Indonesia did not exist yet during the Paleocene period (70 million years BC), the Eocene period (30 million years BC), the Oligocene period (25 million years BC) and the Miocene period (12 million years BC). It is believed that Indonesia must have existed during the Pleistocene period (4 million years BC) when it was linked with the present Asian Mainland. It was during this period that the Hominids made their first appearance an Java Man inhabited the part of the world now called Indonesia. Java Man, named Pithecanthropus Erectus by Eugene Dubois who found the fossils on the island of Java, must have been the first inhabitant of Indonesia.

When the sea level rose as the result of melting ice north of Europe and the American continent, many islands emerged, including the Indonesian archipelago. It was also during this period (3000-500 BC) that Indonesia was inhabited by Sub-Mongoloid migrants from Asia who later inter-married with the indigenous people. Later still (1000 BC) inter-marriage occurred with Indo-Arian migrants from the south-Asian sub-continent of India.

The first Indian migrants came primarily from Gujarat in Southeast India during the first Christian era.

The Caka period in Indonesia witnessed the introduction of the Sanskrit language and the Pallawa script by the Indian Prince Aji Caka (78 AD). The Devanagari script of the Sanskrit language was also used, as shown in ancient stone and copper inscriptions (paracasthies) which have been unearthed. The language and script were adapted and called the Kawi language and included words and phrases derived from Javanese.

Early trade relations were established between South India and Indonesia. Sumatra was then named Swarnan Dwipa of "the island of gold," Java was called Java Dwipa or "the rice island," and a Hindu kingdom of Crivijaya in Sumatra and Nalanda in South India were not confined to religious and cultural changes. They later developed diplomatic relations, and even covered a wide range of trade.

The influx of Indian settlers continued during the period from the first to the seventh century AD. Peacefully and gradually the Hindu religion spread throughout the archipelago. It was adapted by all layers of the people of Java, but limited to the upper classes on the island.


In their search for spices, the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia in 1511, after their conquest of the Islamic kingdom of Malacca on the Malay Peninsula. They were followed by the Spaniards. Both began to propagate Christianity and were most successful in Maluku, also known as the Moluccas.


Meanwhile, the Dutch had started their quest for Indonesia spices to sell on the European market at big profit. For the purpose of more efficient and better organized merchant trade they established the Dutch East India Company (V0C) in 1602. To protect the merchants fleet from the frequent pirate attacks on the high seas, Dutch warships were ordered to accompany it.

After the nationalization of the VOC in 1799, the Dutch Government had a firm grip on the vital territories of the country. People in these territories were forced to surrender their agricultural produce to the Dutch merchants. It was the beginning of the Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. Sunda Kelapa was renamed Batavia.

Meanwhile, the Hindu Kingdom of Mataram converted to Islam and was ruled by the Muslim, Sultan Agung Hanyokrokusumo. He developed the political power of the state and was a keen patron of the arts and culture. In 1633, he introduced the Islamic Javanese calendar.

Sultan Agung was a fierce enemy of the Dutch. In 1629, he sent his troops to attack Batavia, but they were repulsed by the troops of Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen.

After the seizure of Ambon in the Moluccas in 1605 and Banda Island in 1623, the Dutch secured the trade monopoly of the spice islands. A policy of the ruthless exploitation by "divide and rule" tactics was carried out. In this way indigenous inter-island trade, like that between Makassar, Aceh, Mataram and Banten, as well as overseas trade, was gradually paralyzed. Indonesia was reduced to an agricultural country to supply European markets. At the same time, the Dutch adopted a so-called open-door policy toward the Chinese in order that they could serve as middlemen in their trade with Indonesia.

War against the Dutch

Sultan Hasanuddin of Goa waged a war against the Dutch in 1666. But was defeated and Goa became a vassal state of the VOC under the treaty of Bunggaya of 1667.

Prince Trunojoyo of Madura also fought the Dutch. He was defeated and killed in 1680.

