• Beginning in the 16th century, successive waves of Europeans—the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British—sought to dominate the spice trade at its sources in India and the ‘Spice Islands’ (Maluku) of Indonesia. This meant finding a way to Asia to cut out Muslim merchants who, with their Venetian outlet in the Mediterranean, monopolised spice imports to Europe. Spices were highly coveted not only to preserve and make poorly preserved meat palatable, but also as medicines and magic potions.
  • The arrival of Europeans in South East Asia is often regarded as the watershed moment in its history.

A) The Portuguese:

  • The nutmeg plant is native to Indonesia’s Banda Islands. Once one of the world’s most valuable commodities, it drew the first European colonial powers to Indonesia.
  • New found Portuguese expertise in navigation, ship building and weaponry allowed them to make daring expeditions of exploration and expansion. Starting with the first exploratory expeditions sent from newly conquered Malacca in 1512, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Indonesia, and sought to dominate the sources of valuable spices and to extend the Catholic Church’s missionary efforts. The Portuguese turned east to Maluku and through both military conquest and alliance with local rulers, they established trading posts, forts, and missions.
  • Ultimately, the Portuguese presence in Indonesia was reduced to Solor, Flores and Timor following defeat at the hands of indigenous Ternateans and the Dutch in Maluku, and a general failure to maintain control of trade in the region.

B) Dutch East-India Company:

  • In 1602, the Dutch parliament awarded the VOC a monopoly on trade and colonial activities in the region at a time before the company controlled any territory in Java. In 1619, the VOC conquered the West Javan city of Jayakarta, where they founded the city of Batavia (present-day Jakarta).
  • The Dutch followed the Portuguese aspirations, courage, brutality and strategies but brought better organization, weapons, ships, and superior financial backing. Although they failed to gain complete control of the Indonesian spice trade, they had much more success than the previous Portuguese efforts. They exploited the factionalisation of the small kingdoms in Java establishing a permanent foothold in Java, from which grew a land-based colonial empire which became one of the richest colonial possessions on earth.

C) French and British interlude:

  • After the fall of the Netherlands to the French Empire and the dissolution of the Dutch East India Company in 1800, there was some changes in the European colonial administration of the East Indies. The Company’s assets in East Indies were nationalized as the Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile Europe was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars.
  • The Netherlands under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, oversaw the Batavian Republic dissolved and replaced by the Kingdom of Holland, a French puppet kingdom ruled by Napoleon’s third brother Louis Bonaparte.
  • Since 1875 the British has consolidated their rule in Bencoolen on western coast of Sumatra, and also has established their rule in Malaccan strait, the island of Singapore and Penang. As the British coveted the Dutch colonies in the region, the French-controlled East Indies was bracing for the incoming British invasion. In 1806, King of the Netherlands sent one of his general, Daendels, serving as governor-general of East Indies based in Java. Daendels was sent to strengthened Javanese defenses against predicted British invasion. Daendels was responsible for the construction of the Great Post Road across northern Java.The thousand-kilometre road was meant as to ease logistic across Java during which thousands of Javanese forced labourers died.
  • In 1811, Java fell to a British East India Company force under Minto, the governor-general of India. Lord Minto appointed Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as lieutenant governor of Java. Raffles carried further the administrative centralization previously initiated by Daendels. Raffles launched some military expeditions against local princes to subjugate them into British rule. During his administration, numbers of ancient monuments in Java were rediscovered, the most important one is the rediscovery of Borobudur Buddhist temple in Central Java. Raffles was the enthusiast of the island’s history, as he wrote the book History of Java.
  • In 1815, the island of Java was returned to control of the Netherlands following the end of Napoleonic Wars, under the terms of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.

