Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Sugarlandia - Re-Thinking Sugar Colony in the Asia-Pacific Region in a Global Context

5 July 2001 to 6 July 2001

Program and Participants
Roger Knight: Sugarlandia. Re-Thinking the Sugar Colony in the Asia-Pacific Region, 1850-1940 (Workshop's discussion paper)

Sri Margana, Village, Villager and Onderneming: Social-legal Response in the Colonial Plantation

Ulbe Bosma, Sugar and Dynasty in Yogyakarta

Juan Giusti-Cordero, Compradors or Compadres?: 'Sugar Barons' in the Philippines and Puerto Rico after 1898

Fernando Rosa Ribeiro, The ‘Plural Society' Revisited: Colonial and Post-Colonial Identities in Suriname, Brazil and Java'

Alex van Stipriaan Luiscius, Plantation identities: naming in Caribbean slave society

Roger Knight, Colonial Desire. Thomas Jeffreys Edwards (1815-1865): Sugar, Technology and Colonial Communities in the Mid-nineteenth century Java

Arthur van Schaik, Sugar, Race, and Society in Provincial Java, European and Eurasian in mid-19th century Pekalongan

Joost Coté, Civilising Sugar?: The culture of a sugar port town, Semarang in an age of respectability


 Village, Villager and Onderneming [estate]: Social-legal Response in the Colonial Plantation, Sri Margana, Department of History Gadjah Mada University Indonesia

The development of the European plantation in the Principalities area particularly after the end of the Java War in 1830 had brought a deep impact to the village society. Those impact were substantial, both on the level of the individual and village administration. Until the agrarian reorganization, which was effectively implemented in 1920s, the relationship between the plantation and the village and village society had apparently been semi-traditional. Such type of relationship, however, was built as the pliable covenant between the indigenous ruler and the Dutch ruler, which had eventually been corrected.
In some studies, the relationship between plantation and village and village society is generally approached by a single paradigm such as domination-subordination relationship or the exploitation of the plantation over the village and village society whereas, the power relation between the villager and village elite is neglected. In some studies also described that the only rational way taken by the village society against the plantation exploitation is the mass movement or rebellion. Obviously, within this traditional agrarian system, the plantation had a strong right and power to control the land and labor as well as the village. In practice, however, the village society had a power and deep consciousness to struggle their rights against the authority of the plantation owner through the legal institution accommodated by the indigenous as well as Dutch government. As will be discovered in this paper, that rebellion is not the only rational way taken by the village society to contend their rights.
This paper will illuminate the power relation between the element of European plantation and the village and village society, and between the village elite and the villager in the Principalities of Java during the late of nineteenth century until the 1920s. The analysis will be focus on the two aspects: the structural change of the village organization and the social legal response of the villager against the plantation administration of the sugar and indigo plantation in Pakualaman area. The main sources used in this study are indigenous sources primarily kept in Pakualaman palace.

Sugar and Dynasty in Yogyakarta, Ulbe Bosma, International Institute for Social History Amsterdam The Netherlands

This paper is about the emergence of the Yogyakarta creole sugar colony, which underpinned the power of the Sultan's court and has been an essential part of the idea of tempo doeloe (the mestizo halcyon days of colonial Indonesia). It will focus on the mestizo or creole members of the Sultan=s entourage and the way in which they made their fortune and developed their sugar factories from the 1860s onwards. Less than 25 years later the production of the Principalities - Yogyakarta and Surakarta together - made up 17% of the total Java sugar export. Sugar helped to sustain the splendour of the palace of the Sultan of Yogyakarta (and for that matter of Surakarta), which was restored after the kraton had been plundered in 1812 and had deteriorated during the Java War (1825-1830). No wonder that the creole entrepreneurs of Yogyakarta were treated by the Sultan as beloved members of his entourage.
My paper will explore whether we can reconstruct Yogyakarta's sugarlandia without taking the colonial binaries as point of departure. By doing so, I want to call into question an historical orthodoxy. It is a well known fact that the year 1884, in which worldwide sugar prices rapidly fell, marked the beginning of a rapid concentration of ownership of sugar estates in the Dutch East Indies. So far, it has gone undisputed that after 1884 metropolitan banks took over the old Indies sugar factories and refurbished them into modern capitalist enterprises. But I would like to add another piece of evidence to Roger Knights argument, made for Pekalongan Tegal, that we should not overemphasize the historical discontinuity of 1884, but need a better look into Java based entrepreneurship that emerged from the 1830s onwards. This implies that we have to revisit and analyse the image of the pre 1884 Indies planters as orientalized nabobs, whose careless lifestyle was supplanted by white efficiency. That image is so strong because it is so plausible. It is supported by theorizing on compradorism and by the assumption that the opening of the Suez canal brought the Dutch East Indies the blessing of large numbers of expatriates and white women's civilization in particular. In the age of imperialism mestizo planters fell prey of the relentless march of reason. But the simple facts that neither expatriates nor their female kin came in large numbers before World War I and that Chinese capitalists strengthened instead of lost their position in Javas sugarlandia after 1884, suggests a Eurocentric bias underlying the political correctness of this historiographical orthodoxy.

