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The history of scientific research undertaken by Europeans in regions where they were the colonizing powers has been a popular and well researched topic for two decades now. A growing number of studies, with some preponderance of botany and medicine, have appeared on colonial and protocolonial science in the Americas and in Asia, and it seems likely that this is more than just a fad. However, scientific research by Europeans on and in the Indonesian archipelago does not figure prominently in this literature. Very few scholars working on Indonesia – with Lewis Pyenson (1989, 1998) as the main exception – have specialized in this potentially rewarding field. In order to give an impression of topics that could profitably be addressed, this article presents an overview, in very broad outline, of European – and particularly Dutch – scientific research on Indonesia during the last four centuries, with emphasis on the periods of the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, Dutch East India Company) and the Dutch colonial state.


This article has two basic aims. First, I discuss several notions regarding long-term changes in land-tenure arrangements, mainly in what is now Indonesia. I argue that the character of these changes is often badly understood, partly because the older literature has been misrepresented, partly because the older literature was wrong, and partly because many scholars implicitly or explicitly appear to believe in “stages theories” (best known among scholars under the German term Stufentheorie), which posit fairly uniform and unidirectional stages of land-tenure development across the board. Second, this article deals with environmental causes and effects of long-term land-tenure developments in the Indonesian Archipelago.

Land tenure and conservation are hotly debated at present, but the historical substance in such debates is meagre, usually going back no further than the 1950s or 60s. Nor does there seem to be much interest in the environmental roots of land-tenure arrangements, perhaps because the participants in the land-tenure-and-the-environment debate are mainly anthropologists and environmentalists, who might find such topics of antiquarian importance only. As an historian I cannot share this view.

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

This paper dexamines the history of sexually transmitted diseases in Southeast Asia and explores the origins of venereal disease, specifically syphilis and gonorrhoea, in the region. The arrival of new diseases that accompanied Europeans from about 1500, is a subject that scholars have largely ignored in favour of the 19th and 20th centuries. While concentrating on the Indonesian archipelago, the paper also considers to other parts of Southeast Asia to investigate the impact of syphilis and gonorrhoea on the rate of population growth in the region. Unlike gonorrhoea, which was present before the arrival of Europeans, syphilis was a new disease whose introduction by the Portuguese had lethal consequences. Possibly, the propagation of Islam and Christianity in island Southeast Asia after 1500 and of Buddhism in mainland Southeast Asia, were important mitigating factors in checking the spread of syphilis.

In: Manusya: Journal of Humanities

First, an introduction of the geomorphology of Suriname and the characteristics of its forests is given. Then, the author explains how it is possible that Suriname still has a high proportion of tropical rainforest while it has been a plantation economy for centuries. He looks at the usual sources of destruction of wooded areas, government policy, role of the Forest Service, and Western enterprise.

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids