Koloniale gebreken | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 136, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



This article explores Dutch colonial policy, inequality and exploitation through the prism of practical issues of governance. It draws upon examples from the richly documented history of coerced labour and taxation in Indonesia to argue that colonial policy and resulting forms of exploitation, inequality and malpractice were not simply enacted from the heights of bureaucracy, but constructed on the spot, in daily realities shaped by local circumstances and the responses (rather than the initiatives) of local civil servants to complex governmental issues. For these local officials, striving to maintain balanced budgets and keeping up the overall facade of a stable and successful administration took precedence, which they were rarely able to unite with grander ambitions of governance. Therefore, the consequences of colonialism and how it was experienced should not solely be explained by what colonizers achieved and accomplished but also by their failures and errors, and by what they did not achieve.


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