- Discover Indonesia Online

You are currently in > Indonesia > Kalimantan island > Islam

Sultans and colonials

The first, reliable writings about Borneo which reached the West, came from Antonio Pigafetta, cronicle-writer during Magellan's journey around the world. Magellan himself was murdered when he was in the Philipines; his fleet had to go on without him and finally arrived in Brunei in July 1521.
The welcome was overwhelming. Royal dressed servants were waiting on igafetta and his men on elephants, which took them to the palace of the sultan. The Porgtuguese were dreaming of this during their miserable cross of the Pacific Ocean.
New of a journey around the world, sponsored by the king of Spain, added with the pleasant situation in Brunei, made the Portuguese decide to relay their trade route from Malacca to the Moluccan Spice Islands to the north - over Brunei. It took until 1627, the year when Pedro Berthelot rounded Borneo, before the island was mapped precisely.

Islam on Borneo

With the Portuguese trade the missions also started in the 16th century. In areas where the population was already converted, like around Banjarmasin, the missionaries didn't have much success. Only on locations where islam wasn't settled yet, people were not negative against catholicism. But only in the 19th century, when European discoverers accessed the inlands of Dutch Borneo, christianity really settled.
Islam reached the archipelago from India, and first spread over Sumatera and Jawa, to follow the trail of the merchands over the many islands from there. Because of the tight and centuries-old ties were sustained by Jawa with small principalties of Kalimantan, hinduism and buddhism had developed here as well. When the hinduist Majapahit was islamised in the 15th century, this new religion spread over Kalimantan as well. Local rulers, which used to carry the title raja, were now called 'sultan'.

The arrival of the Dutch

The first Dutch fleet appeared in 1596 in Bantam. The ' Vereenigde ProvinciŽn' (United Provinces) were in war with the Spanish and the enterprising and ruthless Dutch were out to hunt for spices. Soon they rules over the knove- and nugmeg islands in Maluku and were fighting for a monopoly on the precious trade on pepper, including the (small) amount on Southern Borneo.

The Portuguese didn't succeed to rule over the pepper trade in Banjarmasin. The Dutch didn't succeed as well, even not after burning the city to the ground. Around the 17th century the British East India Company mixed in the battle for trade with Banjarmasin. Inmediately the Dutch forces out the intruders. They didn't want to give away the trade monopoly at all.
No success in Dutch trade was partially because fierce competition China. Not only they were paying high prices and better merchandize for pepper, diamonds and gold, but they also seemed to have a good sense of the most profitable products like kampher, tripang, hayfins ans bird nests. Halfway the 17th century, the Dutch realised that their trade monopoly on Moluccan spices was useless, unless they had something to say about the distribution center in Makassar (the current Ujung Pandang). Intimidation and cruel action eventually forced the Dutch to be the only trade partner.

Buginese on Borneo

The by the Dutch stimulated internal arguments lead to several changes of power. A part of the high-ranked people lost power and there was an abundance of hardened, vertan soldiers. A big number of royal houses in the region, under them Kutai in Eastern Kalimantan and Johore and Selangor in Malaysia, were hurt by that. Whey were connected to, or simply taken over by the Buginese and Wajose migrants from Celebes.
In 1785, 3000 troops from Celebes entered the Banjarmasin sultanate. The sultan called for help from the DFutch, which won the battle in a short time because of their superior weapons. This victory was exploited by the Dutch to replace the sultan for a weak puppet. He didn't only give the Dutch sovereignty over Banjarmasin, but almost the entire eastern coast of Borneo, where they could hardly hold their power, let alone rule it.
Against that time the Kutai Kertanegara sultanase was firmly settled in Tenggarong along the Mahakam, just inland off Selat Makasar. In this Malay principalty the oldest known Indonesian writings were found, which originate from the 4th century. The principalty was shortly named in a Jawanese manuscript from 1365, but because Kutai was not along a big trade route, it was destined to have anonymous part in history.
This drastically changed when Arung Singkang La Ma'dukelleng, important member of the Buginese royal family Wajo, conquerred Kutai and Pasir in 1726. He named himself sultan, returned home to fight local wars and fights and he also lead - without succeeding - an action against the Dutch. His descendants mixed with other respected royal family of Kutai. Around 1730, the Buginese founded their own city, Samarinda. This meant that the entire eastern coast came under Buginese influence.

