Javanese Wars of Succession

After decades of growing Dutch influence in Java, uncertainty as to the rightful succession to the dynastic throne of Mataram resulted in a series of wars for the crown. These wars provided the Dutch East India Company with an opportunity, and it seized control of Java.

Summary of Event

In 1595, the first expedition of the Dutch Republic sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to Indonesia, Indonesia then known as the East Indies, in order to gain some control of the trade Trade;Dutch East Indies in the region; they were after spices as well as gems and gold. When the Dutch arrived in mid-1596, their superior military capabilities inevitably interfered with the desire of the East Javanese state of Mataram Mataram, Indonesia to unify the islands of the archipelago. The Dutch East India Company Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostinidische Compagnie), formed in 1602, established the colony Colonization;Dutch of East Indies of Batavia Batavia, Indonesia (approximately coextensive with present-day Jakarta) Jakarta, Indonesia in north-central Java. By 1619, it was the main Dutch outpost in the region. The company then sought to extend its supremacy over the islands by concluding agreements with various local leaders so that it could build factories. By 1678, Amangkurat II of Mataram, worried over the questionable loyalty of his vassal states, decided to make peace with the Dutch by ceding several territories to them. Thereafter, the Dutch continued a divide-and-rule policy. [kw]Javanese Wars of Succession (1704-1757)
[kw]Succession, Javanese Wars of (1704-1757)
[kw]Wars of Succession, Javanese (1704-1757)
Dutch Empire
Dutch East Indies
East Indies, Dutch
Javanese Wars of Succession (1705-1757)
[g]Indonesia;1704-1757: Javanese Wars of Succession[0190]
[g]Southeast Asia;1704-1757: Javanese Wars of Succession[0190]
[c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1704-1757: Javanese Wars of Succession[0190]
[c]Expansion and land acquisition;1704-1757: Javanese Wars of Succession[0190]
[c]Government and politics;1704-1757: Javanese Wars of Succession[0190]
Amangkurat III
Puger, Pangéran
Hoorn, Joan van
Amangkurat IV
Pakubuwono II
Pakubuwono III
Imhoff, Gustaaf Willem van
Mossel, Jacob

Meanwhile, Surapati, a Balinese man whom the Dutch had enslaved to work at Batavia, had earlier escaped from Batavia, formed a band of Balinese renegades, and terrorized a part of the countryside that Amangkurat II had ceded to the Dutch. He finally formed a kingdom in territories claimed by Mataram. Surapati thus posed a threat to the Dutch, but they had other priorities and left him alone at first.

In 1703, Amangkurat II of Mataram died. He was succeeded by his son, Amangkurat III, known to the Dutch as Sunan Mas. The new ruler was determined to drive out the Dutch, so he formed an alliance with Surapati. Sunan Mas also quarreled with his uncle Pangéran Puger, who in turn fled to the north-central enclave of Semarang near Batavia and sought Dutch protection.

In 1704, Joan van Hoorn became governor general of the Dutch East Indies. On learning that Sunan Mas had allied with Surapati against the Dutch East India Company and that several Mataram chieftains favored Puger in the ongoing civil war, van Hoorn supplied a Dutch force to assist Puger, whom he recognized as the rightful ruler of Mataram, thereby beginning the First Javanese War of Succession. The Dutch were victorious, and in 1705, Puger was installed as Pakubuwono I of Mataram. Amangkurat III, still claiming the rightful kingship, was driven out of Mataram to the court of Surapati in Surabaya, Surabaya, Indonesia at the eastern end of Java.

The Dutch exacted a price for supporting Pakubuwono I over Amangkurat III, however. In addition to requiring him to cede much of Mataram’s domain, they forced Pakubuwono to sign a treaty (1705) granting the Dutch a monopoly on all trade involving Mataram and to accept a Dutch garrison in the Mataram capital of Kartasura, south of Batavia. In 1706, the Dutch decided to eliminate both Amangkurat and Surapati. They attacked Surabaya, killing Surapati, and in 1707 they routed the forces of Surapati’s sons and Amangkurat; the latter was sent into exile in Ceylon the following year.

