One of the main problems regarding the existing historiography of the Dutch-Indonesian conflict in the period 1945-1949 is the lack of interconnection. Dialogue between Indonesian and Dutch historians is limited and there is a lack of knowledge regarding the different regional dimensions of the conflict. In cooperation, the ‘Regional studies’ subproject is seeking to gain new insights. Indonesian and Dutch historians intend to shed new light on this episode by sharing source material and subject literature in order to compare related perspectives and concepts. This activity is expected to make new empirical material available regarding the internal dynamics of the conflict. Above all, it will provide greater clarity with respect to how the perception of events differed at the time and how this perception was subsequently translated into different historiographical traditions and very different processes of national canonisation.

The guiding question in this project concerns the link between the stability/instability of local authority and the forms and scale of the force used during the entire period of 1945-1950. The starting point in this regard is that in some periods and in specific parts of the archipelago, authority was fluid. At least until the two so-called police actions, large parts of Indonesia were under Republican rule. While the Netherlands gradually increased its influence by military means, the actual reach of military power and administrative authority was limited. Moreover, shadow authority was exercised by the Republic of Indonesia and/or other anti-colonial groups that certainly did not always cooperate with each other. Consequently, the exercise of military and civilian authority was often contested and fragile, but always in different ways in different areas and different periods. A key issue concerns the effects that this situation had in terms of the nature and level of the force used by both sides and the respective policies of the parties involved regarding this force. Were serious efforts made at regional level to curb mass violence? Was this violence accepted as inevitable given the circumstances, or was it even encouraged as an effective strategy? Was the local authority – Republican, Dutch or otherwise – even in a position to make such considerations?

The overarching main question is: During the entire period of 1945-1950, what was, in a number of specific parts of Indonesia (West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, Central Sumatra and Bali), the link between the stability/instability and power of local authority and the forms and scale of the force used? The starting point in this regard is that the degree to which and the way in which authority was established locally and was accepted or contested constitute a crucial factor. Research efforts will first determine how and the extent to which Dutch or Indonesian authority was effectively established, and how this authority was legitimated. The focus will then turn to the question as to whether there was a clear link between different forms of authority and the distribution of authority and the scale of the force used. Finally, the research will ascertain whether the use of force, including excessive force, against armed adversaries and members of the civilian population should be attributed to deliberately used strategies of territorial control.

Following on from the work described above, the focus will be on different themes for each region selected: the peak in violence of 1949 (East Java); the history, effect and meaning of the shifting demarcation lines (Central Java); the groups that found themselves that found themselves in the ‘contested middle’ between Dutch and Indonesian troops (Central Sumatra); the migration of resistance (West Java and Sulawesi) and the links between federal state politics (Negara Indonesia Timur, or State of East Indonesia) and Dutch military action, as well as local reactions to that action (Bali).

This project is carried out by: Roel Frakking, Martijn Eickhoff, Hans Meijer, Ireen Hoogenboom, Anne-Lot Hoek and Anne van der Veer