Saru Arifin–Coolie Ordinance 1880 in Colonial Indonesia: The Refinement of Slavery for Indigenous Laborers

Saru Arifin

Dr. Saru Arifin has been a tenured lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Universitas Negeri Semarang, Indonesia since 2009. He is primarily interested in researching Public International Law, Human Rights Law, Constitutional Law, and Legislation studies. He has authored multiple articles in these fields in prestigious international journals published by Routledge, Brill, and SAGE and indexed by Scopus. In addition, he is currently involved in academic organizations such as the Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE, USA) from 2019 to the present, the Indonesian Society of International Law (ISILL) from 2018 to the present, the Asian Society of International Law from 2017 to 2018, and the Association for Border Studies from 2016 to 2017. Furthermore, he currently holds the position of Director of Programs at the Institute for Migrant Rights in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia, starting in 2016. He also served as the Head of Law and Human Rights Advocacy Clinics from 2018 to 2020 and as the Chief Editor of the Pandecta Research Law Journal from 2011 to 2020.


The Dutch colonialists in the East Indies, presently known as Indonesia, relied significantly on agriculture as the primary pillar of their economic backbone.[1] In order to facilitate its economic activities, the Dutch government officially announced the change of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) from a merchant entity to a sovereign power, therefore expanding its governmental authority in the East Indies.[2] The V.O.C., under its new authority, attempted to counter Portuguese influence by seizing trade contracts, conquering trading posts, and establishing a Calvinist mission in place of the Roman Catholic mission.[3] More than a century later, in 1798, the Dutch government dissolved the East India Company and assumed direct control of the East Indies.[4] The Dutch Colonial administration undertook a range of legislative measures to achieve its economic goals. These included the enactment of the Agrarische Wet 1870, also known as the Agrarian Act (Stb. 1870 No. 155), and subsequent enactment of the Coolie Ordinance in 1880 (CO 1880). These measures were aimed at ensuring a reliable and consistent workforce.

The indigenous people first lauded the establishment of Agrarische Wet in 1870, believing that the Dutch government’s agrarian policy would guarantee them eigendom privileges or absolute rights to land. Agrarische Wet 1870, on the other hand, was only an excuse for foreign businesspeople to invest in the East Indies and other Dutch colonies worldwide. While foreign businesspeople earn handsomely,[5] indigenous peoples’ livelihoods deteriorate.[6] Since the advent of Agrarische Wet in 1870, plantation entrepreneurs from the Netherlands and other European countries have amassed extraordinary fortunes based on colonial super-profits. This term refers to a situation where extraordinary capital accumulation develops because of foreign capital investment, leading to overworked labor with low wages. Additionally, investors are not obligated to shoulder the cost of developing infrastructures, such as transportation and communication systems. Everything was paid for by the government, which was financed through residents’ taxes.[7]

The Coolie Ordinance 1880, derive their name from the term “coolies” which is widely used to describe these laborers in the Eastern Sumatra region.[8] One of the Agrarian Act’s key provisions entails implementing a policy allowing unrestricted foreign investment in agricultural firms that demonstrate the ability to attract such investors. As a result, these agricultural firms required a substantial labor force to sustain their operations across all Dutch-occupied territories, including the East Indies. In this context, CO 1880 was established with the influence of private firms, incorporating a section regarding labor contracts that includes punitive consequences for laborers who breach the terms of the agreement.[9] This form of private law inherently deviated from its intended foundation of contractual freedom and the absence of punitive repercussions.

The main provisions of CO 1880 were as follows.[10] It stipulated that a contractual agreement was necessary to establish a laborer-employer relationship. The contract, which included details such as the individual’s name, the nature of the work, and the payment structure based on a ten-hour workday, had to be registered promptly by the local administration upon the arrival of the coolie. The contract was valid for a maximum duration of three years. The official was required to ascertain the voluntary nature of the contract, as well as ensure that the coolie diligently does the prescribed tasks and refrains from leaving the plantation without written permission. On the other hand, it is the employer’s responsibility to grant a leave pass to the coolie if they express their intention to file a complaint with the authorities regarding mistreatment, provided that the complaint is made as an individual. Furthermore, it is established that the worker has the right to receive fair treatment, including a regular wage, suitable accommodation, access to clean water for washing and drinking, and medical care. Additionally, it is stipulated that upon the termination of the contract, the coolie should be repatriated to their place of recruitment if they desire to do so.

The coolie was liable to face penalties in the event of absconding or displaying a lack of diligence in their task. Nonetheless, acts of rebellion, such as the use of insults or threats towards one’s employer or foreman, disturbances of the peace, incitement of others to desert or disobey, engagement in physical altercations, intoxication, and comparable misconduct, were seen as infractions, despite not being a direct violation of the contractual agreement. The punitive consequence of the CO 1880 aimed to establish a harmonious equilibrium between the government’s responsibility to safeguard coolie workers against employer mistreatment and the employers’ entitlement to protect themselves against worker misconduct or breaches of contractual obligations.[11]

This article examines the foundational context of the coolie legislation, encompassing its principal objective, penalties, and significant stakeholders. The following discussion will focus on the influence of Dutch ethical policy on the reformation of the coolie ordinance and the abolition of servitude under colonial coolie regulation. The final section is the conclusion.

Coolie Ordinance: A Gentler Servitude Law

The term coolie, first used as a labour rule by the Dutch in 1880, refers to a situation in which the worker lacks autonomy in the workplace, which the I.L.O. refers to as forced labor[12]. Since the sixteenth century, coolie has been the most prevalent name by colonialists in India, Asia, and China to refer to indented labourers[13] from those colonial countries.[14] The term “coolie” originates from two independent sources: the Tamil[15] term for a specific payment for menial labor and the Gujarati term for a member of a lower socio-economic class or tribe or the worst of their people.[16] Oliver Tappe and Ulrike Lindner[17] assert that the English term coolie linked the concepts of person and money, creating a new “category of proto-proletarian people robbed of their personhood.” In Canton and other port cities, the lowly Labourer — typically a man without a master or family, recruited on a contract with a (minimal) daily wage[18] – became the iconic figure of the coolie in China. Before colonialism, “coolie” referred to day labourers in Asian port cities as critical nodes in early global commerce networks.[19] According to Matthias van Rossum,[20] the phrase was vague. It encompassed a broad variety of casual and/or seasonal wage labour – frequently performed in tandem with slave labour or even by enslaved people, further confusing the distinction between forced and free labor.