D) Dutch state rule:

  • After the VOC was dissolved in 1800 following bankruptcy, and after a short British rule under Thomas Stamford Raffles, the Dutch state took over the VOC possessions in 1816.
  • A Javanese uprising was crushed in the Java War of 1825–1830. After 1830 a system of forced cultivations and indentured labour was introduced on Java, the Cultivation System. This system brought the Dutch enormous wealth. The cultivation system tied peasants to their land, forcing them to work in government-owned plantations for 60 days of the year. The system was abolished in a more liberal period after 1870.
  • In 1901 the Dutch adopted what they called the Ethical Policy, which included somewhat increased investment in indigenous education, and modest political reforms.
  • The Dutch colonialists formed a privileged upper social class of soldiers, administrators, managers, teachers and pioneers. They lived together with the “natives”, but at the top of a rigid social and racial caste system.The Dutch East Indies had two legal classes of citizens; European and indigenous. A third class, Foreign Easterners, was added in 1920.
  • Upgrading the infrastructure of ports and roads was a high priority for the Dutch, with the goal of modernizing the economy, pumping wages into local areas, facilitating commerce, and speeding up military movements.
  • For most of the colonial period, Dutch control over its territories in the Indonesian archipelago was tenuous.It was only in the early 20th century, three centuries after the first Dutch trading post, that the full extent of the colonial territory was established and direct colonial rule exerted.
  • Portuguese Timor, now East Timor, remained under Portuguese rule until 1975 when it was invaded by Indonesia. The Indonesian government declared the territory an Indonesian province but relinquished it in 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002.

E) Indonesian National Awakening:

  • In October 1908, the first nationalist movement was formed, Budi Utomo. On 10 September 1912, the first nationalist mass movement was formed–Sarekat Islam.
  • The Dutch responded after the First World War with repressive measures. The nationalist leaders came from a small group of young professionals and students, some of whom had been educated in the Netherlands.
  • In the post–World War I era, the Indonesian communists who were associated with the Third International started to usurp the nationalist movement.The repression of the nationalist movement led to many arrests, including Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno (1901–70), who was imprisoned for political activities on 29 December 1929. Also arrested was Mohammad Hatta, first Vice-President of Indonesia and Sutan Sjahrir, who later became the first Prime Minister of Indonesia.
  • In 1914 the exiled Dutch socialist Henk Sneevliet founded the Indies Social Democratic Association. Initially a small forum of Dutch socialists, it would later evolve into the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) in 1924.In the post–World War I era, the Dutch strongly repressed all attempts at change. This repression led to a growth of the PKI.
  • In 1926 thru 1927, there was a PKI-led revolt against the Dutch colonialism and the harsh repression based on strikes of urban workers. However, the strikes and the revolt was put down by the Dutch.
  • Sukarno was released from prison in December 1931.However, Sukarno was re-arrested again on 1 August 1933.

F) Japanese occupation:

  • The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation during World War II ended Dutch rule, and encouraged the previously suppressed Indonesian independence movement.
  • In May 1940, early in World War II, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Dutch East Indies declared a state of siege. Negotiations with the Japanese aimed at securing supplies of aviation fuel collapsed in June 1941, and the Japanese started their conquest of Southeast Asia in December of that year.That same month, factions from Sumatra sought Japanese assistance for a revolt against the Dutch wartime government. The last Dutch forces were defeated by Japan in March 1942.
  • In July 1942, Sukarno accepted Japan’s offer to rally the public in support of the Japanese war effort. However, many who lived in areas considered important to the war effort experienced torture, sex slavery, arbitrary arrest and execution, and other war crimes. Thousands taken away from Indonesia as war labourers suffered or died as a result of ill-treatment and starvation. People of Dutch and mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent were particular targets of the Japanese occupation.
  • In March 1945, Japan organized an Indonesian committee (BPUPKI) on independence. At its first meeting Muhammad Yamin suggested that the new nation should claim British Borneo, British Malaya, Portuguese Timor, and all the pre-war territories of the Dutch East Indies. The committee drafted the 1945 Constitution, which remains in force, though now much amended.
  • Japan intended to announce Indonesian independence on 24 August. After the Japanese surrender however, Sukarno unilaterally proclaimed Indonesian independence on 17 August. A later UN report stated that four million people died in Indonesia as a result of the Japanese occupation.

