The girdle of emeralds: Dutch colonial rule in the East Indies

Dutch map of the East Indies, 1606 (© Wikipedia)

In August 1945, Indonesians proclaimed independence from the Netherlands. After hundreds of years of Dutch colonial rule, the East Indies was one of the world’s largest, richest and most coveted colonies, fought over by the English and the Portuguese before the Dutch finally seized the prize and sailed off with its riches: coffee, tea, rice, valuable spices, the world’s largest source of quinine, and petroleum! In the Netherlands, this colonial treasure was referred to as “A Girdle of Emeralds”, and it became nearly impossible for the Dutch to imagine their country without the East Indies. In this programme, we look at how Holland shaped Indonesia and the dramatic process of independence.

Producer: Marijke van der Meer

Broadcast: August 1,1995