Colonial chess

The war with Napoleon brought Dutch East India temporarily under French power and after that under the British power. When England gave back Indonesia to the Dutch, they realized that controlling Jawa and a few small locations elsewhere was not enough to stop other European countries outside the archipelago.
Abdul Rahman, and enterprising Arabic adventurer, founded Pontianak in 1770 with Dutch help. The new city was soon a bad sight for the sultan of Sambas, which long ruled the area. He had European merchands which brought in a very high amount of money. Now they Europeans had their own location, so they didn't have to pay taxes anymore.
The sultan saw his income dropping dramatically and went to piracy. England sent a military expedition to Sambas in 1812 to point the sultan to the facts, but the troops were just butchered. A year later a better organised British army tried again; this time the sultanate was subjected in a matter of 30 minutes.
The Dutch got their fair share of power in Indonesia, but they didn't show much interest in Borneo in the first place; economically it didn't have too much to offer. However, in 1817 the Dutch signed an agreement with the sultan of Banjarmasin, which needed help with his least justiceable claims on the thrown. In trade, the sultan gave away Eastern-, Southern-, and Central Borneo, and only held a small area in Kalsel. The Dutch also got the right to name an successor. The way this happened lead to ehavy resistance in 1859, which ended in a costly war with the freedom-loving population: the Banjarmasin War.

The Dutch take action

In 1818 the Dutch sent an expedition to Western Borneo to settle there as well. They were right in time for an unexpected revolt against a Dutch ally, the sultan of Pontianak, so they were able to stop it. They also ended the piravy of the sultan of Sambas, which had targeted Pontianak.
Meanwhile the Dutch trade got a new, fierce competitor: Singapore, founded by Sir Stamford Raffles. To secure the trade with the Chinese goldmines, the Dutch tried to get sovereignty over Western Kalimantan. At that moment however, the Jawa War (1825-1830) started, lead at the Indonesian side by prince Diponegoro, and the Dutch were forces to contract all forces, money and energy to Jawa.

Several years later, two events lead to action from Dutch side. In 1839, James Brooke, a British colonial ruler and adventurer, received the principalty of Sarawak from the sultan of Brunei as gift for his help against the revolters. He became the famous 'White Raja'. James Brooke, the big inpiration for writer Joseph Conrad, has Kuching, just north of Sambas, as his base. That was a little too close for the Dutch.
In 1842, after the famous Opium War, China was obliged to open it's seaports for foreign trade. The western coast of Borneo found out to be a perfect place to rule the sea-route China-Singapore-India. The British crowne was seriously thinking about a support in Borneo, encouraged by James Brooke, which plead to halt piracy by the Royal Navy.

Gold rush on Borneo

When gold was found just south of Sarawak in the 18th century, a mass migration of Hakka-Chinese took place. When the exploitation of the goldfields was developped, where were about 200,00 Chinese living on Borneo. Yearly yield was 30 kilograms of the purest gold.
Since 1622 only the Dutch were showing some interest for Western Borneo. In that year, sultan Agung from Jawa sent a fleet, slaughtered the British merchands, burned the Dutch warehouse and freed the the crowne for the local queen. The diamond nimes brought up very nice stones, so in Amsterdam the diamond trade and processing boomed. Around the 19th century, the diamond fields were not used any longer, but gold findings and the near proximity of Brooke kept the Dutch in Western Borneo.
The Dutch were allowed to claim a part of the money made in the area. At the end of the 17th century the first ruler of Landak was in war with the neighboring sultanate Sukadana. He demanded Bantam, a Jawanese principalty under Dutch rule, for help. The Dutch complied to this, and a combined Dutch-Bantam-Landak army simply destroyed Sukadana. From that moment Landak obliged to recognise the Bantam sovereignty, whith that the Dutch as well. And whether the Dutch didn't have to do enough, a newspaper message would bring them in direct action in Eastern Borneo.

Problems in Eastern Borneo

In 1844, two manned warships, under command of Honorable Erskine Murray, a Scottish, dropped their anchors off the shipyard of Kutai. The sultan first was open for them, but Murray treated too hurried with his request for a permanent British settlement. Did he want to be the net James Brooke? Whatever the cause was, a fight broke out between the sultanate - supported by Buginese allies - and the British. One ship got away, but only after three Europeans, among them was Murray, were killed.
When a newspaper in Singapore reported the conflict and chose British site, the Dutch came into action. They sent a small fleet to Kutai, the siltan, afraid for an counterattack from the Europeans, took their 'protection' almost for granted. From that moment, the area was called 'Nederlands Borneo' (Dutch Borneo), what meant as much as that other Europeans were not welcome anymore.

Your website for tickets in Indonesia!
Looking for e-tickets for flights in Indonesia? Here's your solution! Order your e-tickets at
Add this page to your email, your own blog, MySpace, Facebook, or whatsoever via AddThis:
Bookmark and Share

Additional information, updates or feedback? Send them in!

Feedback Form


9 pictures in this gallery 
MySQL connection failed.