The Minangkabau Response to Dutch Colonial Rule Nineteenth Century

By Elizabeth E. Graves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
A NEW POLITICAL CONFIGURATION:
CENTRALIZED RULE AND A STATUS QUO

When the British surrendered custody of the former Dutch trading posts on the west coast of Sumatra, probably few highlands Minangkabau gave it much thought, even those who were aware of it. Certainly the returning Dutch officials did not anticipate any momentous new developments in their relations with the highlands behind Padang, although they knew about the Padri zealots and their relentless attacks on Minangkabau villages. The government in Batavia, for its part, planned a return to the status quo ante, which meant little more than maintaining a series of entrepots on the coast and making the most commercial profit with the least administrative effort.

The second arrival of the Dutch, however, set in motion a chain of events which ended in the creation of a new relationship between the Minangkabau nagari and the world beyond their borders. Unlike the former supravillage “government” exercised from Pagarruyung, the new, European regime soon penetrated into the village and its affairs— organizing, bullying, and cajoling the inhabitants to the greater imperial glory of The Netherlands. The villages found it harder and harder to escape the demands of the new, more effective outside force. Even the hill villages were now drawn into the same political structure as the rest, because, in the final analysis, they were to prove the mainstay of the new economic order upon which the colonial regime was built.

The changes did not come all at once, nor were they apparent everywhere to the same degree or at the same point in time. Strangely enough, the coastal areas, which had had the longest continuous contact with the European world were the last to be fully absorbed into the new political structure. The first to feel the colonial weight were the populous

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