On the other hand, Nicole Lamb[21] asserted that Madelon Lulofs’ 1932 novel “Koelie“, translated into English as Coolie in 1982, immortalizes the Javanese coolie. A young Javanese man, Ruki was enticed away from his idyllic village and into the Sumatra rubber plantations. On Sumatra’s colonial estates, laborers are simply referred to as ‘coolies,’ a colloquial term that obscures individual lives. In Indonesia’s history, “coolies” included Chinese, Indian, and Javanese laborers who worked on industrial projects ranging from Sumatra’s tobacco, rubber, and coffee plantations to Java’s sugar plantations, roads, and railways. Additionally, “coolie” refers to a low-skilled, untrained worker who works in various locations and times. Peter Boomgaard[22] notes in research on ‘free Labour’ in Java that “the term coolie” is “a good emblem for the appearance of free wage-labour.” Its etymology includes unskilled labor, dacoity, and wages, mainly Javanese patrons, cut loose from their village mooring and living by their wits.

Meanwhile, other studies discovered that “coolie” originated in Chinese and Indian labour contracts. Coolie labour is often defined as indentured contract labour migration, and its history is closely associated with the coolie trade from the 1830s to the 1840s. Furthermore, “coolie, or cooly,” is used “in a special sense to designate those natives of India and China who leave their country under service contracts to work as labourers abroad.” In a slightly more open definition, the term is also “generally applied to Asiatic labourers belonging to the unskilled class as opposed to the artisan.”[23]

In China, the term coolie is used interchangeably with slavery practice or enslavement because of an individual’s inability to pay a debt. Michael Zeuske[24] noted that the term “coolie” was also used to refer to slavery practices among the Chinese, such as the numerous persons seized, fled, or deported from South China, who were no longer required to be termed slaves or “gugongren” – they were coolies. Additionally, the most significant social and legal group, which became known as coolies outside of China, was probably also referred to in China as “gugong” or “gugongren,” referring to individuals who were unable to sell themselves into formal slavery (by contract) due to high debts and were forced to rent their bodies and labor on an as-needed basis (also by contract)[25]. Enslaved people without an institution, such as the numerous people who had been stolen, fled, or deported from South China, were referred to as coolies. As of 1857, the law was a necessary condition for the massive expansion of the Chinese coolie diaspora in Cuba, Peru, and Panama.[26]

According to historical archives[27], all [Chinese] coolies were given contracts before sailing for Cuba. Cuban planters employed agents in Macao to facilitate trade. Portuguese officials in Macao oversaw and monitored the loading operation. The contract was read to the coolie in the appropriate Chinese dialect to comprehend its requirements fully, and signing signified his acceptance of these terms. Coolie status can be eliminated if Chinese coolies travel to Cuba on their dime and sign a contract, at which point they will be considered ‘free workers.’[28] Lisa Yun[29] argues that the contract’s intended purpose in the case of Cuba’s coolie history was to create mobile enslaved people. Owners, traders, and law enforcement marketed, sold, resold, rented, and lent coolies, as well as renamed and renamed them. Coolies were relocated to plantations, prisons, depots, and railways and listed as dead, missing, or hired. As a result, coolie history and the narratives accompanying it become a jumble of contradictions: hypermobile yet immobile, owned by one yet owned by many, fluid yet enslaved. The Chinese coolies portray the contradictory nature of their enslaved freedom as a surreal and panoptic contract state. Hence, Oliver Tappe[30] defined coolie labour as a hybrid of forced requisition and voluntary recruitment of cheap labor from impoverished, landless Vietnamese or, less frequently, semi-nomadic uplanders.

The Dutch West Indies adopted the coolie term from the history of Indian indentured contract-labour migrants (“koelies“) transported to Suriname[31] after abolishing slavery in the late nineteenth century[32]. Coolies are emphasized as a novel alternative to slave labor in the Dutch West Indies, particularly the plantation colony Suriname, during the second half of the nineteenth century. However, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the term “koelie” (coolie) was a critical but ambiguous concept throughout the Dutch East India Company’s (V.O.C.) empire in Asia. While the term was initially used to refer to work or workers, it could also refer to various labour relations and people of varying social status. Not only was the term “coolie” used differently throughout the early modern Dutch empire, but it also appears to have evolved. Between the V.O.C. empire’s two most important regions in the 18th century, there appears to have been a significant regional divide, ranging from temporary wage labour (Southeast Asia) to tributary labour relations (South Asia). The term coolie evolved during the nineteenth century, particularly in the Dutch empire, to refer to contract labour that was formally and informally bonded.[33] Khal Torabully,[34] in his coolitude, prefers to view coolies through the lens of their economic and legal circumstances as contract labourers who migrated not only from India and China but also from Europe and Africa to various archipelagic regions such as the Caribbean[35], the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Torabully’s mosaic model of combined identities incorporates an essential theoretical component of creolization: social status.

Penal Sanctions for Labour Contracts

Despite the Coolie Ordinance 1880 primarily functioning as a private law, its provisions entailed the imposition of criminal penalties on farm laborers employed by the private enterprises in the event of law violations. The Act of workers refusing to carry out labor tasks on a plantation, contrary to the instructions given, was a breach of the CO 1880. Furthermore, it was imperative for coolies to obtain formal authorization from their employers to depart from the plantation. Employers were granted the right to establish a plantation police force possessing the power of arrest to augment the declining government police force. The “land-rechter” (judge) sentenced deserters who were apprehended and those convicted of sabotage, strike agitation, and poor workmanship.[36]

This form of employment agreement, accompanied by punitive ramifications, inside some regions of the Dutch East Indies, has been a subject of debate within the Dutch public sphere and political landscape for some years. Amry Vandenbosch[37] stated that the Dutch Coolie Ordinance 1880 gained the attention of the International Labour Organization due to its exploitative contract. The subject of the punitive labour contract has garnered significant global attention. It was on the agenda of the International Labour Conference’s 1929 meeting and reinstated in 1931 or 1932 when it completed the Convention’s text. M. Albert Thomas, director of the International Labour Office, visited Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies in 1929. Meanwhile, Mr. Harold Grimshaw, head of the International Labour Office’s Division of Native Labour, visited the East Indies around the same time to ascertain how the system operated in practice. After the meeting, the system’s opponents won a contentious discussion, with the Dutch and East Indian governments agreeing to its complete, albeit gradual, abolition.[38]

Various investigations[39] indicate that the coolie labour arrangement was incorporated into the indenture contract. Although the indenture mode of a labour contract is a civil job contract, penal punishments are imposed on labourers who violate the contract by refusing to work, disregarding rules, or disobeying the employer. Laborers who violate the contract may face jail, a fine, or work beyond the contract’s specified work-hour limit. According to Hoefte[40], this indentured labour system is essentially a continuation of slavery, as most employees on colonialist plantations were enslaved people prior to the abolition of slavery in 1807.

