A Benign Empire?

The Instrumentalisation of Abolitionism in the Moluccas, 1817-1879


  • Philip Post Utrecht University




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.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Philip Post, Utrecht University

Philip Post is a PhD candidate at Leiden University and a Lecturer in Economic and Social History at Utrecht University. In his dissertation, he focuses on the mentality of Dutch colonial officials in the Moluccas in the period 1750-1870 and studies the continuities between the voc and the colonial State. He is also interested in the relationship between the Enlightenment and the Dutch colonial empire. He published among others: ‘Governors, Regents, and Rituals: an Exploration of Colonial Diplomacy in Ambon at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century’, Diplomatica 3:1 (2021) 74-94. DOI: https:// doi.org/10.1163/25891774-03010004 and ‘Kennis, macht en continuïteit. Tradities van kennisreproductie in de Molukken (1770-1820)’, Jaarboek De Achttiende Eeuw 54:1 (2022) 93-109. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5117/dae2022.006.post. E-mail: p.g.post@uu.nl.




How to Cite

Post, P. (2023). A Benign Empire? The Instrumentalisation of Abolitionism in the Moluccas, 1817-1879. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.51769/bmgn-lchr.12792