Subproject 1

Corruption in the era of the ‘ethical policy’: concessions to private businesses and labour regimes (1870s-1920s)

analyses the many debates about corruption that were related to a) the granting of concessions for plantations and mining activities, and b) the (mis)use of the rights and powers of these companies, as reflected in public debates and formal investigations, often, but not exclusively, in relation to labour conditions. The granting of concessions to establish a plantation (e.g. in sugar), increased from the 1860s onwards. The Indisch Mijn Reglement (1852/adjusted in 1873) gave rise to a series of new concessions in the mining industry, including for companies such as Billiton Company and Bataafse Petroleum Maatschappij/ Shell. Concessions are a relevant topic for our research objectives as they were relatively new, thus debates and investigation served to find out how concessions were used, but also to set norms (Van der Woud, 2008). Moreover, they were a special legality, a mixture of public and private, causing recurrent debates about how conflicting public and private tasks and interests should be balanced. Additionally, concessions caused conflicts and scandals, in terms of: the (favourable) conditions on which they were granted by the colonial administration to one entrepreneur, but not the other; arrangements that were made with local princes; recruitment policies and work conditions for (Chinese and Javanese) indentured labourers (Bosma, 2013; Lindblad, 1993). The ‘exorbitant’ profits that were made and how entrepreneurs (mis)used their powers in relation to their workers (including the policing powers they were often granted), were at the heart of a series of colonial scandals (e.g. Pangka-scandal 1860s, see Fasseur, 1992; Billiton-scandal 1882-1892, see Kroeze, 2011; Deli-scandal 1902, see Breman, 1987 and Rhemrev, 1902). The broader context is that of a dual process of extending colonial rule and promoting a liberal economic policy by opening-up the colony for entrepreneurs (Bosma, 2013; Van Zanden & Van Riel, 2000). Hence, corruption debate in this period can be investigated as a dual process of socio-political and economic norm-setting. Concessions and corruption also became an issue in precisely this period because of the emerging ‘ethische politiek’/’ethical policy’; i.e. the Dutch equivalent of the ‘civilising missions’, which aimed to morally develop and economically modernise colonies according to Western standards. These developments encouraged engaged debates about ‘mindere welvaart’/welfare policies, ethical obligations with respect to the indigenous population, societal responsibility and good governance (Legene & Waaldijk, 2009; Cribb, 1994; see also statistics published by the ‘Creutzberg group’ headed by Peter Boomgaard). However, debates about ‘corrupt concessions’ and the obligations of the ethical policy also show how different norms were upheld and conflicted: ‘local’ with ‘Western’ norms, business with political norms and legal with moral norms. These clashes are essential to understanding corruption and processes of norm-setting (Von Thiessen, 2009). Concrete, processes of granting concessions, political-administrative investigations into (mis)uses of concession-rights and related public/media debates will be analysed by looking at media sources, corporate, political and colonial archives, in the Netherlands and Indonesia. These Dutch cases will be internationally compared (Guignard, 2014; Saha, 2013; Huetz de Lemps, 2006).