G) Indonesian National Revolution:

  • Under pressure from radical and politicisedpemuda (‘youth’) groups, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesian independence, on 17 August 1945, two days after the Japanese Emperor’s surrender. The following day, the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) declared Sukarno President, and Hatta Vice President. Indonesian war-time military (PETA), youths, and others rallied in support of the new republic.
  • The Netherlands, initially backed by the British, tried to re-establish their rule,and a bitter armed and diplomatic struggle started. Groups of Indonesian nationalists attacked returning Allied troops. There were more European deaths in Indonesia after the war than during the war. After returning to Java, Dutch forces quickly re-occupied the colonial capital of Batavia (now Jakarta), so the city of Yogyakarta in central Java became the capital of the nationalist forces. Negotiations with the nationalists led to two major truce agreements, but disputes about their implementation, and much mutual provocation, led each time to renewed conflict.
  • Within four years the Dutch had recaptured almost the whole of Indonesia, but guerrilla resistance, led on Java by commander Nasution persisted. On 27 December 1949, after four years of sporadic warfare and fierce criticism of the Dutch by the UN, the Netherlands officially recognised Indonesian sovereignty under the federal structure of the United States of Indonesia(RUSI). On 17 August 1950, exactly five years after the proclamation of independence, the last of the federal states were dissolved and Sukarno proclaimed a single unitary Republic of Indonesia.


A) Spanish Colonisation

  • In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines and claimed the islands for Spain.
  • Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first Hispanic settlements in Cebu. After relocating to Panay island and consolidating a coalition of native allies and Spanish soldiers, the Spaniards marched upon Islamic Manila.
  • Under Spanish rule, Manila became the capital of the Spanish East Indies (1571), there in they put down the Tondo Conspiracy (Tondo Conspiracy of 1587–1588 was a plot against Spanish colonial rule) and defeated the Chinese-warlord and pirate Limahong.
  • Spanish rule contributed significantly to bringing political unity to the fragmented states of the archipelago. From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and then was administered directly from Madrid after the Mexican War of Independence.
  • Trade introduced foods such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, and pineapples from the Americas. Roman Catholic missionaries converted most of the lowland inhabitants to Christianity and founded schools, a university, and hospitals. While a Spanish decree introduced free public schooling in 1863, efforts in mass public education mainly came to fruition during the American period.
  • During its rule, the Spanish fought off various indigenous revolts and several external colonial challenges from Chinese pirates, the Dutch, and the Portuguese. In an extension of the fighting of the Seven Years’ War, British forces occupied Manila from 1762 to 1764. Spanish rule was restored following the 1763 Treaty of Paris.(The Treaty of Paris, also known as the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, after Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War.)
  • In the 19th century, Philippine ports opened to world trade and shifts started occurring within Philippine society. Many Spaniards born in the Philippines (criollos) and those of mixed ancestry (mestizos) became wealthy, and an influx of Latin American settlers opened up government positions traditionally held by Spaniards born in the Iberian Peninsula (peninsulares). The ideals of revolution also began to spread through the islands. Criollo dissatisfaction resulted in the 1872 Cavite Mutiny that was a precursor to the Philippine Revolution(Around 200 soldiers and laborers rose up in the belief that it would elevate to a national uprising. The mutiny was unsuccessful).(Criollo was a social class in the caste system of the overseas colonies established by Spain in the 16th century, comprising the locally born people of confirmed Spanish ancestry.The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares)
  • Revolutionary sentiments were stoked in 1872 after three priests collectively known as Gomburza. They were accused of sedition by colonial authorities and executed. This would inspire a propaganda movement in Spain, organized by Pilar, Rizal, and Ponce, lobbying for political reforms in the Philippines. Rizal was eventually executed on December 30, 1896, on charges of rebellion.As attempts at reform met with resistance, Andrés Bonifacio in 1892 established the secret society called the Katipunan, who sought independence from Spain through armed revolt.
  • Bonifacio and the Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution in 1896. A faction of the Katipunan, the Magdalo of Cavite province, eventually came to challenge Bonifacio’s position as the leader of the revolution and Emilio Aguinaldo took over.
  • In 1898, the Spanish–American War began in Cuba and reached the Philippines. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain and the First Philippine Republic was established in the Barasoain Church in the following year

