I.4 States, Territories, Rulers and Middlemen

Many of the states and territories of the Malay-Indonesian world were ruled independently during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The internal dynamics and disputes over territories and borders in these kingdoms sometimes took place independently of outside interference. One thinks here of the fragmentation of the Balinese state of Gelgel, south-central Javanese Mataram, Aceh or the small kingdom of Gorontalo in North Sulawesi. Some of the other changes and conflicts, however, were clearly the negative result of outside influence.

Despite the fact that European presence was very limited in some Indonesian regions they had a strategic interest in maintaining relations with local rulers usually via middlemen. As a trading company, the VOC maintained diplomatic ties with a number of ruling dynasties. The Daily Journals of Batavia Castle contain more than two thousand diplomatic letters from regional rulers and sultans. What do these letters tell us about the processes of early modern state-formation and power politics? Several interesting samples from the Daily Journals are presented here.

Letter from the Fugitive Pangeran Puger to the Supreme Government, 5 May 1704

Introduced: M. C. Ricklefs, Professor Emeritus, The Australian National University
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2013