Numerous characteristics are linked with indentured labourers, including the wages mandated by the indenture contract, which were low compared to the salaries of un-indentured employees, primarily blacks. Indeed, indentured servants were paid much less than ordinary labourers for comparable tasks. Laborers have limited freedom since the indenture contract, used to govern labourers’ mobility away from and on plantations, required labourers to get a particular pass.[41] Additionally, labourers were forced to work excessive hours and were not supplied with necessary breaks as required by law[42], in addition to poor working conditions and physical aggressiveness.[43] Seeing the worst-case scenario for labourers’ rights under the indenture system has rendered the legal distinction between indenture and slavery meaningless.[44]

According to Amry Vandenbosch,[45] the coolie rule is fundamentally just for all parties, requiring that all responsibilities and rights conform to the coolie regulations and be codified in a void contract until registered with the government. Employers must pay salaries on time, provide adequate housing and food, provide hospitals and free medical care, safe drinking water, and complimentary transportation home after the contract period. Both parties are penalized for violating commitments, including jail or fines. However, the coolie is typically imprisoned due to his lack of funds. Additionally, the contract coolie must return to the plantation he defected to complete his contract, typically three years in duration. The contract’s most heinous element is, without a doubt, the use of government machinery to compel a coolie to return to work against his choice. It has been suggested that it is preferable to severely punish a deserter and then release him entirely from the contract.[46]

The Dutch government received multiple reports on the non-compliance with the implementation of Ordinance 1879, which outlined specific regulations about the treatment of coolies by employers. A penalty was incurred for any breach of the rules. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the law sanctioned labourers who declined to fulfill their contractual obligations and those who absconded. Both transgressions were required to be adjudicated by a court possessing expertise in these affairs, as facilitated by the police.[47]

The penal sanctions under the coolie contract, based on separate coolie ordinances[48] passed in fifteen regions outside Java between 1880 and 1930, were finally updated in 1931 with more humane provisions. While the ordinance governing this infamous penalty has been amended, the primary provisions governing employers’ and employees’ liability for fines and imprisonment have remained unchanged since 1950.[49]  However, coolies have been guaranteed more humane treatment since the introduction of regular official labour inspections under the new ordinance in 1931.

The new Ordinance (Stbl. 1931,94) supersedes previous Coolie Ordinance (1880), which resulted in significant changes to workers’ rights.[50] Article 3 states explicitly that re-engagement contracts will be limited to one year, except for one very exceptional case, and that all days of illness will now be counted toward the agreement’s duration. Additionally, working hours are reduced (Article 4), and additional hours of service or labor are compensated more generously at rates at least 50% higher than the average hourly wage. Furthermore, the administration has the authority to impose a sufficient minimum wage and to increase it by a specified percentage in the case of work that the administration believes places greater demands on the labourer than is customary. Fines imposed by employers are now expressly prohibited (Article 12). When a patient becomes ill, he or she is only required to submit to hospitalization if the doctor determines that there is a risk of contagion (Article II).

The terms “breach of contract” and “desertion” have been deleted from the list of penalties in the previous Articles 19, 20, and 23. According to the new Article 34, a worker may be detained for up to three months or fined up to 300 guilders if he is absent from work for more than twenty-four hours without a valid reason and the permission of his employer or employer’s representative, or if he persistently refuses to perform the contractual task. Employers face the same penalty if they fail to meet their obligations to their employees under the new ordinance’s Article 13-25. In the case of the worker, detention for up to twelve days or a fine of up to fifty guilders may be imposed if he fails to report to the enterprise at the time specified in his Labour agreement, as well as if he fails to obey orders issued following the regulation or his agreement concerning the contractual task, with the provision that refusal to perform the contractual task is punishable only in the specific case.[51]

Finally, Article 36 provides that if the acts listed below are not punishable under the penal code, a maximum of one month’s imprisonment or a fine of no more than 100 guilders may be imposed for resistance, insults, or threats directed at the employer or his personnel, as well as disturbance of the peace, fighting, or drunkenness. The most significant change is adding a new Article 41 to the existing one. It requires businesses established before 1922 to impose a penalty on labour agreements to increase the proportion of free labourers to 50% of total staff by January 1, 1936. According to the strategy outlined in this article, newer businesses will replicate the strategy to achieve the same percentage of revenue a few years later. To further restrict or eliminate the penalty, the new Article 45, which replaces the previous Article 24a, requires a five-year review of the “Coolie Ordinance 1931” beginning in 1936.[52]

Medan and other cities also established labour commissions to improve labour conditions (new article 44). These commissions must make recommendations to the government regarding these revisions. Finally, it should be noted that the labour office and the labour Inspection have been entrusted with most of the supervision and other responsibilities previously delegated to the administration or other authorities. The new ordinance represents a significant improvement in draftsmanship over the previous ordinance. The ordinance in Stbl. 1931, 95 was a commendable attempt to address one of the significant difficulties inherent in the transformation of contractual labor to free labor, namely the risk of dishonest employers engaging free labourers imported at great effort and expense by others, a risk addressed similarly in the Straits Settlements in 1920. This law requires the establishment of a Chamber of Registration in Medan. It will be responsible for registering foreign workers and managing a fund to which employers must contribute annually. If an employer hires an employee who does not pay for the costs incurred, the employee must pay a one-time fee and then make monthly payments.[53] To be sure, labourers have become the unfortunate beneficiaries of this regulatory scenario.

Principal Players in the Coolie Ordinance’s Implementation

The agricultural enterprises that thrived during the colonial era were structured based on organized labor. The labour sector encompasses various stages, each involving several significant actors. These stages include recruitment, placement, supervision, and law enforcement. The labour industry encompasses multiple stakeholders who play essential roles at different locations. These include village chiefs, commonly called ‘lurahs,’ responsible for recruitment. Intermediary labour businesses are involved in the placement of workers. Additionally, ‘mandurs’ or foremen supervise labourers during their employment. Lastly, the police are responsible for enforcing relevant laws and regulations within the industry.

