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Indische Culture, and its Relationship to Urban Life

  • Pauline Dublin Milone (a1)

The Brazilian historian, Gilberto Freyre, has stated that only the Portuguese had the innate adaptive capacity which enabled them to stay in the tropics and, through intermarriage with indigenous people and imported slaves, create a new culture suitable to the challenges of an underdeveloped tropical environment. He emphasized that it was particularly Northern Europeans who were incapable of adjustment. They returned home after their tours of duty, and those few remaining invariably degenerated. Yet many Dutch and other Europeans stayed on in Batavia (present-day Djakarta), and through intermarriage with Indonesians helped create a new Indonesian-European culture. Admittedly this resulted initially through imitation of the Portuguese style of life, but it is nevertheless evident that the new Indische culture became in many ways as adaptive to local conditions as the mestizo culture of Brazil, and as much a channel for the introduction of new cultural elements.

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1 The Masters and the Slaves [Senzala, Casa-Grande e], trans, from the Portuguese of the 4th ed. by Putnam, Samuel (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), Chap. I, particularly pp. 1419.

2 Freyre also overlooked the Dutch in the South Africa Cape Colony where, starting in the seventeenth century, there was also the creation of a mestizo society through the intermarriage of the Dutch, the Bantus, and imported Asian slaves, many of whom were Indonesians. Thus, many Boers had derivations similar to Indonesian Eurasians. See Koks, J. Th., De Indo [The Indo or Eurasian] (Amsterdam, H. J. Paris, 1931), p. 155.

3 Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves, pp. xxiii, xxxvi, lxvii.

4 Haan, F. de, Oud Batavia [Old Batavia] (Batavia, G. Kolff & Co., 1922), I, pp. 421422.

5 Nijs, E. Breton de, Tempo Doeloe [The Time Before] (Amsterdam, Em. Querido, 1961), p. 7.

6 Often confusingly translated as “Indian”. Early travelers used this term, and even such a distinguished scholar as Furnivall, J. S. (Netherlands India: A Study of Plural Economy, Cambridge, Great Britain, University Press, 1939).

7 Wertheim, W. F., Indonesian Society in Transition, 2nd rev. ed. (The Hague, Bandung, W. van Hoeve, 1959), pp. 173175. Kroef, Justus M. van der, “The Indonesian City: Its Culture and Evolution”, Asia (March 1953), pp. 567568.

8 Much of the material on Indische culture, where not otherwise cited, derived from interviews conducted with Indonesians and Dutch people between November 1961 and July 1963 (when the author was in Indonesia and Holland on a Ford Foundation Fellowship), and when opportunity presented itself, subsequently. A comprehensive survey of Indische literature can be found in Kroef's, Justus M. van der, “The Colonial Novel in Indonesia”, Comparative Literature, X (September 1958). R. Nieuwenhuys (pseudonym, E. Breton de Nijs) has not only discussed Indische life in the previously cited Tempo Doeioe (supra, fn. 5), but has also written an essay with the same title, which discusses Indische literature as well, contained in Tussen Twee Vaderlanden [Between Two Fatherlands] (Amsterdam, G. A. van Oorschot, 1959), pp. 568. Nieuwenhuys has made many important contributions to Indische belles-lettres himself, most notably with his short stories and novel, Vergeelde Portretten [Yellowed Portraits] (Amsterdam, 1954).

9 Siong, Gouw Giok, Segi-Segi Hukum Peraturan Perkawinan Tjampuran [Legal Aspects of the Regulation on Mixed Marriage], 3rd ed. (Djakarta, Djambatan, 1961), especially p. 12, n. 59. Koks, De Indo, p. 24.

10 De Nijs, Tempo Doeioe, 119–120. Van der Kroef, CL, p. 216.

11 See Spear, Percival, The Nabobs, A Study of the Social Life of the English in 18th Century India (London, Oxford University Press, 1963).

12 Many of the old European-style mansions in Batavia are still identified as having once been owned by a Chinese officer, or Arab landlord. (The “officers” of foreign Asians were their community leaders.)

13 Unless otherwise cited, information on Raden Saleh derived from Vries, J. J. de, compiler, Jaarboek van Batavia en Omstreken [Yearbook of Batavia and Surroundings] (Weltevreden, G. Kolff & Co., 1927), pp. 223225. Gent, L. F. van, Penard, W. A., Dr. Rinkes, D. A., chief members of the editorial committee, Kitab Peringatan oentoek Hindia Belanda ketika S. B. Maharadja Poeteri Tjoekoep 25 Tahoen Bertachta Keradjaan 1898–1923 [Commemorative Book for the Netherlands Indies at the time Her Majesty the Sovereign had fulfilled reigning 25 years over the Empire, 1898–1923] (Leiden, G. Kolff, 1923), p. 213.

