The Minangkabau Response to Dutch Colonial Rule Nineteenth Century

By Elizabeth E. Graves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
ECONOMIC REORGANIZATION:
TAXATION AND THE CULTIVATION SYSTEM

In the precolonial period, village economic life in the Padang Highlands (and to a lesser extent along the coast) tended to be organized around the major product of a given village. The plains villagers mainly grew rice and did only a little weaving, metallurgy, or trading. These occupations existed but on the periphery, and the local village artisan or merchant was often an orang datang, a perantau from some nearby hill village. Each plains village naturally also grew a little coffee, pepper, tobacco, chili peppers, fruit, etc., but these crops would be confined to the fringes of the rice fields and around the houses. The harvests from such crops would be small and intended mainly for home consumption, although occasionally some could be traded at the weekly market.

In the hill villages, the pattern was reversed. Because their topography was in general unsuited for sawah, the hill villages grew dry rice and proportionately more cash crops, at first mainly pepper, but after the eighteenth century, coffee. Some villagers supplemented the rice harvest by making pots, weaving cloth, or working in gold. With the exception of rice, the products which the Europeans bought in the west coast ports usually came from the hill villages. Most of the coffee sold in Padang, for example, was grown in the northern areas near Bonjol, the hillsides of Lakes Maninjau and Singkarak, and the hill villages outside Solok.1 The villagers also supplemented their rice income with a highly developed tradition of perantau merchants and artisans whose extravillage activity

1 Report by General de Stuers on the Situation in Sumatra’s West Coast, May 17, 1826, Verbaal, October 23, 1826, No. 48.

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