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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Promises and Predicaments

Trade and Entrepreneurship in Colonial and Independent Indonesia in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Promises and Predicaments

Trade and Entrepreneurship in Colonial and Independent Indonesia in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Indonesia’s trajectory towards successful economic growth has been long and capricious. Studies of the process often focus either on the Netherlands Indies or independent Indonesia, suggesting the existence of fundamental discontinuities. The authors of the 17 essays in this book adopt a long-term perspective that transcends regimes and bridges dualist economic models in order to examine what did and did not change as the country moved across the colonial-postcolonial divide, and shifted from reliance on exports of primary products to a multi-centred economy. The aim is to analyse how economic development grew out of the interplay of foreign trade, new forms of entrepreneurship and the political economy.

          The authors deal with entrepreneurship and economic specialization within different ethnic groups, the geographical distribution of exports and resource drains from exporting regions, and connections between an export economy and mass poverty. One recurring issue is the way actors from different ethnic groups occupied complementary niches, highlighting the rich variety of roles played by Asian entrepreneurs. A study of the international sugar trade shows how regime change fostered co-operation between different ethnic groups and nationalities involved with trading networks, inter-island shipping, urban public transport, and the construction sector.  A comparison of export earnings and population groups involved in trade before and after 1900 shows that unexpected agricultural and industrial transitions could underpin a fundamental shift in income growth, with improved living standards for broad sectors of the population.


368 pages | 6 x 9

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies

History: Asian History, European History

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Promises and predicaments is a very readable volume that provides a valuable overview not only for specialists in Indonesian history, but also for those interested in the economic history of decolonization in general. The carefully edited collection concludes with an extensive bibliography, information on the contributors, and a useful index. It contributes to the ‘literacy’ of historians working at the intersection of colonial, economic, and global history, an addition that indicates the function of research institutions in Leiden as a node in the network of scholars working on Indonesia.”


“An excellent and quite well-structured survey of current research on Indonesian economic history with contributions from both senior and junior players in this international field of study.”

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
                1. Building Bridges between Themes and Approaches in Indonesian Economic History
                                Jeroen Touwen and Alicia Schrikker
I. Economic and Socio-cultural Effects of Trade and Investment
                2. Trade and Growth in the Colonial and Post-colonial Periods
                                Anne Booth
                3. Structural Change and ‘Turning Points’: The Southeast Asian Experience
                                Hal Hill
                4. Trade and Economic Development: Indonesia in the Long Run
                                Pim de Zwart, Daan Marks, Alexandra de Pleijt and Jan Luiten van Zanden
                5. A Money Paradox in the Netherlands Indies: Coins, Commerce and Consumers in Late colonial Life (1800–1942)
                                Alexander Claver
II. Entrepreneurship in the Colonial and Post-colonial Economies
                6. John Chinaman Abroad: Chinese Sailors in the Service of the VOC
                                Leonard Blussé
                7. Complementarisasi in the Indonesian Construction Sector in the 1950s
                                Freek Colombijn
                8. Commodities Caught in the Crossfire: Java Sugar and Imperial Japan, 1880–1945
                                Roger Knight
                9. Entertain People, Accumulate Capital: Indonesian Military Entrepreneurship in the 1950s and 1960s
                                Bambang Purwanto
                10. From Tribes to Transaction Costs: How Two Anthropologists of Southeast Asia Anticipated the New Institutional Economics
                                David Henley
III. Trade and Economic Growth under Changing Regimes
                11. The External Rice Trade of the Indonesian Republic, 1946–47
                                Robert Cribb
                12. The Indonesian Economy during the 1950s and Early 1960s and America’s Proposal for Economic Aid
                                Thee Kian Wie
                13. The Ambiguous Position of Economists during the ‘Old Order’, 1950–65
                                Farabi Fakih
                14. The Constraints of Economic Nationalism in Early Independent Indonesia, 1945–60
                                Pham van Thuy
                15. International Food Aid to Indonesia, 1950s–1970s
                                Pierre van der Eng
                16. The Green Revolution in Indonesia: A Replicable Success?
                                Ewout Frankema
                17. Policy Regimes, Statistics and Unintended Consequences: Transitions in Indonesia’s Modern Economic History
                                Howard Dick

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