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Open Access The making and unmaking of tropical science: Dutch research on Indonesia, 1600-2000

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The making and unmaking of tropical science: Dutch research on Indonesia, 1600-2000

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The history of scientific research undertaken by Europeans in regions where they were the colonizing powers has been a popular and well researched topic for two decades now. A growing number of studies, with some preponderance of botany and medicine, have appeared on colonial and protocolonial science in the Americas and in Asia, and it seems likely that this is more than just a fad. However, scientific research by Europeans on and in the Indonesian archipelago does not figure prominently in this literature. Very few scholars working on Indonesia – with Lewis Pyenson (1989, 1998) as the main exception – have specialized in this potentially rewarding field. In order to give an impression of topics that could profitably be addressed, this article presents an overview, in very broad outline, of European – and particularly Dutch – scientific research on Indonesia during the last four centuries, with emphasis on the periods of the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, Dutch East India Company) and the Dutch colonial state.

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