To reinforce their spice monopoly in Molluccas, the Dutch undertook their notorious Hongi expeditions, whereby they burned down the clove gardens of the people in an effort to eliminate overproduction, which brought down the prices of cloves on the European markets. In these outrageous expedition countless atrocities were committed against people who defended their crops.

In 1740 the Dutch suppressed a rebellion in Jakarta that was sparked by dissatisfied Chinese, who were later joined by Indonesians. Ten thousand Chinese were massacred.

The Kingdom of Mataram began to see its downfall after it was divided by the VOC into the Principalities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta . However, mismanagement and corruption forced the VOC into bankruptcy and on December 31, 1799, all its territories in Indonesia were taken over by the Dutch Administration in Batavia.


In 1814 the British came to Indonesia and built Fort York in Bengkulu on the west coast of Sumatra. It was later renamed Fort Marlborough.

During the Napoleon wars in Europe when Holland was occupied by France, Indonesia fell under the rule of the British East India Company ( 1811 - 1816 ). Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles was appointed Lieutenant Governor General of Java and dependencies. He was subordinated to the Governor General in Bengal, India.

Raffles introduces partial self-government and abolished the slave trade. In those days slaves was captured and traded by foreigners.

He also introduces the land-tenure system, replacing the hated Dutch forced-agricultural system, whereby the crop were ground and surrendered to the Government.

Borobudur and other temples were restored and research conducted. Raffles wrote his famous book, " The History of Java," in which he described Java's high civilization and culture.

During the British stay in Sumatra ( 1814 - 1825 ), William Marsden wrote a similar book on the history of Sumatra , which was published in 1889.

After the fall of Napoleon, and the end of the French occupation of Holland the British and Dutch signed a convention in London on August 13, 1814, in which it was agreed that Dutch colonial possessions dating from 1803 onwards should be returned to the Dutch Administration in Batavia. Thus, the Indonesian archipelago was recovered from the British in 1815.


Soon the Dutch intensified their colonial rule. But this only sparked widespread revolts to seize freedom. These revolts, however were suppressed one after the other.

To mention only a few: Thomas Matulessy, alias Pattimura, staged a revolt against the Dutch in the Moluccas ( 1816 - 1818 ). Prince Diponegoro of Mataram led the Java War from 1825 until 1830. Again, it was fierce struggle for freedom. Tuanku Imam Bonjol led the Padri War in West Sumatra, while Teuku Umar headed the Aceh War in North Sumatra ( 1873 - 1903 ). King Sisingamangaraja of the Bataks revolved against the Dutch in 1907. An attempt by the Dutch troops to occupy Bali in 1908 was repelled by King Udayana. Revolts were also staged in Goa, South Sulawesi, and in South Kalimantan.


When all these regional wars of independence failed, Indonesian nationalists began thinking of more-organized struggle against Dutch colonialism.

The move began with the founding of Boedi Oetomo, literally meaning " noble conduct, " on May 20, 1908. This organization of Indonesian intellectuals was initially set up for educational purposes but later turned to politics. It was inspired by Japan's victory over Russia in 1901, which also gave impetus to nationalist movements in many parts of Indonesia. The founder Boedi Oetomo was Dr. Soetomo who was, at the time, a student of STOVIA, an institution of trained Indonesian medical officers. Dr. Soetomo was greatly influenced by Dr. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo and supported by Gunawan and Suradji.

In 1912 Sarekat Dagang Islam , the Association of Moslem Merchants, was formed by Haji Samanhudi and others. Its objective was at first to stimulate and promote the interest of Indonesian business in the Dutch East Indies . However, in 1912 this organization of middle class businessmen turned into a political party and was renamed Sarekat Islam under the leadership of H.O.S. Tjokroaminoto, Haji Agoes Salim and others.

