Commodities and Colonialism

The Story of Big Sugar in Indonesia, 1880-1942

Author: G. Roger Knight
Sugar yesterday was what oil is today: a commodity of immense global importance whose tentacles reached deep into politics, society and economy. Indonesia’s colonial-era sugar industry is largely forgotten today, except by a small number of regional specialists writing for a specialist audience. During the period 1880-1942 covered by this book, however, the then Netherlands Indies was one of the world’s very greatest producer-exporters of the commodity. How it contrived to do so is the story presented in this book.
Author G. Roger Knight, associate professor of history in the University of Adelaide, has researched the history
of Indonesia’s sugar industry for more than twenty-five years, using unpublished archival sources in both the Netherlands and Indonesia. His search has taken him into government records, family histories and – above all – the
extensive surviving papers of the Dutch sugar companies who operated in Indonesia during the late colonial era. The result is a picture of the industry that offers important new insights into its history and its place in the framework of global commodity production over a period extending over three quarters of a century.

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G.Roger Knight, Ph.D. (1968) University of London, is Associate Professor in the School of History and Politics, University of Adelaide. He is the author of several monographs and numerous articles on the social and economic history of colonial Indonesia.
"The book is a good read, and will be the text of reference for many years to come. It is impossible to think of a better guide through the intricacies of Java sugar than Knight." – Peter Boomgaard, KITLV, Leiden; University of Amsterdam; European University Institute, Florence

"The strength of this book [lies] in the qualitative argument and the eloquently presented synthesis."
Thomas Lindblad in International Review of Social History 59.1 (2014), 141-143.
All interested in the historical development of the international sugar economy during the colonial era - and of Indonesia's social and economic history in particular.