A Benign Empire? The Instrumentalisation of Abolitionism in the Moluccas, 1817-1879

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This article analyses how nineteenth-century Dutch colonial officials in the
Moluccas repeatedly instrumentalised abolitionist rhetoric to increase the
legitimacy of the colonial State. It first demonstrates how these officials used the
ban on the slave trade in 1814 to present themselves as adhering to an enlightened
colonial philosophy. This allowed them to distance the newly established colonial
State from the legacies of the Dutch East India Company, which had violently ruled
over the Moluccas from the middle of the seventeenth century up to the end of the
eighteenth century. The second part of this article shows how Dutch officials used
the abolition of slavery in the Dutch East Indies in 1860 to both paint themselves in
a favourable light and to increase their territorial claims in Papua, a region that had
been subject to the authority of the Sultan of Tidore for centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalBMGN - Low Countries Historical Review
Volumeonline first
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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