In 1912 a progressive Moslem organization, Muhammadiyah, was established by K.H. Akhmad Dahlan in Yogyakarta for the purpose of social and economic reforms.

In December of the same year Partai Indonesia was founded by Douwes Dekker, later named Setiabudi, with Dr. Tjipto Mangunkusumo and Ki Hajar Dewantoro. The objective of the party was to strive for complete independence of Indonesia. All three leaders were exiled by the colonial government in 1913

In 1914 communism was introduced in the East Indies by three Dutch nationals-Sneevliet, Baars and Brandsteder .

In May 1920 Sarikat Islam split into a right and left wing, the later was become the Partai Komunis Indonesia ( PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party ) under the leadership of Semaun, Darsono, Alimin, Muso and others.

The Powerless People's Council or Volksraad

In 1916 Sarikat Islam held its first convention in Bandung and resolved the demand self-government for Indonesia in cooperation with the Dutch. When Sarikat Islam demanded a share in the legislative power in the colony, the Dutch responded by setting up the Volksraad in 1918 which was virtually a powerless people's council with an advisory status.

Indonesian representatives on the council were indirectly elected through regional councils, but some of the other members were appointed colonial officials.

The Volksraad later developed into a semi-legislative assembly. Among the members of this body were prominent nationalist leaders like Dr. Tjipto Mangunkusumo, H.O.S. Tjokroaminoto, Abdul Muis, Dr. G.S.S.J. Ratulangi, M.H. Thamrin, Wiwoho, Sutardjo Kartohadikusumo, Dr. Radjiman, and Soekardjo Wiryopranoto.

Under the pressure of the social unrest in the Netherlands at the end of the World War I, the Dutch promised to grant self-government to Indonesians. This was known as the " November promise. " It was a promise that never met.

Besides the Volksraad, there was another body called Raad van Indie, " the Council of the Indies, " whose members were appointed by the Government. Achmad Djajaningrat and Sujono were among the very few Indonesian members of the council.

Restriction of Civil Liberties

In 1923 deteriorating economic conditions and increasing labor strikes prompted the colonial government to put severe restrictions on Indonesian civil liberties and make amendments to the colonial laws and penal codes. Freedom of assembly, speech and expression in writing was restricted.

Further Growth of Indonesian Organizations

Despite the political restrictions, on July 3, 1922 Ki Hajar Dewantoro founded Taman Siswa, an organization to promote national education.

In 1924 the Indonesian Students Association, "Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia, " was formed by Drs. Mohammad Hatta, Dr. Sukiman and others. This organization became a driving force of the nationalist movement to gain independence.

The Indonesian Communist Party ( PKI ) staged revolts against the colonial government in November 1926 in West Java, and in January 1927 in West Sumatra. After their suppression the Government exiled many non-communist nationalist leaders to Tanah Merah, which the Dutch called " Boven Digul" in Irian Jaya. Dr. Tjipto Mangunkusumo was exiled to Bandaneira .

In February 1927 Mohammad Hatta, Ahmad Soebardjo and other members of Indonesia's Movements attended the first international convention of the "League Against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression", in Brussels, together with Jawaharlal Nehru and many other prominent nationalist leaders from Asia and Africa.

In July 1927, Soekarno, Sartono, and others formed the Indonesian Nationalist Party ( PNI ), which adopted Bahasa Indonesia as the official language. This party adopted a militant policy of non-cooperation with the Government as the result of a fundamental conflict of interest between Indonesian nationalism and Dutch colonialism.

In the same year, and all - Indonesia nationalist movement was organized by Indonesian youth and women to replace earlier organizations, which had been based regionalism, such as "Young Java," "Young Sumatra," and "Young Ambon."

On October 28, 1928 delegates to the second Indonesian Youth Congress in Jakarta pledge allegiance to "one country, one nation and one language, Indonesia."

