Mailrapporten: the power of the Dutch colonial administration in 1869-1940


Abstrak Thesis Oleh: Wiwi Diana Sari, MA (History Department, Leiden University)

In order to obtain the accurate, efficient and up to date news about Dutch East Indies, the Minister of Colonies demanded that the Governor General improve his reports. This was expected to eliminate the dissatisfaction of the Minister with the quality of the official reports the semi-officieele brieven (semi official briefs) that he had been receiving[1]. In May 28 1869, by Royal Decree, number 41 and by a modification of the Minister’s instruction, the Governor General was required to inform the Minister of all major events, actions and proposals in the Dutch East Indies. This communication was to, if necessary, be accompanied by explanatory documents. On the basis of this decision, the series Mailrapporten (mail reports), the weekly reports, began to be issued in September 1869 and this continued until 1952[2]. Based on these reports, the Minister of Colonies sought to determine policies for the colonial administration in the Dutch East Indies.

During this long period of communication, there were changes both in the form and content of the Mailrapporten. Since the period 1898 onwards, the report of the political and economic events in the region was systematically removed from the Mailrapporten. Additionally in 1914 the Minister of the Colonies decided to inaugurate a separate series of secret (geheime) Mailrapporten to run parallel with the non secret (openbaar) series[3].

Based on the explanation above, this study tries to explore the following questions: What was the form of the Mailrapporten which brought about their success as information reports? What was their role and position within the Dutch colonial administration system? And how did the information system of Mailrapporten develop during this long period of correspondence?

In order to answer my research questions, firstly, I will examine the characteristics and subjects engaged with by the Mailrapporten. Further, the role and position of these reports will be analyzed by observing the organizational structure of the government of the Dutch East Indies and the Ministry of Colonies. Finally, the development of the Mailrapporten during the years in which they were issued will be covered and the change in the subjects will be discussed.

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