The Dutch colonial has an effective administration system. They like to collect data, and statistics of demography, tax, income, etc. are well documented.

In the era of manual data compilation and graphics, without Excel and Powerpoint, these are the early excel of data visualisation.

Here are some nice graphs from the Municipality of Medan.

Council Members

This graph is from the 1921 Report of the Municipality of Medan (Verslag der Gemeente Medan over het jaar 1921). It shows the municipal council members from 1909 to 1921. The name on the left column is followed by the year they held the…


On August 31, 1927, hundreds of people had been flocking to the grounds since the afternoon. By six o’clock, a dense crowd was waiting in front of the gate waiting for the opening of Pasar Malam, which coincided with the Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina’s birthday. The mayor, the sultan of Deli with a few tengkus, the heads of local government, the Chinese and Indigenous officials had arrived. Finally, the mayor declared Medan’s pasar malam was officially opened. And the children from the girls’ schools sang both in Dutch and in Malay (De Sumatra post, 01–09–1927):

Sri Ratoe Wilhelmina Di negeri Belanda…


Rashomon is a famous Japanese movie directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story narrates a murder incident, but each character recounting the incident provides his/her own version of the story. The Rashomon effect is a term used to describe contradictory or descriptions of an event.

A few years ago, I was invited to speak at a soil science conference in Bandung. There were also other guests, including an elderly Japanese soil scientist. We were in a room having lunch, and our host introduced foods originated from different places in Indonesia and proudly said that we are diverse in culture. …


BBC, the English news network in 2020, published a report on Korindo, a Korean-owned plantation company for using burning to clear rainforests in Boven Digul Papua. Boven Digul, still largely an intact forest, has a deep history in Indonesia’s nationalistic movement.

A letter from the Wedana (district chief) of Boven Digul, Mr. R. Sastranegara, dated 6 December 1927, wrote (De Indische Courant, 12–01–1928):

They (the exiled communists) are busy clearing forests for their houses and ladangs; kampongs, roads, and bridges are being built, so that it can be expected that Upper Digul will soon be transformed from a jungle into…


Eighty years ago, Charlie Chaplin visited Java and Bali. Did the visit change his western view of the world? Or is it a romantics.

March 30, 1932, Charlie Chaplin and his crew arrived in Tanjung Priok. The Dutch were excited and expecting the Chaplin with a bowler hat and oversized shoes and walking stick. Charlie arrived with a pith helmet and grey hair.

Onboard the Van Lansberge, Charlie travelled with his elder brother Sydney and an entourage. They were welcomed by members of the association of film importers of Dutch Indies. Children crawled under the table to see Charlie’s feet…


A new and fertilising stream of trade set in with the utilisation of the shortened ocean route, giving prosperity to trade and strengthening the finances of the possessions. — Wright and Breakspear (1909).

The Suez canal in Egypt caught the world’s attention recently. A huge cargo ship got stuck diagonally across the canal, causing a major disruption in the world’s shipping operations. This canal that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea is the shortest route from Europe to Asia and about 12 percent of the world’s sea cargoes passed through this canal.

When the canal opened in 1869…


The East Coast of Sumatra owes everything to tobacco and the enterprise and energy of those who have been and still are engaged in its cultivation. In Deli, the planters take first place, and it may be said that they have ruled and developed the country. — Twentieth century impressions of Netherlands India, 1909.

The east coast of Sumatra was a significant economy of the Netherland East Indies in the 1900s. The area called Deli started to be developed in the 1860s by Dutch merchants. Jacob Nienhuys found the soil of Deli was suitable for producing high-quality tobacco leaf that…


The harsh reality described in obscure booklets and pamphlets, and unpublished documents such as the Rhemrev Report, was for years simply denied, ridiculed in the second room, and avoided in historiography as not spoken of in civilized society. And this polarization actually still exists. (Rudy Kousbroek, NRC Handelsblad, October 16, 1992)

Following De Millioenen uit Deli’s explosive release by van den Brand in 1902, the Dutch Indies government had to respond and ordered an investigation.

The investigation was commissioned by a Government Decree of May 24, 1903. J.L.T. Rhemrev, a senior public prosecutor from Batavia, was instructed to go to…


The Deli society can safely be called the founder of Medan; all life, all strength, and prosperity emanated from it. However, it understood in its own interest that of the workmen, and set up a hospital and an immigrant asylum, where the Chinese coolies, who commit themselves to it by contract, find good nursing care in case of illness or accident, even a permanent home, when they become entirely unfit for work. Justus van Maurik (Indrukken van een ‘Tòtòk’, 1897)

The romance of tobacco plantation at Bandar Klippa of the Deli Company.

That was the romantic picture of the Deli society, which has transformed virgin jungles of Sumatra into luscious and productive…


“When Satan wants to deceive, he carefully hides his horns and masks his hooves and tail. … And now there is a really sophisticated system in Deli. It is generally the custom for any inspector who is going to be transferred to another department in the region to hold a vendutie.” Van den Brand (1902).

Vendutie in Het Kamerlid Van Berkenstein in Nederlandsch-Indië.

Vendutie is a public auction. In the Netherland Indies, when a civil servant or officer or someone had to leave or move to another place, they would sell their furniture and household items as it would be too expensive to move them. …

Budiman BM

Soil Scientist, interest in Colonial history.

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