14 Raden Saleh had been sent to Calcutta to study English under Lord Minto's sponsorship so that he could translate Javanese works for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (governor-general, English interregnum, 1811–1816) upon his return. See Soekanto, , Dari Djakarta ke Djajakarta [From Djakarta to Djajakarta] (Djakarta, Soeroengan, 1954), pp. 1819. However, the grandfather of Mme. Kartini (infra, fn. 15), the Regent of Demak spoke Dutch and considered Western education of the highest importance. Since Mme. Kartini was born in 1879, he would have been born, and learned Dutch around the beginning of the 19th century. See R. Nieuwenhuys, p. 201.

15 Kartini, Raden Adjeng, Letters of a Javanese Princess, trans, from the original Dutch by Agnes Louise Symmers (London, Duckworth & Co., 1921), passim. Mme. Kartini was the initiator of the women's emancipation movement, first directed at improving educational opportunities for aristocratic women.

16 This was noted by Stockdale, John Joseph, Sketches, Civil and Military of the Island of Java and its Immediate Dependencies comprising interesting details of Batavia, and authentic Particulars of the celebrated poison-tree (London, Printed for J. J. Stockdale by C. Gosnell, 1812), p. 112.

17 Stockdale observed (Ibid., p. 53), c. 1812, that Europeans preferred to be treated by Indonesian dukuns who cured through “friction of affected parts” (usually using a coin as the instrument).

18 Stockdale (Ibid., p. 111) noted this practice among European women.

19 Many of the Indonesian characteristics of Indische society can be found in Van der Kroef, CL, 216; De Nijs, Tempo Doeloe, passim; and Dermout, Maria, The Ten Thousand Things, transl. from the Dutch by Koningsberger, Hans (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1958), passim. Also see De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, p. 508, in regard to the use of Chinese medicine.

20 Kroef, Justus M. van der, Indonesia in the Modern World (Bandung, Masa Baru, 1954), I, p. 141. Soekanto, Dari Djakarta, p. 20. Burger, D. H., Structural Changes in Javanese Society: The Supra-Village Sphere, transl. from the Dutch by Palmier, Leslie H., Modern Indonesia Project, Southeast Asia Program, Dept. of Far Eastern Studies (Ithaca, Cornell University, 1956), pp. 17, 19–20.

21 De Haan, Oud Batavia, II, pp. 185–191, 195, 217.

22 Van der Kroef, Modern World, I, p. 280.

23 Soekanto, Dari Djakarta, pp. 17–20.

24 Gouw Giok Siong, Perkawinan Tjampuran, p. 16.

25 See complaints of wealthy officials about money in Deynoot, W. T. Gevers, Herinneringen Eener Reis naar Nederlandsch Indië in 1862 [Recollections of a Journey to Netherlands Indies in 1862[ ('s-Gravenhage, Martinus Nijhoff, 1864), pp. 4647.

26 Breuning, H. A., Het Voormalige Batavia [Former Batavia] (Amsterdam, Allert de Lange, 1954), p. 83.

27 Supra, fn. 19

28 This was observed by Major Thorn, William, Memoir of the Conquest of Java (London, T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall, 1815), p. 248.

29 Wall, V. I. van de, Oude Hollandsche Buitenplaatsen van Batavia [Old Dutch Country-Seats of Batavia], 2nd ed. (Deventer, W. van Hoeve, 1943), I, p. 14.

30 Wertheim, Indonesian Society, pp. 173–174.

31 De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, pp. 435–436.

32 Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves, Chap. I.

33 See description of Javanese aristocrat's compound in Mardjana, M., Jogjakarta Kota Pusaka [Jogjakarta Heirloom City] (Amsterdam/Djakarta, Noordhoff/Kolff, 1955), pp. 18–19.

34 Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, p. 13. In Calcutta, wealthy Englishmen also built villas along the banks of the Hooghly River (Spear, The Nabobs, pp. 14, 15, 35, 37, 42, 45–46, 48–51, 72, 77) with accompanying gardens for relaxation.

35 Clifford, Derek in A History of Garden Design (London, Faber & Faber, 1962), pp. 100103, has noted that gardens in Holland also had this cluttered appearance because the Dutch always had more of a feeling for detail than for sweeping vistas, and of course suffered from a lack of extensive amounts of land. However, balustrades were not possible in Holland because of the shortage of stone - indicating that the Indische gardens were able to follow the French model more closely in this respect, as well as in regard to spaciousness of area.

36 Discussion of gardens derived from De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, pp. 436–439, 449–450; De Nijs, Tempo Doeloe, p. 37; Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, pp. 13–17, 25.

37 Breuning, Voormalige Batavia, pp. 134–137; Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, pp. 24–25, 118.

38 De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, p. 441; Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, p. 125.

