French and British interregnum in the Dutch East Indies

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French and British interregnum in the Dutch East Indies were a relatively short period of French and followed by British interregnum on the Dutch East Indies that took place between 1806 and 1815. The French ruled between 1806 and 1811. The British took over for 1811 to 1815, and transferred its control back to the Dutch in 1815.

The fall of the Netherlands to the French Empire and the dissolution of the Dutch East India Company led to some profound changes in the European colonial administration of the East Indies, as one of the Napoleonic Wars was fought in Java.[1] This period, which lasted for almost a decade, witnessed a tremendous change in Java, as vigorous infrastructure and defence projects took place, followed by battles, reformation and major changes of administration in the colony.


In 1800, Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC)) was declared bankrupt and nationalised by the Dutch government. As a result, its assets, which included seaports, storehouses, fortifications, settlements, lands and plantations in the East Indies were nationalised as a Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies. Based in Batavia (today Jakarta), the Dutch ruled most of Java (with exception of interior lands of Vorstenlanden Mataram and Banten), conquering coastal West Sumatra, wrestled former Portuguese colonies in Malacca, the Moluccas, South and North Celebes also in West Timor. Among these Dutch possessions, Java was the most important one, as the production of cash-crops and Dutch-controlled plantations was located there.

On the other side on the world, Europe was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. A conquest and revolution were shifting the politics, relations and dynamics among the European empires and nations, which affected their colonies in the Far East. The Netherlands under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, oversaw the Batavian Republic become the Commonwealth of Batavia and then dissolved and replaced by the Kingdom of Holland, a French puppet kingdom ruled by Napoleon's third brother Louis Bonaparte (Lodewijk Napoleon). As a result, the East Indies during this time were treated as a proxy French colony, administrated through Dutch intermediary.

The power struggle and rivalry between France and Britain had spilled to other parts of the world, involving the colonies of each empires in Americas, Africa, as well as in Asia. Since 1685 the British had consolidated their rule in Bencoolen on western coast of Sumatra, and also had established their rule in Malaccan strait, the island of Singapore and Penang. As the British coveted the Dutch colonies in the region, the French-controlled East Indies was bracing for the predicted incoming British invasion.