The coolie law (CO 1880) legitimized and regulated the primary participants in the labor industry. Conversely, including domestic labourers and migrant workers in labor-intensive industries favors companies while potentially compromising labor rights. However, it can be argued that the labour industrial sector emerged as the predominant benefit following the enactment of the coolie law, namely the exploitation and subjugation of laborers. In this context, the Coolie Ordinance 1880 proved advantageous for private industry as it facilitated the optimization of profits by implementing a structured labor bureaucracy to mislead workers into perceiving themselves as enslaved individuals. Regrettably, the government of the East Indies either assisted or disregarded the functioning of the labor bureaucracy.

a.         Lurah or Village Chief

The achievement of the coolie ordinance’s effectiveness was intricately connected to the contributions of various pivotal stakeholders. Colonial corporations engaged the services of village leaders, also known as Lurahs, to facilitate the recruitment of locals for labor as coolies in agricultural sectors. In this scenario, Lurahs fulfill the dual role of an employment intermediary and a legitimizing agent for administrating the labourers’ candidate. Lurahs received compensation from the firms for the brokerage services provided. Within the contemporary context of Indonesia’s migrant workers industry, the brokerage above activity has transformed, manifesting as individual brokerage. According to J.J. van Klaveren[54], the Lurah’s assistance was frequently purchased on a percentage basis, a piece rate per coolie, or simply through bribes. The Lurahs possessed enormous power, particularly in communal “desahs” (villages) where land was redistributed regularly. Since 1863, the redistributions had been adjusted to the sugar-culture cycle: Lurahs divided a third of the harvested cane yearly. The Lurahs, who adopted the fixed-share system, had less clout than the individualistic constitution. The Lurahs frequently contracted for labor and paid the wages for the entire desah (village).

Additionally, Lurahs oversaw labor, for which they were compensated between 5 and 20 guldens per bouw. Lurah acts as both a broker and a supervisor in the labour industry, which gives him enormous power in the eyes of the labourers. The government intensified its efforts to combat the Lurahs’ dubious dealings in 1890. The government then took a patriarchal and benevolent stance toward the indigenous people, protecting them from entrepreneurs and Lurahs[55].

b.         Labour Agency Intermediary

In 1915, in response to the rapid expansion of plantation companies during the colonial period, which necessitated a large workforce, the East Indies government amended the Coolie Ordinance to improve the governance of plantation workers, or coolies. The 1915 amendment to the Coolie Ordinance sought to make two significant changes: (1) it sought to prevent the development of inhumane penal sanctions against company employees; and (2) it sought to additionally, the coolie ordinance amendment authorized two East Sumatra plantation company associations, the Algemene vereniging van Rubber Planters ter Ooskust van Sumatra (AVROS) and the Deli Planters vereniging (D.P.L.), to import contract workers, or coolies, from Java. The rules, or coolie ordinance, were constantly evolving and dynamically adapting to the workforce’s needs and the state of the economy at the time, resulting in ongoing rule changes.[56] The establishment of a labour delivery service provider company, facilitated by the state, marked a watershed moment in the history of the post-Indonesian government’s private sector involvement in labour governance. These commercial agents – known in the literature as compradors[57] – were commissioned by the employers to recruit the number of coolies they required for their business (usually plantations or mines)

The Dutch government strictly regulates these agency firms. Coolies recruited through agencies are in good repair, as evidenced by recruiters’ candor about their costs, placement, and contract termination with their employers. For example, during the hiring process, coolies were made aware of the associated costs, as the company’s regulations required that recruiting and transportation costs be amortized throughout the contract. Men and women are recruited equally, emphasizing maintaining an approximately two-thirds male-to-one-third female labour ratio on the estate. Men’s initial employment wages are approximately 19 cents gold, while women’s initial wages are approximately 17 cents gold, almost entirely dependent on rice prices.[58] When the company’s contract with the coolies expires, they have the option of re-engaging for two years at increased wages, remaining on the estate as free labor and occupying company quarters at their leisure or being returned to their native homes in Java at the company’s expense. At the end of his contract, the coolie is always physically better off because of the personal care he receives from his employer and the government.[59]

The evidence indicates that coolies recruited through a formal agency company supervised by the government were treated better and had their rights respected more than coolies recruited through Mandador and Lurahs. The legislation may have established clear guidelines for each stage of the agency company’s employment process. This labor agency intermediary company is believed to have been replicated later in Indonesian modern history, most notably during Suharto’s regime (1967–1998), when the development of labor intermediary companies accelerated significantly with government support.

c.         Mandur or Mandador

In the 18th century, coolies from Java who worked for plantation companies had to travel between two and three hundred kilometers, for example, from Cirebon. A leader known as the Mandur (Mandador) or Foreman organizes some plantation coolie groups of approximately 30-50 Labourers. The Mandador recruited members of his gang from various settlements, brought them to the site of the new garden, and stayed with them for the duration of the work of clearing the land.[60] In this context, the Mandador serves multiple roles, including recruiter of coolies for a plantation company, leader of coolie groups, and intermediary agent with the company.

The Mandador’s role held significant importance within the firm, as seen by the extensive authority bestowed upon them to oversee and regulate all facets of the coolies under their supervision.[61] The company compensates the Mandador financially for performing these duties.[62] Additionally, Mandador acts as a liaison between Javanese and Sundanese coolies and white tea pickers in certain circumstances. This differences policy is because different ethnic groups have varying temperaments, and those with a fiery disposition are not permitted to interact directly with white tea pickers. As a result, the Mandadors act as ethnic mediators in this context, allowing them to continue their work as tea pickers in the mountains. Coolies employed as tea pickers have a slightly different ‘social status of workers’ than coolies employed on Sumatra plantations, as these coolies are sometimes referred to as gardeners, and their rights are more respected by their employers.[63]

d.         Police

During the colonial era, the police played a critical role in agricultural industries. However, the term “police” must be broadly construed to include all administrative and legislative actions necessary to maintain order and peace or that may be imposed in the interest of a regular and ordered government. Separation of powers was not considered a necessary but insufficient condition for carrying out the government task[64]. In some instances, police officers served as board administrators when residents were referred to as representatives attached to the courts of Java’s rulers. Typically, these local administrators were assisted by a so-called police board, whose members doubled as a board of justice when additional members were added. These boards were presided over by the highest local administrator and were comprised of the area’s most senior officials.[65] In exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the head of the local administration, the police may act in place of the administrator at the administrator’s expense.[66]