Compradors or Compadres?: 'Sugar Barons' in the Philippines and Puerto Rico after 1898, Juan Giusti-Cordero, History Department University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras

In the early twentieth century, native sugar planters in the Philippines and Puerto Rico may have played a complex role as both underdogs and partners with respect to U.S. colonial rule. While the native planters were subject to the entry of metropolitan landholding and market controls, they also participated in a sugar economy that thrived for several decades after the onset of U.S. rule in 1898. Indeed, the formation of large-scale, mechanized sugar centrals in the Philippines and Puerto Rico -- including its native sector-- occurred to a significant degree after 1898.
Existing work on colonial social relations tends to draw a blank on these aspects of the the Filipino and Puerto Rican colonial experience. The thrust of research on colonial economies has homogenized colonial elites as mere intermediaries/collaborators, and has oversimplified the nature of economic and political domination. For their part, recent 'postcolonial' studies tend to blur relations between colonial elites and their metropoles, while virtually abandoning close study of the socioeconomic dimensions of colonialism.
Puerto Rico and the Philippines - despite major geographical and historical differences - offer useful points of comparison and inquiry for reconsideration of these perspectives. Both were Spanish colonies from the 16th century until 1898, when they were 're-colonized' by the U.S.. Both had substantial sugar plantation economies that developed with special force after 1898, and where native planter classes participated. In terms of the Philippines, the paper focuses on Negros island (somewhat larger than Puerto Rico). Negros became the center of the Philippines' sugar industry after 1898.
Research in the Philippines on 'compadre colonialism' (Owen), 'cacique democracy' (Anderson), 'colonial democracy' (Paredes) and on the complex native 'sugar barons' themselves (Nagano, McCoy) counterpoints with work in Puerto Rico that stresses continuities between pre- and post-1898 (González, Ramos Mattei, García), and which notes the strength of Puerto Rican 'hispanophilia' after 1898 (Alvarez and Vivoni) despite an ostensibly sweeping 'Americanization'.

The 'Plural Society' Revisited: Colonial and Post-Colonial Identities in Suriname, Brazil and Java, Fernando Rosa Ribeiro, Universidade de São Paulo

This paper proposes to take a another look at so-called ‘plural societies', a concept first used by the British economist Furnivall in relation to Burma and Java and later also applied by others to the Caribbean, in particular to Suriname. This last – with its ethnically highly fragmented society – once was the example par excellence of a ‘plural society'. Following Dutch sociologist and historian Harry Hoetink's work on the Caribbean, the problem with the concept of ‘plural society' in its heyday was that it did not always take into account changes through time in a specific society. It therefore tended to present ‘plural societies' as somehow inherently and perhaps permanently fragmented. ‘Fragmentation' is in fact a historically-situated phenomenon that is directly linked to colonialism. A look at Brazil – parts of which show some important similarities with Suriname as well as differences – can perhaps shed some comparative light on the issue of ‘plural societies' and colonialism. Contrary to Suriname, Brazil was not often included among the ‘plural societies'. The comparison will concentrate on the construction of ethnic and ‘racial' identities as linked to the colonial and post-colonial political economy. The plantation economy will be taken into account, especially in what concerns sugar production. Finally, a cursory look at Java – one of the ‘cradles' of ‘plural society' theory – will attempt to broaden the comparison to include an Asian society.

