Archives management in the Dutch East Indies: Algemene Secretarie 1816-1890


Abstrak Thesis Oleh: Nadia Fauziah, M.Phil (History Department, Leiden University)

This thesis is about information management of a colonial power. It is also a story about archives, showing that archives are not historical sources but also reveal their own history which is important for anyone interested in colonial state formation in the 19th century. In this thesis, the archives of Algemene Secretarie, or General Secretariat established in the Dutch East Indies, becomes an example in which the relations between information and the colonial administration is in the form of the nature of archives, series description, and access to archives. With previous studies available only in Dutch and case-specific analyses, this thesis is aimed at connecting the smaller studies into a comprehensive research exploring the colonial archives, with the intention of providing a threshold for anybody unfamiliar with the Dutch language.

Combining institutional history and archival studies, this research tries to explore the role of the Algemene Secretarie archives for the colonial government, and context behind the archives creation such as the relations between the functions of organization, its administrative output, and the archival system used by this institution. At a more technical level, some parts of this research describe how the archival system worked including the development of the system during the first part of the 19th century, and how present day users can access the archives.

The research comes to the conclusion that information management was the backbone of the colonial government. It was a bridge of communication between the colony and the central colonial government in The Hague (also the parliament). The Algemene Secretarie as the organ which was responsible for assisting the Governor General proved to be the main contributor for gathering, processing, and producing information in the Dutch East Indies. It became the link between the Governor General as the highest authority in the Dutch East Indies and the colony (through the lower authorities in the hierarchy), and between the Governor General and the central colonial government in The Hague, particularly the Minister of Colonies. The description on the series provides information on the output of the administrative process inside the government and more importantly, it reveals how the archives reflect a process of knowledge production in general (and colonial governance in particular) and knowledge retrieval.

Moreover, this thesis attempts to relate the organizational history of the Algemene Secretarie to its archival system. It concludes that the changing structure of theAlgemene Secretarie (in this case the several reorganizations occurred during its existence) did not affect the archival system since the verbaal system was still used during the time period under study. However, it was the function of the archive creator which caused changes in the system, in the form of an addition of new series, registers, or finding aids which distinguished it from the same verbaal system practiced in the Netherlands.

What awaits further research is the changing archival management in this organization which created new kind of archives, the historical context behind these changes and how the civil servants at the time dealt with this transitional condition, and how the present day archivist responds to it in order to understand the principle of governance in a more comprehensive way as part of the efforts to make the archives accessible. This remaining treasure of the 19th century archives deserves to be revealed.

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