Meanwhile, police officers provide security in other instances. For example, when entrepreneurs eliminated purchasing competition in 1912, the government funded the establishment of a tobacco police force to prevent tobacco grown on leased lands from being sold by the native landlord.[67] Additionally, police have the authority to arrest the plantation’s coolie. When they attempted to flee, they were apprehended by police and handed over to the entrepreneur. Indeed, this police regulation constituted a punitive measure for breach of a civil contract.[68] According to Article 1, workers who leave an infirmary referred to in the ordinance of September 6, 1910 (Stbl. 469) without the written authorization of the medical director may be brought back at the doctor’s request by the police or, at the employer’s name and the employer’s expense, by members of the employer’s staff.

Additionally, beginning in 1872, the police could compel an enlisted native (coolie) to work out his contract. Seeing the negative impact on coolies’ rights under the contract with penal sanctions, the Dutch government conducted a thorough examination of the East Indies government’s coolie legislation. This police regulation was then repealed in 1879 on the recommendation of the Parliament. Other methods were then intensified, particularly considering the requirement for field coolies in 1878.[69]

The Ethical Policy (‘Ethische Politiek’)

The Coolie Ordinance of 1880 offers rationales for implementing labor rules during the colonial period characterized by exploitation and severity. Extensive colonization in various regions worldwide contributes to the lack of surprise. The prevalence of slavery is increasing in several regions of Africa and Asia. Consequently, akin to the historical pattern of colonial powers subjecting the territories they occupied to mistreatment, the Dutch colonizers extensively exploited the Indonesian populace, including both their natural riches and human capital. The primary objective of the Dutch Labour migration strategy towards the Indonesian population residing in Java was to promote and prioritize Dutch economic interests. The use of plantation lands held in Indonesia, Suriname, New Caledonia, and Vietnam was disclosed to foreign investors. Approximately 300,000 migrant laborers were relocated from Java to Suriname as part of the agreement between the Dutch and British authorities.

In 1872, the Dutch Parliament passed a pact between Great Britain and the Netherlands, allowing British Indians and some Javanese to emigrate to Suriname. Among the several restrictions surrounding recruitment and contract terms was that each shipment of emigrants must contain a proportion of women equal to at least one-half of the men. Indeed, this was one of the few treaties articles the Governor-General of India may amend. Husbands and wives, or parents and their minor children, were not to be separated but were to contract as a family (Articles XVI, XX, XXV, the agreement between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands on the emigration of British Indians to Suriname, 1870-1871, Verslag en Handelingen der Staten-Generaal).[70]

The consequential influence of the political disruptions that facilitated the ascension of the Calvinist Catholic Coalition to authority in the Netherlands in 1901 was observed in Indonesian migration legislation. The policy outcome of this newly formed coalition was remarkable due to its explicit rejection of economic exploitation and the implementation of direct economic engagement aimed at improving the well-being of the indigenous population. In the early twentieth century, there was a shift in Dutch colonial policy as the cultural system (1830-70) lost its prominence and gave way to a greater emphasis on welfare. This change led to a more direct form of exploitation. One crucial policy involved establishing a welfare program for the indigenous population. This initiative was epitomized by the slogan coined by the prominent colonial reformer van Deventer, which emphasized the importance of irrigation, emigration, and education. The catchphrase is commonly known as the Ethical Policy./[71]

The Ethical Policy marked the end of a centuries-long relationship between the Netherlands and the East Indies, which began in 1603 with the establishment of the United East India Company (V.O.C., founded in 1602). The historical context for the ethical policy was that the Dutch government, which assumed control following the V.O. C’s bankruptcy in 1795, was successful in transforming the territory into a profitable colony by instituting a unique agricultural tax system known as the “crops tax” (cultuurstelsel),[72] which required East-Indies farmers to devote 20% of their land to crop cultivation for the European market. This system resulted in poverty and starvation, eliciting increasingly strident criticism in the Netherlands, eventually leading to its abolition in 1870 and its replacement by the Ethical Policy in 1901, following extensive debate in the Dutch Parliament and elsewhere.[73]

Implementing this new legislation in the Dutch East Indies was driven by protecting the rights of Indonesian laborers and improving the overall living conditions of the Indonesian population. However, it can be argued that the three strategic goals articulated in the ethical policy might be perceived as providing restitution to the Indonesian populace for the wealth that was appropriated from them. To achieve this objective, it is necessary to do three initial stages. There are three main objectives in this context: (a) enhancing the material living conditions of the local population, (b) providing education to the indigenous inhabitants, and (c) enabling restricted modes of political engagement. Furthermore, the Ethical Policy aimed to facilitate the East Indies’ transition towards independence by creating a federal affiliation with the Netherlands after they met the criteria set by Dutch norms. Although initially designed to promote autonomy, the Ethical Policy inadvertently led to territorial expansion in the Indies archipelago and heightened intervention in the daily affairs of the “indigenous” population, thus necessitating a more significant deployment of overseas authorities.[74] According to Elsbeth Locher Scholten,[75] however, ethical or welfare policies in the Indies, a variant of the social policies introduced in European states around the turn of the century, necessitated a strong government. Similarly, to the economic motivation, the ethical motivation has been “politicized.”