Colonial Desire. Thomas Jeffreys Edwards (1815-1865): Sugar, Technology and Colonial Communities in Mid-nineteenth century Java, Roger Knight, Department of History University of Adelaide

Two issues are central to the evolution of 'sugarlandia' in the nineteenth century Netherlands Indies. The first is the global spread of industrial technology in the sugar industry, which began to make an appreciable impact in Java c. 1850 onward (a somewhat earlier date than is accorded it in the older literature) . The second is the character of the European colonial communities that grew up in mid-nineteenth century Java, in association with the industrialising (colonial) sugar factory and its need for managerial, supervisory and technical personnel.
The life of Thomas Jeffreys Edwards, Shropshire lad and Java sugar maker, 1815-1865, neatly spans both these central concerns. What brought Edwards from the United Kingdom to Java early in the 1840s was - quite literally - the global transfers of industrial technology from the burgeoning machine manufacturing centres of Western Europe. What kept him there (in part at least) was his deepening engagement in the colonial communities in whose expansion and development the manufacture and sale of sugar came to play an important part.
If on the one hand my argument is illustrative of the dynamics of the industrialisation of 'sugarlandia' in this particular part of Southeast Asia, it also seeks to qualify some of the more widely influential nostrums about the Indisch (Indo-European) society of colonial Java in what may be described, rather freely perhaps, as the 'age of Tempo Doeloe'.
Literally 'past time', Tempo Doeloe has become associated in the historical imagination with an ethos and an era that witnessed the profound acculturation of the Dutch colonial communities in Java. Indisch society, on this reading, was characterised by a sense of the distance from Europe , and by social practices and cultural norms far removed from those of the metropolis. The problematic nature of significant aspects of this stereotype are emphasised by my account of Edwards' life in Java, that of his companion of more than 20 year, Anna Baird, and of the small colonial community at a mid-nineteenth century sugar factory at whose apex they stood.

Sugar, Race, and Society in Provincial Java. European and Eurasian in mid-19th century Pekalongan, Arthur van Schaik

The development of the sugar industry during the cultivation system brought fundamental changes in provincial Java. Not only in the life of the indigenous population, but also for the European population. The industry became the major employer of Europeans and Eurasians in much of rural Java. For the higher positions in the industry, the traditional patriarchal ‘nabobs' were increasingly replaced by appointed administrators and technicians. These were white Europeans, not connected with the area and its society, but stationed there on a temporary basis.
The local Eurasians were only eligible for lower ranks. For mid-level government positions a European ‘cultural' eduation was required, while the fast technological developments in the sugar industry made staff positions only attainable for persons with a technical education not available in the Netherlands Indies. In other words, only for white Europeans or upper class Eurasians.
Though there was no formal racial discrimination between white Europeans and Eurasians, the application of ‘rational' criteria introduced in the course of the 19th century, resulted de facto in a sharp economic differentiation along racial lines. This differentiation was socially reflected in marriage patterns. Two processes seem to be operating. A process of separating out between white and the Eurasian Europeans, resulting in pauperisme among the latter by the end of the century (see Taylor, van Doorn), while at the same time there was a process of cultural acculturation to mestizo characteristics (‘verïndischen') by the Europeans, particularly those who married or lived with a Eurasian wife (Wertheim, Coppel).
Durig this period the sugar industry played a major role in the ‘internal colonisation' of the Javanese periphery by the administrative and commercial centres in The Hague and Batavia. The upper echelons of the government administration and the private (sugar) sector consisted of white outsiders, only temporarily in the province. The permanent local European population was Eurasian, had poorly paid work or no work at all, had no sufficient command of the upperclass language, and were without a realistic chance of upward social mobility.

Civilising sugar?: The culture of a sugar port town, Semarang, in an age of respectability, Joost Coté, Faculty of Arts Deakin University, Australia

The paper does not directly address ‘sugar' but looks at the changing winds of social and cultural discourse which begin to ruffle the accumulated traditions of the sugar port town at the end of the 19th century. Was the town that sugar helped make, no longer as ‘sweet' as it once was? Did sugar bring decay? Or did the affluence it produced, demand ‘refinement'?
Perhaps the age of respectability in Semarang can be dated from the contemptuous letters the young Semarang lawyer, Conrad van Deventer wrote to family and friends back home describing Semarang's decadence (and the colony's decline). Or from the public pronouncements of his equally earnest, but less refined Semarang compatriate, newspaper editor Pieter Brooshooft, who challenged redneck planters to think again for the sake of the colony's fragile future. At any rate, by the end of the century, with the worst of the economic crisis behind them, concern was focussed on the crime-infested alleyways, the disease ridden kampongs, proliferation of urban straatslijpers (gadabouts) and those ghetto's of immorality which were the colonial army garrisons. The sugar port was set to become the modern colonial city.