B) American Period:

  • The islands were ceded by Spain to the United States as a result of the latter’s victory in the Spanish-American War. A compensation of 20 million US dollars was paid to Spain according to the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris.
  • As it became increasingly clear the United States would not recognize the nascent First Philippine Republic, the Philippine–American War broke out, the First Republic was defeated, and the archipelago was administered under an Insular Government.
  • The Americans then suppressed the sub-states the First Republic had fractured into: mainly, the Sultanate of Sulu, as well as the insurgent Tagalog Republic, the Cantonal Republic of Negros, in the Visayas, and the Republic of Zamboanga, in Mindanao.
  • During this era, a renaissance in Philippine culture occurred, with the expansion of Philippine cinema and literature.Daniel Burnham built an architectural plan for Manila which would have transformed it into a modern city.
  • In 1935, the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status with Manuel Quezon as president. He designated a national language and introduced women’s suffrage and land reform.
  • Plans for independence over the next decade were interrupted by World War II when the Japanese Empire invaded and the Second Philippine Republic of José P. Laurel was established as a collaborator state. Many atrocities and war crimes were committed during the war such as the Bataan Death March and the Manila massacre that culminated during the Battle of Manila (fought between American plus Filipino joined forces and Japanese forces in Manila from 3 February – 3 March 1945).
  • In 1944, Quezon died in exile in the United States and Sergio Osmeña succeeded him. Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945.
  • On October 24, 1945,the Philippines became one of the founding members of the United Nations and the following year, on July 4, 1946, it became recognized by the United States as independent