The government of the Dutch East Indies has recently undertaken substantial measures to modify its labor regulations, marking a significant development after over fifty years. In 1874, initial efforts were undertaken, albeit modest, with a specific emphasis on safeguarding the welfare of children. Moreover, the examination of the implementation of Labour law commenced in 1890; nevertheless, it was not adequately structured until a subsequent period. These steps were explicitly not undertaken in reaction to the government’s inclination to intervene.[76]

The colonial authority implemented a distinct set of conditions and prerequisites. The nature of urban industrial development introduced to the Western world throughout the nineteenth century was unequivocal. Instead, a notable presence of large-scale agriculture existed, which often played a prominent role in driving Western expansion. However, it did not gain substantial momentum until the late 19th century, particularly in the Dutch East Indies. However, considering the evident dependence of the Indonesian population on colonial authorities rather than their nation, it becomes imperative for the colonial authorities to diligently oversee labor agreements, especially those that entail commitments between Indonesian laborers and employers from non-Indonesian backgrounds.[77]

The government had a justifiable basis for intervention, given that slavery and servitude were still perceived as socially acceptable means of securing debts in Indonesian society. Poverty or debt resulting from mercantilism is more widespread than commonly perceived, notwithstanding legal prohibitions. If the general population continues to exhibit a lack of intellectual engagement, it may become increasingly challenging to circumvent the underlying principles of the law consistently. Ultimately, eliminating long-standing abuses can only be achieved by progressively elevating individuals’ awareness. However, the law plays a crucial role since it defines a set of regulations and enforces compliance by imposing penalties and obligations.[78]

The East Indies’ dedication to fostering positive social interactions was officially established in 1816, with the implementation of labor legislation reform that effectively eradicated the practices of slavery and servile labor across the whole archipelago. Implementing the new legislation played a crucial role in addressing the issue of slavery and servitude within the operational frameworks of businesses, with a specific focus on upholding the rights of laborers. Although the instant abolition of slavery was not feasible, this Act facilitated its eventual eradication by registering enslaved people and their offspring, with a particular focus on Java. Both slavery and the practice of exchanging services for debts were explicitly prohibited. Furthermore, specific regulations were implemented to alleviate the circumstances of individuals who had limited autonomy, although temporarily, until they could reclaim it.

The East Indies government continued the gradual modernization of Labour legislation by promulgating the Act 1854, which envisioned more than the gradual limitation and softening of slavery. As of January 1, 1860, Article 115 boldly declared that slavery had been “abolished” throughout the Dutch East Indies, except for the Indonesian states; however, Article 118, “Regeerings Reglementen (R.R.)” (the Colonial Constitution), prohibited debt-serfdom in Java[79] and directed the Governor-General to extend this prohibition to the other isles where possible. Meanwhile, efforts were made to hasten the demise of the institution that oversaw the abolition of slavery. In Java, compensation was paid to registered enslavers using the previous period’s measurements. However, the decree had little effect on the other islands.[80]

The abolition of slavery and servitude occurred in 1926 with the ratification of an international treaty by the government of the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch East Indies did not incur any further responsibilities upon signing the anti-slavery treaty in Geneva on September 25, 1926 (Stbl. 1928, 108). The individuals in question commenced the conflict, which they ultimately emerged victorious from fifty years ago. The assertion that this victory held moral significance for indigenous society lacks logical coherence.[81]


This article elucidates the adverse impact of the Coolie Ordinance 1880 on the indigenous Indonesian migrant laborers within the context of the colonial era. The enslavement of migrant laborers by implementing the coolie ordinance served as a means for the colonial government to promote its political and economic agenda. This legislation represents one of the most egregious examples of migrant labor exploitation in ancient Indonesia. The colonial authority did not acknowledge the Labourers as individuals, disregarding their fundamental entitlements. Due to the egregious labor abuses witnessed during a dark chapter in human history, there is a prevailing sentiment among international communities that including any “slavery” legislation should be deemed unacceptable within the prospective framework of a worldwide labor legal system. Hence, it is imperative to recognize, safeguard, and maintain the essential rights of workers. To adhere to the objectives of this campaign, the Dutch government enacted the abolition of the coolie law in 1936.

This article proposes that a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of coolie slavery or indentured labor outlined in the colonial coolie ordinance is essential for the Indonesian legislative or government when drafting legislation on managing migrant labor. In essence, studying legal history is vital for enhancing the quality of law, with a specific focus on work and migrant labor.

[1] J.J. van Klaveren, The Dutch Colonial System in the East Indies (Springer, 1983), at 41.

[2] Max ML Tamon and others, ‘The Dutch East Indies Policy For the Plantation in Java’, Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Social Sciences (ICSS 2018) (Atlantis Press 2018) <> accessed 10 June 2022.

[3] Paasman, “Dutch Attitudes towards Colonial Empires , Indigenous Cultures , and Slaves.”

[4] Remmelink, The Invasion of the Dutch East Indies. at.13.

[5] This motto “How to Manage the Colony for Money” was dubbed the “character of colonialism” to describe the situation in which the colonial government’s primary goal in enforcing its labour laws on indigenous people was exploitative behaviour. See Marwati Djoened Pusponegoro and Nugroho Notosusanto, Sejarah Nasional Indonesia (Jakarta: Balai Pustaka, 2008). See also Andi Suwirta, “Buruh Perkebunan Di Sumatera Timur: Sebuah Tinjauan Sejarah,” Historia: Jurnal Pendidikan Sejarah 5, no. 3 (2002): 19–36.

[6] Masyrullahushomad and Sudrajat, “Penerapan Agrarische Wet (Undang-Undang Agraria) 1870 : Periode Awal Swastanisasi Perkebunan Di Pulau Jawa.” at 160.

[7] Masyrullahushomad and Sudrajat. Ibid.

[8] A. D. A. Kat De Angelino, Colonial Policy, vol. II (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1931). at 504.

[9] Jan Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast Plantation Society and the Coolie Order in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press 1989).

[10] Jan Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast Plantation Society and the Coolie Order in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 1989), 39–40.

[11] Jan Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast Plantation Society and the Coolie Order in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 1989), 28.

[12] ‘The ILO and the New UN Convention on Migrant Workers: The Past and Future’.

[13] Nitin Varma, “Coolie Acts and the Acting Coolies: Coolie, Planter and State in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam,” Social Scientist 33, no. 5/6 (2005): 49–72; Radica Mahase, Why Should We Be Called “Coolies”? The End of Indian Indentured Labour, Routledge, First (London and New York: Routledge, 2021).

[14] Lisa Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba, Temple University Press (Philadelpia: Temple University Press, 2008). at xix.

[15] Oliver Tappe and Ulrike Lindner, “Introduction: Global Variants of Bonded Labor,” in Bonded Labour: Global and Comparative Perspectives (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, 2016), 83–100. at 14. See also Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba. at xix.

[16] Amry Vandenbosch, “Colonial Labor Problems: The Labor Contract With Penal Sanction in the Dutch East Indies,” Pacific Affairs 4, no. 4 (1931): 318–24,

[17] Tappe and Lindner, “Introduction: Global Variants of Bonded Labor.”at 14.

[18] Varma, “Coolie Acts and the Acting Coolies: Coolie, Planter and State in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam.” at 50-51.

