8 November 2016: Plantation women. Female coolie labour on private estates in colonial Indonesia, c. 1870-1940
Plantation women. Female coolie labour on private estates in colonial Indonesia, c. 1870-1940
This paper studies the labour input by women – and to a lesser extent by children – working on private estates in the Netherlands-Indies in the period 1870-1940. After the gradual abandonment of the Cultivation System in the late nineteenth century, a liberalization of the economy took place, in which more and more European enterprises entered the Indonesian market. The number of private plantations for cash crops such as coffee, tea, sugar, and rubber increased rapidly from the 1870s onwards, and in the 1930s there were around 1,400 plantations on Java. How widespread was women’s and children’s work on these enterprises, what types of labour did they perform, and under which circumstances? Both the ‘Liberal Period’ (c.1870-1900), in which the state-led Cultivation System made way for a free market philosophy, as well as the ‘Ethical Period’ (c.1900-1942), which was characterised by a growing concern for the welfare of indigenous households and in which policies were made to improve the population’s living standard, are studied. Next to long-term developments, also regional differences are taken into account. While research on this topic so far has often focussed on plantations on the eastern coast of Sumatra, this paper discusses a wide variety of regions, and looks for similarities and differences between various Javanese regions and Outer Islands.
More information about Daniëlle Teeuwen can be found here.