Papers of Colonial Advisers on Politics, Culture and Religion in the Netherlands (East) Indies, c. 1895-1949. Part 2: Papers of Emile Gobée (1881-1954), period 1908-1951

Papers of Colonial Advisers on Politics, Culture and Religion in the Netherlands (East) Indies, c. 1895-1949

In cooperation with KITLV, Moran Micropublications is making available the papers of three prominent colonial civil servants who advised the government of the Netherlands Indies on matters relating to Islam, indigenous culture and languages, education, politics and nationalism in pre-independence Indonesia.

Part 1. Papers of Godard Arend Johannes Hazeu (1870-1929), period 1895-1929
Short biography
Godard Arend Johannes Hazeu was born in Amsterdam in 1870. After attending secondary school in Arnhem and studying theology briefly in Utrecht, he undertook the study of Indonesian languages, literature and ethnology along with Arabic and Sanskrit at the University of Leiden. He earned a doctorate there in 1897 with a pioneering thesis on the nature and development of different forms of wayang in Java. He was to become a leading expert in this subject and in Indonesian folklore.

After a short time working as a tutor in Leiden he left for the Netherlands Indies where he had been appointed to teach Javanese in the training program for colonial administrators at the Willem III Gymnasium in Batavia. Right from the start he sought contact with Javanese circles to deepen his knowledge of the culture and also frequented the Bataviassch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschpappen (Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences), where he became acquainted with intellectuals such as C. Snouck Hurgronje, the well-known scholar of Islam and eastern languages and adviser to the colonial government on “Inlandsche en Arabische Zaken” (native and Arabic affairs). In 1904 he was attached to his office as a civil servant for Indonesian languages and succeeded Snouck Hurgronje himself as adviser in 1907. During this period he published articles and studies on various aspects of Indonesian literature and culture. In 1912 he was named head of the department of Education and Religion ( Onderwijs en Eeredienst), where he was instrumental in establishing the so-called Dutch-native schools ( Hollandsche-Inlandse school), which offered Indonesian children the possibility of pursuing secondary education. In 1915 he returned to the Netherlands on leave, where education continued to have his interest.

The following year he went back to the Indies as government commissioner ( regeringscommisaris) for native and Arabic affairs ( Regeringscommisaris voor inlandsche en Arabische Zaken). He found, however, a new situation there upon his return in which various nationalist movements, in particular the Sarekat Islam, were growing in influence, causing the colonial government increasing concern. By 1919 violent incidents, such as the murder of government officials at Tolitoli in Celebes, led the governor-general, Van Limburg Stirum, to rely more and more on Hazeu’s knowledge and insight. His position as commissioner also meant that he enjoyed a more direct relationship with the governor-general, which had the effect of alienating the colonial administration ( Binnenlands Bestuur). This circumstance, coupled with Hazeu’s evident sympathy for the Indonesians’ desire for equal treatment, made him the focus of harsh criticism from those advocating a hard hand in suppressing the nationalist movement. Matters came to a head after the Garut incident in West Java, in which the police killed a number of people who had barricaded themselves in a house after refusing to deliver rice to the government. Many thought this was the right way to maintain order, but Hazeu condemned the action of the police as wrong. Having lost his ear with the governor-general, he decided to accept a professorship at Leiden in Javanese language and literature to which he was appointed officially in March 1920.

Afflicted by poor health, perhaps partially attributable to the rude treatment he was subjected to at the end of his colonial career, he was less productive in his last years and was honorably relieved of his professorial duties in 1928. Hazeu is reckoned among the top three of the “Leiden school” in Indonesian studies along with Snouck Hurgronje and C. van Vollenhoven. He is particularly noted for his dictionary of the Gajo language published in Batavia in 1907. He died in Wassenaar in December 1929.

Hazeu’s papers
In addition to voluminous notes for his magnum opus on Gajo mentioned above (see inventory number 80 below), the papers presented here include
— a great many of Hazeu’s position papers ( adviezen) on such subjects as the nationalist movements, especially Sarekat Islam;
— disturbances in various places including the incidents in Jambi and Garut;
— many diverse matters concerning Islam, such as councils of clerics ( priesterraden), the position of women, marriage, religious movements, various Muslim personalities, mosques and their treasuries, and others;
— Christian missions, their relation with Islam and their role in education;
— education for Indonesians and their inclusion in the civil administration;
— questions of hormat (respect, deference to superiors) and the position of Indonesian regents.

Besides his own work, there are
— papers by Snouck Hurgronje and others
— much documentation in the form of reports and newspaper clippings from the Dutch-language and indigenous press on various subjects.