[19] Tappe and Lindner, “Introduction: Global Variants of Bonded Labor.” at.87-88.

[20] Matthias van Rossum, “Coolie Transformations – Uncovering the Changing Meaning and Labour Relations of Coolie Labour in the Dutch Empire (18th and 19th Century),” in Bonded Labour Global and Comparative Perspective (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, 2016), 83–102.

[21] Nicole Lamb, “A Time of Normalcy : Javanese ‘Coolies’ Remember the Colonial Estate,” Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land- En Volkenkunde 170, no. 4 (2014): 530–56,

[22] Peter Boomgaard, “Why Work for Wages? Free Labour in Java, 1600-1900,” in Economic and History in the Netherlands, II (The Netherlands Economic History Archieve, 2016).

[23] Rossum, “Coolie Transformations – Uncovering the Changing Meaning and Labour Relations of Coolie Labour in the Dutch Empire (18th and 19th Century).”at 83.

[24] Michael Zeuske, “Coolies – Asiáticos and Chinos: Global Dimensions of Second Slavery,” in Bonded Labour Global and Comparative Perspective (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (Hart Publishing, 2016), 35–58.

[25] Zeuske. at 40.

[26] Zeuske. at 42.

[27] Evelyn Hu-dehart, “Chinese Coolie Labor in Cuba in the Nineteenth Century : Free Labor of Neoslavery,” Contributions in Black Studies: A Journal of African and Afro-American Studies 12, no. Special Section (1994): 1–18.

[28] Zeuske, “Coolies – Asiáticos and Chinos: Global Dimensions of Second Slavery.” at 46.

[29] Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in xx.

[30] Oliver Tappe, “Variants of Bonded Labour in Precolonial and Colonial Southeast Asia,” in Bonded Labour Global and Comparative Perspective (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (Harvard University Press, 2016), 103–32.

[31] Suriname has a unique connection to today’s Javanese community because it was a key destination for Javanese labourers during the colonial era. Between 1853 and 1933, Speckmann estimates that Suriname imported 33,299 Javanese immigrants. According to Lockard, an indentured contract granted to a plantation allowed the entry of Javanese labourers into Suriname. The five-year indenture contract contained a provision providing for serious punishments, including imprisonment, against anyone who absconded or failed to work. Following completion, the indenture included transportation to and from Suriname. The working conditions included a six-day work week with an average of eight to ten hours per day, a daily income, free housing, and medical care. Contracts featured provisions for bringing families along, as well as provisions for employing and compensating wives and children. Lockard continues by describing the process by which the indenture contract for Javanese employees was drafted. They were almost certainly induced or coerced into signing contracts and emigrating by unscrupulous recruiters who used coercion or force. The recruiters, who were compensated for each emigrant they supplied, almost certainly exaggerated the benefits of living in Suriname. Without a doubt, the nasty reputation acquired in exchange for each emigrant delivered exaggerated the benefits of Suriname living. Other reasons for Javanese seeking labour in Suriname included the evident fear of arrest for criminal activity; many others sought to evade sanctions for breaking traditional norms. Several appear to have left Java owing to familial conflicts. Additionally, others blame the devastation caused by the 1930 Gunung Merapi catastrophe and a wish to avoid military service in Java. Javanese labourers played an important role in Suriname’s social, political, and cultural fabric, with the Javanese community ranking third among the Surinamese population. As a result, it’s surprising that the Javanese language is now recognized as one of Suriname’s official languages. See John D. Speckmann, “Ethnicity and Ethnic Group Relations in Surinam,” Carribean Studies 15, no. 3 (1975): 5–15; Craig A Lockard, “The Javanese as Emigrant : Observations on the Development of Javanese Settlements Overseas,” Indonesia 11, no. 11 (1971): 41–62; Craig A Lockard, “Repatriation Movements among the Javanese in Surinam : A Comparative Analysis,” Carribean Studies 18, no. 1 (1978): 85–113; Peter Meel, “Jakarta and Paramaribo Calling: Return Migration Challenges for the Surinamese Javanese Diaspora?,” NWIG New West Indian Guide 91, no. 3–4 (2017): 223–59,

[32] Slavery was mostly practiced on cane plantations throughout the Dutch Colonial era. In terms of labour relations, Java and Cuba both took a harsh approach to labour mobilization and control. While Cuban plantation owners acquired 780,000 slaves between 1790 and 1868, the cultivation system controlled 700,000 to 800,000 households (about 35 to 40 per cent of the households in Java under direct government rule). See Ulbe Bosma, “The Global Detour of Cane Sugar from Plantation Island to Sugarlandia,” in Colonialism, Institutional Change and Shifts in Global Labour Relations, ed. Karin Hofmeester and Pim de Zwart, First (Amsterdam University Press, 2018), 374,

[33] Rossum, “Coolie Transformations – Uncovering the Changing Meaning and Labour Relations of Coolie Labour in the Dutch Empire (18th and 19th Century).”at 84.

[34] GESINE Müller and Johanna ABEL, “Cultural Forms of Representation of ‘Coolies’: Khal Torabully and His Concept of Coolitude,” in Bonded Labour Global and Comparative Perspective (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (Harvard University Press, 2016), 2019–2227.

[35] The following article thoroughly examines the history of coolie migrants to the Caribbean and the conditions they encountered. See Liliana Gómez-Popescu, “Re-Presenting and Narrating Labour: Coolie Migration in the Caribbean,” in Bonded Labour Global and Comparative Perspective (18th-21st Century), ed. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf et al. (Harvard University Press, 2016), 191–218.

[36] Klaveren, The Dutch Colonial System in the East Indies.

[37] Vandenbosch, “Colonial Labor Problems: The Labor Contract With Penal Sanction in the Dutch East Indies.” at 320.

[38] Amry Vandenbosch, ‘Colonial Labor Problems: The Labor Contract With Penal Sanction in the Dutch East Indies’ (1931) 4 Pacific Affairs 318 <> accessed 10 June 2022.

[39] Sunanda Sen, “Indentured Labour from India in the Age of Empire,” Social Scientist 44, no. 1 (2016): 35–74; Rosemarijn Hoefte, “Control and Resistance: Indentured Labor in Suriname,” New West Indian Guide 61, no. 1 (1987): 1–22.

[40] Hoefte, “Control and Resistance: Indentured Labor in Suriname.” at 17.