  • The country was colonised by Britain following three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824–1885).
  • The expansion of Burma had consequences along its frontiers. As those frontiers moved ever closer to British East India Company and later British India, there were problems both with refugees and military operations spilling over ill-defined borders.
  • First Anglo-Burmese War: The First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826) ended in a British East India Company victory, and by the Treaty of Yandabo, Burma lost territory previously conquered in Assam, Manipur, and Arakan.The British also took possession of Tenasserim with the intention to use it as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with either Burma or Siam.As the century wore on, the British East India Company began to covet the resources and main part of Burma during an era of great territorial expansion.
  • Second Anglo-Burmese War: In 1852, Commodore Lambert was dispatched to Burma by Lord Dalhousie over a number of minor issues related to the previous treaty.The Burmese immediately made concessions including the removal of a governor whom the British had made responsible for problem. Lambert eventually provoked a naval confrontation in extremely questionable circumstances and thus started the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, which ended in the British annexation of Pegu province, renamed Lower Burma. The war resulted in a palace revolution in Burma, with King Pagan Min (1846–1852) being replaced by his half brother, Mindon Min (1853–1878).
  • Third Anglo-Burmese War: King Mindon tried to modernise the Burmese state and economy to resist British encroachments, and he established a new capital at Mandalay, which he proceeded to fortify.This was not enough to stop the British, however, who claimed that Mindon’s son Thibaw Min (ruled 1878–1885) was a tyrant intending to side with the French,that he had lost control of the country, thus allowing for disorder at the frontiers, and that he was reneging on a treaty signed by his father.The British declared war once again in 1885, conquering the remainder of the country in the Third Anglo-Burmese War resulting in total annexation of Burma
  • With the fall of Mandalay, all of Burma came under British rule, being annexed on 1 January 1886. Throughout the colonial era, many Indians arrived as soldiers, civil servants, construction workers and traders and, along with the Anglo-Burmese community, dominated commercial and civil life in Burma. Rangoon became the capital of British Burma and an important port between Calcutta and Singapore.
  • Burmese resentment was strong and was vented in violent riots that paralysed Yangon (Rangoon) on occasion all the way until the 1930s.Some of the discontent was caused by a disrespect for Burmese culture and traditions such as the British refusal to remove shoes when they entered pagodas. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement. U Wisara, an activist monk, died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest a rule that forbade him from wearing his Buddhist robes while imprisoned.
  • On 1 April 1937, Burma became a separately administered colony of Great Britain and Ba Maw the first Prime Minister and Premier of Burma. Ba Maw was an outspoken advocate for Burmese self-rule and he opposed the participation of Great Britain, and by extension Burma, in World War II. He resigned from the Legislative Assembly and was arrested for sedition. In 1940, before Japan formally entered the Second World War, Aung San formed the Burma Independence Army in Japan.
  • A major battleground, Burma was devastated during World War II. By March 1942, within months after they entered the war, Japanese troops had advanced on Rangoon and the British administration had collapsed. A Burmese Executive Administration headed by Ba Maw was established by the Japanese in August 1942.
  • Wingate’s British Chindits (a British India ‘Special Force'”)were formed into long-range penetration groups trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines.A similar American unit, Merrill’s Marauders, followed the Chindits into the Burmese jungle in 1943.Beginning in late 1944, allied troops launched a series of offensives that led to the end of Japanese rule in July 1945. The battles were intense with much of Burma laid waste by the fighting. Overall, the Japanese lost some 150,000 men in Burma.
  • Although many Burmese fought initially for the Japanese as part of the Burma Independence Army, many Burmese, mostly from the ethnic minorities, served in the British Burma Army.The Burma National Army and the Arakan National Army fought with the Japanese from 1942 to 1944 but switched allegiance to the Allied side in 1945.
  • Following World War II, Aung San negotiated the Panglong Agreement with ethnic leaders that guaranteed the independence of Burma as a unified state.The Panglong Agreement was reached in Panglong, Southern Shan State, between the Burmese government under Aung San and the Shan, Kachin, and Chin peoples on 12 February 1947.The agreement accepted “Fullautonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas” in principle and envisioned the creation of a Kachin State by the Constituent Assembly. It continued the financial relations established between the Shan states and the Burmese federal government, and envisioned similar arrangements for the Kachin Hills and the Chin Hills.The day is celebrated in Myanmar as Union Day each February 12.
  • In 1947, Aung San became Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Burma, a transitional government. But in July 1947, political rivals assassinated Aung San and several cabinet members.
  • On 4 January 1948, the nation became an independent republic, named the Union of Burma, with Sao ShweThaik as its first President and U Nu as its first Prime Minister. Unlike most other former British colonies and overseas territories, Burma did not become a member of the Commonwealth.


  • French Indochina officially known as the Indochinese Federation since 1947, was a federation of colonies belonging to the French colonial empire in southeast Asia.
  • A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin (North), Annam (Central), and Cochinchina (South), as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887. Laos was added in 1893 and Kouang-Tchéou-Wan (Guangzhouwan) in 1900. The capital was moved from Saigon (in Cochinchina) to Hanoi (Tonkin) in 1902 and again to Da Lat (Annam) in 1939 until 1945, when it moved back to Hanoi.
  • After the Fall of France during World War II, the colony was administered by Vichy France and was under Japanese supervision until a brief period of full Japanese control between March and August 1945. Beginning in May 1941, the Viet Minh, a communist army led by Ho Chi Minh, began a revolt against French rule known as the First Indochina War.
  • In Saigon, the anti-Communist State of Vietnam, led by former Emperor BảoĐại, was granted independence in 1949. Following the Geneva Accord of 1954, the Viet Minh became the government of North Vietnam, although the BảoĐại government continued to rule in South Vietnam.
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