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Hans Gooszen, A Demographic History of the Indonesian Archipelago, 1880-1942

Leiden: KITLV Press, Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 183, 1999, 274 p.
Reed L. Wadley
Référence(s) :

Hans Gooszen, A Demographic History of the Indonesian Archipelago, 1880-1942, Leiden: KITLV Press, Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 183, 1999, 274 p.

Texte intégral

1Historical demography is a messy business anywhere in the world, and in a far-flung and diverse place like Indonesia, it can be downright daunting, if next to impossible. Even within a fairly well documented period of 1880-1942, the quality of demographic data throughout the archipelago ranges from fair to dismal. Hans Gooszen takes on this task with both authority and caution, resulting in an extremely well-documented account of indigenous population diversity in late-colonial Indonesia. (She does not examine Chinese, Arab, European, and other non-native populations.) Given the variation in data quality (and quantity), it is not surprising that more information is presented about Java, the Plantation Belt of Sumatra, and Minahasa than anywhere else in the archipelago. Places such as Kalimantan and West Papua receive bare mention.

2Gooszen’s study is aimed at two interrelated questions: What is the evidence for regional population diversity in late-colonial Indonesia, and how did colonial rule affect demographic developments? With her focus on indigenous populations, she sets out to show the substantial variation in demographic factors over time and across space. She concludes that colonial rule played both direct and indirect roles in shaping migration, mortality, and natality – the three pillars of any demographic study – but that through their own social, cultural, and economic decisions, native Indonesians had a more significant hand in shaping their demographic history.

3In Chapter One, Gooszen provides a thorough and critical review of previous demographic studies, noting that little attention has been paid to regional variation, whether on Java or in the Outer Islands. She also examines the primary sources for the period under study and argues for caution in using the population statistics compiled by the Dutch, a concern she maintains throughout the book. Chapter Two is an overview of migration and population growth with the general conclusion that migration between the large islands was a frequent occurrence, driven in part by the development of agricultural estates and mining on Sumatra and Kalimantan, and that while the population grew overall, growth varied across time and between places.

4Chapter Three looks at migration in more detail with a focus on intra-island variation, ethnic and gender diversity, urbanization, and rural-urban migration. Java and Sumatra provide most of the data for this chapter, with Borneo, Celebes, and the eastern archipelago receiving less treatment. Gooszen concludes that regional diversity in population growth is paralleled by variation in migration history. Regional diversity in natality and family formation is the focus of Chapter Four, and here she looks at birth rates with special attention to the Christian populations of Mojowarno (East Java), Minahasa (North Sulawesi), and Tapanuli (North Sumatra) based on marriage and baptismal records. She also examines fertility patterns in the plantation areas of Sumatra and southeastern Borneo, and compares proximate determinants such as marriage customs, fecundity, and birth control.

5In Chapter Five, Gooszen explores disease, mortality, and Western health care, particularly on Java. A general decline in mortality may have been influenced by improvements in drinking water and government efforts to combat malaria. In a comparison of Batavia and the surrounding area of West Java, she shows that mortality was substantially higher in the city around the turn of the century. She also shows that in the Outer Islands mortality did not vary according to accessibility to colonial public health care, overturning an earlier supposition. Chapter Six looks at population growth trends throughout the archipelago. Gooszen draws the conclusion that early-twentieth-century Java experienced a later and slower acceleration of population growth than did the Outer Islands, largely as a result of Pax Neerlandica coming to the Outer Islands later and having a more dramatic effect during the period in question.

6Readers might find the sociology and history of their favorite geographical areas to have been grossly over-simplified. For example, regarding my own area of expertise, Gooszen states that the “Dayak tribes living in the interior [of Borneo] were subjects of the [Malay] sultans” (p. 225; also p. 104). This, of course, renders a rather complex situation into a simple and not entirely accurate formula. In addition, despite KITLV’s usual, superb editing, there appears to be only two typographical errors – the spelling of Seram (which becomes Seran) and Kuala Kapuas (which is written as Kepala Kapuas) – but each of these is consistent throughout the text. Yet these very minor points should not detract in any way from the value of this book. Gooszen has done a masterful job with data of varying quality, and this work will surely become an important reference in future historical studies of Indonesia.

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Reed L. Wadley, « Hans Gooszen, A Demographic History of the Indonesian Archipelago, 1880-1942 »Moussons [En ligne], 2 | 2000, mis en ligne le 15 janvier 2020, consulté le 16 octobre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Reed L. Wadley

International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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