A Benign Empire?
The Instrumentalisation of Abolitionism in the Moluccas, 1817-1879
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.
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