Part 2. Papers of Emile Gobée (1881-1954), period 1908-1951
Short biography
Emile Gobée was born on 3 December 1881 in Den Helder as son of a naval officer. He attended the Hogere Bugerschool in Rotterdam for three years before following in his father’s footsteps and enlisting in the navy. He graduated from the Royal Naval Institute in Willemsoord in 1901 with the rank of adelborst 1e klasse (second lieutenant). He made his first sea voyage to the Indies in 1903 where he served in a unit making hydrographic measurements in local waters. When his ship cruised in the Tomini Bight of North Celebes he had the occasion to meet the Assistant-Resident of Gorontalo, A.J.N. Engelenberg, who introduced him to the world of colonial administration. He was deeply impressed and decided to join the colonial civil service. In the same period he made the acquaintance of the missionary couple Adriani, who were living in Poso, Celebes. They lived and worked among the Toraja people and were making a major study of their language, Bare’e, which Gobée was later to learn himself.

In 1906 he returned to the Netherlands and resigned his naval commission to study colonial administration in Leiden. After completing his study in record time he served in various posts in the Indies, including a two-year stay in the Poso region, where in the meantime the Adrianis were again living. His next posting was to Aceh in Sumatra, which proved to be a turning-point in his life. It was there that his plan to learn Arabic ripened, which he was able to do upon returning to the Netherlands on leave in 1915 on the last Dutch mail boat to pass through the Suez Canal before the First World War blocked this passage. In Leiden once again, he studied Arabic under Snouck Hurgronje, the celebrated scholar of Islam and eastern languages and a very prominent adviser to the Indies colonial government. Since the war made opportunities in the Indies colonial service uncertain, Gobée quickly seized upon the chance to become Dutch consul in Jeddah, the port city of Mecca, when the opportunity presented itself in 1917. Snouck Hurgronje himself had proposed him without hesitation for this position. Although the Egyptians initially tried to prevent his stationing, he eventually reached Jeddah, where he remained until 1921. The Arab and Muslim world was in ferment at the time and Gobée followed the situation closely, publishing articles in various journals. He was very critical of British policy in the region under Lloyd George and considered the famous Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew, to be someone “who understands nothing of Islam”.

In 1922 Gobée returned again to the Indies from the Netherlands, serving first as acting adviser for Native Affairs ( Inlandse zaken) and then as the first Assistant-Resident of Poso in Central Celebes, where until this point only a controleur had been stationed. His knowledge of Bare’e was certainly an asset and there he once again renewed his contacts with the Adrianis. In 1926 he was recruited for good as Adviser for Native Affairs, holding this post until he left the service in 1937 and repatriated to the Netherlands.

The role of the Adviser for Native Affairs was, when asked, to give counsel to the colonial government, in practice this meant the governor-general, in all matters of concern, the principal ones of which were the nationalist movement in all its diversity and other, purely Muslim, questions. The attitude of the governor-general was therefore determinate in whether the adviser was consulted or not. Those staunchly opposed to nationalism were little inclined to ask for advice, confining requests to strictly religious questions. Such was certainly Gobée’s experience in his tenure. Personally he himself always held the trust of the indigenous population and both high and low found the way to his office. The chief issue within Indonesian Islam in this period was the conflict between so-called traditionalists and modernists. At issue was not the sacrosanct nature of the Koran but rather that of Tradition, the modernists arguing that contemporaries were permitted to test its orthodoxy. Being a democratic man, Gobée sympathized with the latter, a standpoint not well appreciated by the traditionalists.

After his retirement from the colonial service he worked with others on a continuing project to make a concordance of Muslim tradition. During the Nazi occupation in the Second World War he fell afoul of the authorities and was interned for a year and a half. After the war, he turned his attention to education in the Indies, which had been totally disrupted by the conflict. and was asked to undertake a study mission there in 1949-1950 to report on the situation. His last work before his death on 7 December 1954 involved publishing position papers of Snouck Hurgronje under the auspices of the Oosters Instituut at Leiden University.

Gobee’s papers
The present collection was held by the Oosters Instituut at Leiden until donated to the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden in 1979. It contains materials from various stages of Gobee’s career, including
— trainee controller ( aspirant-controleur) in Tentena, North Celebes (district Menado), 1908-1910.
— consul at Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), 1917-1921
— assistant-resident seconded to the adviser for native affairs, 1922-1924
— assistant-resident at Poso, Central Celebes, (district Menado), 1924-1926
— adviser for Native Affairs, 1926-1937, with materials concerning adat, Islam and political affairs
— documents concerning the investigation into the disturbances at Bantam in 1926
— miscellaneous materials, 1920-1937, including, among others, diary entries, 1928-1930 and political matters in the Middle East, 1920, 1924-1930, education, administrative reform and the future of the Netherlands Indies
— documents from after his retirement, including texts and notes of speeches and lectures on Islam and on various political parties in Indonesia; and correspondence with Ch.O. van der Plas, adviser for native affairs (1946)
— other materials, including nineteenth-century documents on education, newspapers clippings (20th century) on diverse topics, and letters in Arabic.

Part 3. Papers of Rudolf Aernoud Kern (1875-1958), period 1896-1955
Papers from his career as controller and assistant-resident in Java and (acting) adviser for native affairs; later as university teacher in the Netherlands.
Index Card
Collection Information