rebellions, so they could not concentrate on their defence against Diponegoro.
Diponegoro developed into a charismatic leader with excellent tactic insight. The Dutch had not learned a thing from the guerrilla tactics during the Boni wars in Surinam. (see my Surinam link) They left for the homelands in large groups (beating drums or not)…they had no defence against Diponegoro, who applied a kind of a tactic of “burnt earth”. No food was left anywhere and, more important, no clean water in the jungle for the fully European packed Dutch troops.
This way, the Indian army lost one third of its men every year and this had to be completed from Europe as fast as possible. In their utter despair they set up a campaign in Europe to recruit people. They also bonded with several Indian monarchs from out of Java. In 1830 they had about 20,000 men, half of them were Europeans.
The tactics of the new Dutch head De Kock eventually were of great importance. He "simply" adopted the methods of Diponegoro and established small but heavily fortified posts ("bentengs"). Moreover, the Dutch proved to be masters in the "divide and conquer" principle. The peasants were promised lower costs by the instrument of land lease, because the nobility would again earn the rent. That way, the knife cut both ways: the peasants thought they were better off and the nobility had income again. The nobility was again able to negotiate with the European land loaners who wanted to rent land from the Java farmers
Surrender of Prince Diponegoro to General De Kock, a primary school poster...
Diponegoro was willing to negotiate but was still, despite an escort, imprisoned by De Kock in Magelang during the start of the negotiations on 28 March in 1830.
Diponegoro had demanded that he would be recognised as sultan and as the head of the Islam on Java.
Those demands were too large for an already beaten Prins. This suited de Kock well: "I did not at all find it unpleasant. This was a perfect opportunity for me to tell him that we could not only not indulge in such demands, but that I also considered him to be my prisoner from that moment on."
Diponegoro was exiled to Makassar on Celebes. In 1837, he was even visited by Prince Henry (the youngest son of the later King William II) who called him a proud man who was captured by the Dutch because of "treason".
Diponegoro spent his days with writing texts from the Koran. He died in 1855.
His grave in Makassar is a national monument now.
The university of Semarang on Central-Java (the area where Diponegoro lived) is named after Diponegoro.
Pictures of the prison of Diponegoro can be found HERE
Diponegoro's saddle and lance were moved to Holland as a bounty and were returned to Indonesia in 1975.
Apart from the large destruction, the Java War killed (estimated) 200,000 Javanese, (famished included) 7,000 Native and 8,000 European soldiers. The political consequences were clear: the Java nobility had lost its power up until the next century.
What happened with the Dutch:
Governor-General Van der Capellen had returned to Holland in 1825 a frustrated man: everything had failed and moreover he had to tell King William I that the rebellion of Diponegoro might well be the end of the new colonial adventure.
This man must have had a very bad time pacing around on his trip back to Holland........
The Flemish (for Belgium and Holland were united now) Du Bus de Gisignies (left photograph) would be his successor. The story says that Du Bus de Gisignies weighed a 145kg, when he returned to Europe in 1830, he had lost 60kg.
His successor Van den Bosch (photograph on the right) started with new ideas: he was to be the founder of the cultural system. According to King William I, he was able to produce money from the Indies like "Moses could get water out of a rock". This was in spite of the debt of 40 million guilders, caused by Diponegoro and others, he had to start with.
If you are interested in a (year 1941) biography about all the Dutch East Indies Governor-Generals, including the above mentioned gentlemen, please use this link.
On the map below the overview of the Nineteen-Century wars that had to be fought in order to instate Dutch authority everywhere:
Like to read my other stories about the Dutch East Indies?
More to come......
and in English as soon as possible (some sites are already translated : see below the header after opening of the requested story in Dutch )
Jan Pieterszn Coen and the extinction of the population on the Banda islands
The "betrayal" of the ( present holiday ) island of Lombok and the "Treasures of Lombok"
The pacification of the ( present holiday ) island of Bali
Wilhelmus van Nassaue,
Ziet gij dien heldenstoet?
Zij schoten op de vrouwen
En drenkten 't land met bloed.
De kwasten der banieren
zijn darmen van een kind.
Licht dat ge aan hun rapieren,
nog vrouwenharen vindt.
The war of aggression against Aceh
The war of aggression against Aceh has been the largest Dutch war ever which resulted in 100,000 people killed and 1,000,000 people injured
Photos and images of the Dutch East Indies
......a Northsea coast state of robbers......
.....building railways from stolen money
stunned the victims with
opium, Gospels and Dutch gin...
I dare to ask you in confidence is it
your order that more than thirty
million of your subjects in the East are maltreated and
squeezed in Your name?
Multatuli  ...to the Netherlands...King William III
....that village was set to fire, because it was captured by the Dutch.......
Yes, the village was captured by the Dutch, so it was burning
After each Dutch victory a fire
After each Dutch victory a destruction.
Dutch warfare methods induce desperation
Translated by Sonja van den Heijkant
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Last update :
10 September 2009