39 See photos in Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, and De Nijs, Tempo Doeloe; also see comments of Gevers Deynoot, Reis, p. 34.

40 Wertheim, Indonesian Society, p. 174. Wormser, C. W., ed., Zoo Leven Wij in Indië [So We Lived in the Indies], 5th ed. ('s-Gravenhage, W. van Hoeve, 1947), p. 112.

41 De Haan, Oud Batavia, n, p.

42 Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, p. 24; Gent, Kitab Peringatan, p. 42.

43 Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, p. 18. (Marshall Herman Willem Daendels was governor-general from 1808 to 1811 during the period of French Republican rule.)

44 Van der Kroef, CL; note discussion of Annie Foore's novel Bogoriana (pp. 217–218), and Dawn's Hoe Hij Raad van Indië Werd (p. 220). For description of life in the Bogor area at such mansions, see Van de Wall, Buitenplaatsen, p. 21.

45 Soei, Tio Ie, Lie Kimhok, 1853–1912 (Bandung, L. D. “Good Luck”, 1958), p. 10. Gevers Deynoot, Reis, pp. 56–57.

46 Tideman, J., “De Bevolking van de Regentschappen Batavia, Meester Cornelis en Buitenzorg” [The Population of the Regencies Batavia, Meester-Cornelis and Buitenzorg], Mededeeling No. 5, Encyclopaedisch Bureau van de Koninklijke Vereeniging “Koloniaal Instituut” (also published in Het Koloniaal Tijdschrift, March, 1933), pp. 36.

47 As more islands outside of Java came under colonial domination during the nineteenth century the Indische style of life expanded. For a perceptive view of Indische life on the northeast coast of Sumatra, see Lily Clercx's Mensen in Deli [People in Deli]. Other modern writers such as Marie Dermout [supra, in. 19] and Beb Vuyk have written of Indische life elsewhere in the archipelago - see Van der Kroef, CL, pp. 227–231.

48 For a description of the poems and other literary efforts at Batavia, see Breuning, Voormalige Batavia, 83; and Vlekke, Bernard H. M., Nusantara, A History of Indonesia, 5th ed. (Brussels, A. Manteau, 1961), pp. 230231.

49 Information on clubs derived from De Vries, Jaarboek van Batavia, 423–425; De Haan, Oud Batavia, II, pp. 175–177; Breuning, Voormalige Batavia, p. 110. Also see Batavia als Handels-, Industrie- en Woonstad [Batavia as a Commercial, Industrial and Residential City] (Batavia, Amsterdam: G. Kolff & Co., 1937), pp. 8892.

50 Gevers Deynoot, Reis, p. 37.

51 Wertheim, Indonesian Society, p. 174, says that the mode of living of Indische officials “had much in common with that of the feudal nobility of Indonesia.… Indian social life was a life of balls and receptions”. While Wertheim does later mention French influence, he says it was superficial because Indische society “offered no breeding ground for bourgeois individualism”. Wertheim forgets that French influence meant elite styles as well as egalitarian shibboleths, and that the popularity of the elite fashions of the ancien regime outlasted the revolutions of 1789 and 1848.

52 Batavia als Handels-, pp. 88–91. The account is taken from W. A. van Rees, “Herinneringen van een Indisch Officier” (Memories of an Indische Officer).

53 De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, p. 468.

54 Burger, Structural Changes, pp. 15–17, 19–21.

55 Wertheim, Indonesian Society, p. 175; Van der Kroef, Modern World, I, p. 280.

56 Simatupang, R. O., Pedoman Tamasja Djakarta & Sekitarnja [Guide to Sight-seeing in Djakarta and Surroundings] (Djakarta, Keng Po, n.d., but after 1960 from contents), p. 42.

57 Koks, De lndo, p. 241.

58 Information on krontjong derived from Koks, De Indo, p. 241; De Haan, Oud Batavia, I, pp. 527–528.

59 Discussion on stamboel derived from Koks, De Indo, p. 241; Van der Kroef, Modern World, I, p. 294; Buitenweg, Hein, “Komedie Stamboel”, Tong-Tong, VIII (December 1963), pp. 89, 33; Manusama, A. Th., Njai Dasima (Den Haag/San Francisco, Tong-Tong International, 1962), pp. 8, 13.

60 The complete tale can be found in Manusama, Njai Dasima, subtitled “A Victim of Deceit and Misleading, A Historical Novel of Manners of Batavia”. The story was first published in 1896 by G. Francis. In addition, there is a version by S. M. Ardan with conversations in Melaju Betawi which more accurately depicts the character of the special culture of Batavia at that time. See Ali, Lukman, “‘Njai Dasima’ dalam Dua Versi” (‘Housekeeper Dasima’ in Two Versions), Djaja, II (February 1963), pp. 45.

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