Meanwhile, the Technical Faculty was set up in Bandung in 1920, and the Law Faculty was opened in Jakarta in 1924 to replace the former Law School. The Medical Faculty was opened in Jakarta in 1927 to replace the old Medical School. Except for the Technical Faculty in Bandung, all the faculties in Jakarta were merged in the University of Indonesia in1964 in independent Indonesia.

Concerned about the growing national awareness of freedom, the colonial authorities arrested the PNI leader, Soekarno, in December 1929. This touched off the widespread protests by Indonesians.

In 1930 the world was in the grip of an economic and monetary crisis. The severe impact of the crisis was felt in the Indies, a raw material producing country. The colonial responded with a strict balance budget that aggravated economic and social conditions.

Two other leaders of PNI, Gatot Mangkupraja and Maskun Supriadinata, were arrested and tried in court on charges of plotting against the Government. Soekarno was released in September1931 but exiled again in August 1933. He remained in Dutch custody until the Japanese invasion in 1942.

In January 1931, Dr. Soetomo founded Persatuan Bangsa Indonesia, the Indonesian Unity Party. Its objective was to improve the social status of the Indonesian people.

In April in the same year, PNI was abandoned. A new party was formed by Sartono, LLM and named Partai Indonesia, the Indonesian Party. Its basis was nationalism, its line was independence.

Also in 1931, Sutan Syahrir formed Pendidikan Nasional Indonesia. Known as the new PNI, it envisaged national education. Mohammad Hatta joined this organization.

In 1933 a mutiny broke out on the Dutch warship " De Zeven Provincien " for which Indonesian nationalists were held responsible. The following year Sutan Syahrir and Mohammad Hatta and other nationalist leaders were arrested and banished until 1942.

In 1935, Soetomo merged Persatuan Bangsa Indonesia and Boedi Oetomo to form Partai Indonesia Raya ( Parindra ). Its fundamental goal was the independence of Great Indonesia.

The Indonesian Petition

In July 1936, Sutardjo submitted to the "Volksraad" a petition calling for greater autonomy for Indonesia. This petition was flatly rejected by the Dutch - dominated Council.

In 1937 Dr. A.K. Gani started the Indonesian People's Movement, Gerakan Rakyat Indonesia, which was based on the principles of nationalism, social independence and self-reliance.

In 1939 the All Indonesian Political Federation, GAPI, called for the establishment of full-fledged Indonesian parliament. This demand was rejected by the Government in Holland in 1940.

GAPI also demanded an Indonesian military service for the purpose of defending the country in times of war. Again, this was turned down, notwithstanding the impending outbreak of World War II. At the time, there were widespread movements for fundamental and progressive reforms in the colonies and dependencies in Asia.


After their attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Japanese forces moved southwards to conquer several Southeast Asian countries. After Singapore had fallen, they invaded the Dutch East Indies and the colonial army surrendered in March 1942.

Soekarno and Hatta were released from their detention. The Japanese began the propaganda campaign for what they called "Great East Asia Coprosperity". But Indonesian soon realized that it was a camouflage for Japanese imperialism in place of Dutch colonialism.

To further the cause of Indonesia's independence, Soekarno and Hatta appeared to cooperate with the Japanese authorities. In reality, however, Indonesian nationalist leaders went underground and masterminded insurrections in Blitar ( East Java ), Tasikmalaya and Indramayu (West Java), and in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Under the pressure of the 4th Pacific war, where their supply lines were interrupted, and the increasing of Indonesian insurrections, the Japanese ultimately gave into allow the red-and-white flag to fly as the Indonesian national flag. Recognition of "Indonesia Raya" as the national anthem and Bahasa Indonesia as the national language followed. Hence, the youth's pledge of 1928 was fulfilled.

After persistent demands, the Japanese finally agreed to place the civil administration of the county into Indonesian hands. This was a golden opportunity for nationalist leaders to pepper for the proclamation of Indonesia's independence.

(Source: INDONESIA 1995 An Official Handbook.)

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