[41] Parbattie Ramsarran, “The Indentured Contract and Its Impact on Labor Relationship and Community Reconstruction in British Guiana,” International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory 1, no. 2 (2008): 177–88. at 177-178.

[42] Nicholas Cooper, “City of Gold, City of Slaves: Slavery and Indentured Servitude in Dubai,” Journal of Strategic Security 6, no. 3Suppl (2013): 65–71,

[43] Boris Marañón-Pimental, “Forced Labor and Coloniality of Power in Chiapas, Mexico, in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” Review (United States) 35, no. 3–4 (2012): 211–38.

[44] Hu-dehart, “Chinese Coolie Labor in Cuba in the Nineteenth Century : Free Labor of Neoslavery.” at 46.

[45] Vandenbosch, “Colonial Labor Problems: The Labor Contract With Penal Sanction in the Dutch East Indies.” at 320.

[46] Jan Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast Plantation Society and the Coolie Order in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press 1989).

[47] M.W.F. Treub, “Dutch Rule in the East Indies,” Foreign Affairs 8, no. 2 (1930): 248–59.

[48] The coolie ordinance for the East Coast of Sumatra was first issued in Stbl. 1915,421, and was amended in Stbl. 1917,497; 1920,535; 1921,39; 1924,513; 1925,201 and 311; 1926,62; 1927,142 and 413; 1928,535. See De Angelino, Colonial Policy; Martine Julia Van Ittersum, Profit and Principle Hugo Grotius, Natural Rights Theories and The Rise of Dutch Power in The East Indies (1595-1615) (Leiden: Brill, 2006). at 592.

[49] Treub, “Dutch Rule in the East Indies.” Ibid.

[50] De Angelino, Colonial Policy. at 606-607.

[51] De Angelino. Ibid.

[52] De Angelino. Ibid.

[53] De Angelino. Ibid.

[54] Klaveren, The Dutch Colonial System in the East Indies. at 154.

[55] Klaveren. at 155.

[56] Hidayah, Susilo, and Mulyadi, Selusur Kebijakan Minus Perlindungan Buruh Migran Indonesia. at 8-9.

[57] Yen-P’Ing Hao, ‘A “New Class” in China’s Treaty Ports: The Rise of the Comprador-Merchants’ (1970) 44 The Business History Review of Harvard College 446; Yen-P’Ing Hao, ‘Cheng Kuan-Ying: The Comprador as Reformer’; Jason Oliver Chang, ‘Four Centuries of Imperial Succession in the Comprador Pacific’ (2017) 86 Pacific Historical Review 193 <> accessed 23 March 2023; Kuang Yuang Pao, ‘The Compradore: His Position in the Foreign Trade of China’ (1911) 21 The Economic Journal 636; Jung-Fang Tsai, ‘The Predicament of the Comprador Ideologists: He Qi (Ho Kai, 1859-1914) and Hu Liyuan (1847-1916)’ (1981) 7 Modern China 191 <> accessed 23 March 2023; Drahokoupil, ‘The Rise of the Comprador Service Sector: The Politics of State Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe’ [2008] Polish Sociological Review 175.

[58] By H Stuart Hotchkiss, “Operations of an American Rubber Company in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 112, no. (1924): 154–62.

[59] Hotchkiss. at 158.

[60] Jan Breman, “Unfree Labour as a Condition for Progress,” in Mobilizing Labour for the Global Coffee Market (Amsterdam University Press, 2018), 169–210,

[61] Paul E. Baak, “About Enslaved Ex-Slaves, Uncaptured Contract Coolies and Unfreed Freedmen: Some Notes about ‘free’ and ‘Unfree’ Labour in the Context of Plantation Development in Southwest India, Early Sixteenth Century-Mid 1990s,” Modern Asian Studies 33, no. 1 (1999): 121–57,

[62] Klaveren, The Dutch Colonial System in the East Indies. at 57.

[63] Klaveren. at 153.

[64] De Angelino, Colonial Policy. at 9.

[65] De Angelino. at 11.

[66] De Angelino. at 600.

[67] Klaveren, The Dutch Colonial System in the East Indies. at 156.

[68] Klaveren. at 157.

[69] Klaveren. at 154.

[70] Rosemarijn Hoefte, “Female Indentured Labor in Suriname: For Better or for Worse?,” Boletin de Estudios Latinoamericanos y Del Caribe, June 1987,

[71] Riwanto Tirtosudarmo, “The Indonesian State’s Response to Migration,” Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 14, no. 1 (1999): 212–28.

[72] The introduction of the cultuurstelsel by Johannes van den Bosch was intended to ensure the colony’s financial independence, maximum expansion of plantations on Java, and export of colonial products to the European market. The system of compulsory cultivation gradually came to an end beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Three factors contributed to the demise of the Cultuurstelsel. In addition to lowering coffee and sugar prices (which accounted for 97 percent of cultuurstelsel yields) and increasing private business interests in the archipelago, the liberal spirit of 1848 had an impact on the centrally organized system of forced cultivation. Catastrophes caused by monoculture cash crops prompted liberal Dutch minds to advocate for a more liberal economic course in the colony. See Robert Weber, Werner Kreisel, and Heiko Faust, “Colonial Interventions on the Cultural Landscape of Central Sulawesi by ‘Ethical Policy’: The Impact of the Dutch Rule in Palu and Kulawi Valley, 1905-1942,” Asian Journal of Social Science 31, no. 3 (2003): 398–434,

[73] Elisabeth Wesseling and Jacques Dane, ‘Are “The Natives” Educable?’ (2018) 10 Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society 28.

[74] ibid. at 29.

[75] Elsbeth Locher-scholten, ‘Dutch Expansion in the Indonesian Archipelago around 1900 and the Imperialism Debate’ (1994) 25 Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 91.

[76] De Angelino (n 17). at 492.

[77] ibid. at 493.

[78] ibid.

[79] Serfdom was the defining feature of Java’s natural economy, whereas slavery was the defining feature of the Outer Archipelago’s money economy. The king exercised monopoly power over commerce in the port-kingdoms. He owned the ships and manned them with slaves he acquired or captured. Slaves were a source of foulldation in terms of manpower. Thus, the port kingdoms were strange and exogenic creations imposed by mercantile forces from without. Slaves had a substantial advantage. See Klaveren (n 7). at 195-196.

[80] De Angelino (n 17). at 494.

[81] ibid. at 495.