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Open Access Descrying the bourgeoisie: Sugar, capital and state in the Netherlands Indies, circa 1840-1884

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Descrying the bourgeoisie: Sugar, capital and state in the Netherlands Indies, circa 1840-1884

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Any attempt to descry the existence of a significant colonial bourgeoisie in Java during the middle decades of the nineteenth century might appear futile. An old, and apparently still lingering, orthodoxy postulates a colonial state uniquely in thrall to a powerful bureaucracy: one that exercised so extensive a control over resources as to largely preclude bourgeois capital formation. On this reading, colonial proprietorship, notably in sugar, was seignorial in nature rather than bourgeois.

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