The Dutch were nearly supreme on Java by 1719, when they eliminated most of Surapati’s partisans after a five-year struggle. However, Pakubuwono I died in that year, sparking the Second Javanese War of Succession. The Dutch named Pakubuwono’s son king as Amangkurat IV, whereupon his brothers rose in revolt. After four years of conflict, the Dutch were able to eliminate the rebellion. The rebel leaders were sent into exile in 1723, some to Ceylon and the rest to the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope. By this time, the Dutch had gained military control of most of Java, though they permitted local rulers to maintain traditional courts and the appearance of sovereignty.

In 1726, Amangkurat IV died, and Pakubuwono II acceded to the throne. He ruled peacefully for the better part of two decades, but in 1743, anti-Dutch factions within Mataram rebelled against him. The Dutch came to Pakubuwono II’s defense, however, putting down the rebellion and forcing the king to sign a treaty that ceded to them the rest of Java, as well as the island of Madura. Their hold on the region was more secure than ever.

In 1749, the Third Javanese War of Succession began when Pakubuwono II agreed on his deathbed to cede his kingdom to the Dutch. His successor, Pakubuwono III, was then crowned by Dutch governor general Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff. The Mataram chiefs, infuriated that the Dutch claimed the power to crown their ruler, decided to support a rebellion to install the new king’s brother, Mangkubumi, in his place. At the same time, a rebellion also broke out in Bantam, on the western end of Java. With Dutch forces thus divided by the simultaneous uprisings, Mangkubumi was able to advance until his nephew Mas Said made a bid to take over leadership.

In 1755, Dutch governor general Jacob Mossel signed a treaty accepting Pakubuwono III as the ruler of Surakarta, on the eastern part of Mataram, and conceding Jogjakarta on the west to Mangkubumi, who was given the title of Sultan Hamengkubuwono I. The Dutch were then free to concentrate their forces on Mas Said, who surrendered in the Treaty of Salatiga (1757) Salatiga, Treaty of (1757) ; under its terms, Mas Said accepted the dominance of the Dutch East India Company in exchange for agreeing to be its vassal in control of a small part of Mataram, later known as the Mangku-Negorose Territory.

Officially, the Treaty of Salatiga marked the end of the Javanese Wars of Succession. A vestige of resistance to Dutch control of Java, nevertheless, remained. Balinese supporters of Surapati still controlled the easternmost part of the island until 1772, when the Dutch finally subdued them. Resistance to the Dutch was over, at least for a while.


Although the Dutch were initially interested only in commercial wealth on Java and elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago, they needed a friendly relationship with the local population to operate efficiently. By supporting one ruler over another in the first of three civil wars, they were able to make the victor dependent upon them militarily. Resistance continued in two later wars of succession, but the Dutch wiped out all opposition and thus assured themselves firm and stable control over the resources of Java. Soon, they controlled the rest of the archipelago. One benefit of establishing peaceful relations with their vassal sultans was that they began to cultivate coffee and sugar and to build roads to carry the cash crops to port.

Throughout the first half of the eighteenth century, the Dutch East India Company was able to dominate Java by force, but these military actions proved costly, and the company Economics;East Indies trade ended up operating at a net loss as a result. Its financial losses only grew worse as it increasingly competed with English and French colonies in the region. Holland Holland;and Dutch East India Company[Dutch East India Company] was thus forced to subsidize the company, and in 1799 the Dutch East India Company’s charter was allowed to expire, leaving the government in Holland in charge of Java and the rest of the Dutch East Indies as a colonial possession. Holland’s role in the wars of succession had left the Javanese with a bitter hatred of the Dutch, however, and this hatred later spurred bloody anticolonial rebellions. Indonesia finally gained its independence in 1949.

Further Reading

  • Cribb, Robert. Historical Atlas of Indonesia. London: Curzon Press, 1997. More than three hundred full-color maps with detailed accompanying text.
  • Hall, D. G. E. A History of South-East Asia. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981. The most comprehensive and detailed political history of Southeast Asia, covering the earliest migrations and states up to the 1950’s.

  • Indonesian Traditional Polities. .html. Accessed October 12, 2005. Useful annotated tables of the rulers of all the various states and domains within what is now Indonesia.
  • Ricklefs, M. C. A History of Modern Indonesia Since c. 1200. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001. Draws on sources in both Indonesian and Western languages.
  • Taylor, Jean Gelman. Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. An updated history of Indonesia, offering a historical overview from the prehistoric period to the early twenty-first century.

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