Promises and Predicaments: Trade and Entrepreneurship in Colonial and Independent Indonesia in the 19th and 20th Centuries

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Edited by Alicia Schrikker and Jeroen Touwen
Contributions by Anne Booth, Hal Hill, Pim de Zwart, Daan Marks, Alexandra de Pleijt, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Alexander Claver, Leonard Blusse, Freek Colombijn, Roger Knight, Bambang Purwanto, David Henley, Robert Cribb, Thee Kian Wie, Farabi Fakih, Pham Van Thuy, Pierre van der Eng, Ewout Frankema and Howard Dick

Indonesia's trajectory towards successful economic growth has been long and capricious. Studies of the process often focus either on the Netherlands Indies or independent Indonesia, suggesting the existence of fundamental discontinuities. The authors of the 17 essays in this book adopt a long-term perspective that transcends regimes and bridges dualist economic models in order to examine what did and did not change as the country moved across the colonial-postcolonial divide, and shifted from reliance on exports of primary products to a multi-centred economy. The aim is to analyse how economic development grew out of the interplay of foreign trade, new forms of entrepreneurship and the political economy.

The authors deal with entrepreneurship and economic specialization within different ethnic groups, the geographical distribution of exports and resource drains from exporting regions, and connections between an export economy and mass poverty. One recurring issue is the way actors from different ethnic groups occupied complementary niches, highlighting the rich variety of roles played by Asian entrepreneurs. A study of the international sugar trade shows how regime change fostered co-operation between different ethnic groups and nationalities involved with trading networks, inter-island shipping, urban public transport, and the construction sector. A comparison of export earnings and population groups involved in trade before and after 1900 shows that unexpected agricultural and industrial transitions could underpin a fundamental shift in income growth, with improved living standards for broad sectors of the population.

"Promises and Predicaments is a very readable volume that provides a valuable overview not only for specialists in Indonesian history, but also for those interested in the economic history of decolonization in general."
Esther Helena Arens, University of Cologne

"The book servers as a useful reference of scholarly outcomes over the past four decades. It offers new angles of research on the field by connecting the interplay between foreign trade, economic actors and political economy."
Siwage Dharma Negara, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

"...an invaluable overview of the development options and dilemmas of Indonesia in the 1950s and the early 1960s, during its transition from a colonial to a postcolonial economy."
Ulbe Bosma, International Institute of Social History


Alicia Schrikker is Lecturer in Colonial and Global History at Leiden University.

Jeroen Touwen is Senior Lecturer in Economic and Social History at Leiden University.


Publication Year: 2015
368 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-851-5, Paperback

NUS Press