Dutch East Indies - Colonial Heritage in The Netherlands

Colonial Heritage in The Netherlands

In The Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, the Netherlands urbanised considerably, mostly financed by corporate revenue from the Asian trade monopolies. Social status was based on merchants' income, which reduced feudalism and considerably changed the dynamics of Dutch society.

When the Dutch Royal Family was established in 1815, much of its wealth came from Colonial trade.

Universities such as the Royal Leiden University founded in the 16th century have developed into leading knowledge centres about Southeast Asian and Indonesian studies. Leiden University has produced academics such as Colonial adviser Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje who specialised in native oriental (Indonesian) affairs, and it still has academics who specialise in Indonesian languages and cultures. Leiden University and in particular KITLV are educational and scientific institutions that to this day share both an intellectual and historical interest in Indonesian studies. Other scientific institutions in the Netherlands include the Amsterdam Tropenmuseum, an anthropological museum with massive collections of Indonesian art, culture, ethnography and anthropology.

The traditions of the KNIL are maintained by the Regiment Van Heutsz of the modern Royal Netherlands Army and the dedicated Bronbeek Museum, a former home for retired KNIL soldiers, exists in Arnhem to this day.

Many surviving colonial families and their descendants who moved back to the Netherlands after Independence lessening Dutch colonial presence tended to look back on the era with a sense of the power and prestige they had in the colony with such items as the 1970s book Tempo Doeloe (Old times) by author Rob Nieuwenhuys, and other books and materials that became quite common in the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover since the 18th century Dutch literature has a large number of established authors, such as Louis Couperus, the writer of "The Hidden Force", taking the colonial era as an important source of inspiration. In fact one of the great masterpieces of Dutch literature is the book "Max Havelaar" written by Multatuli in 1860.

The majority of Dutchmen that repatriated to the Netherlands after and during the Indonesian revolution are Indo (Eurasian), native to the islands of the Dutch East Indies. This relatively large Eurasian population had developed over a period of 400 years and were classified by colonial law as belonging to the European legal community. In Dutch they are referred to as 'Indische Nederlanders' (Indies Dutchmen) or Indo (short for Indo-European). Of the 296,200 so called Dutch 'repatriants' only 92,200 were expatriate Dutchmen born in the Netherlands.

Including their 2nd generation descendants, they are currently the largest foreign born group in the Netherlands. In 2008, the Dutch Census Buro for Statistics (CBS) registered 387,000 first and second generation Indos living in the Netherlands. Although considered fully assimilated into Dutch society, as the main ethnic minority in the Netherlands, these 'Repatriants' have played a pivotal role in introducing elements of Indonesian culture into Dutch mainstream culture. Practically each town in the Netherlands will have a 'Toko' (Dutch Indonesian Shop) or Indonesian restaurant and many 'Pasar Malam' (Night market in Malay/Indonesian) fairs are organised throughout the year.

Many Indonesian dishes and foodstuffs have become commonplace in the Netherlands. Rijsttafel, a colonial culinary concept, and dishes such as Nasi goreng and sateh are still very popular in the Netherlands.

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