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Famine in a land of plenty: plight of a rice-growing community in Java, 1883-84.

Explaining the economic underpinnings of peasant rebellion in colonial Southeast Asia, lames Scott argues that, with the possible exception of the Dutch East Indies, especially lava, where the Dutch colonial state seemingly preserved, or rather 'fossilised', the agrarian community and ensured its subsistence needs, the colonial era in Southeast Asia was 'marked by an almost total absence of any provisions for the maintenance of a minimal income while, at the same time, the commercialisation of the agrarian economy was steadily stripping away most of the traditional forms of social insurance'. (1) Consequently, Scott seems to argue, there were no severe shortages of food let alone famines in lava, and other Indonesian islands, under colonial rule, even if localised instances of erosion in subsistence guarantees provoked peasant rebellion. (2) Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, says Scott, 'the spectre of hunger and dearth, and occasionally famine' were brought to the 'gates of every village' as a result of 'lilliputian plots, traditional techniques, the vagaries of weather and the tribute in cash, labor, and kind exacted by the state' under colonial rule. (3)

Indeed, a senior Dutch official writing an account of the improved well-being of indigenous people in Java under the liberal colonial economic policy in the early 1920s proudly claimed that Java had been free of famines, which plagued India under the British colonial rule, as a result of safeguards to ensure the food supply. (4) Famines do not appear in the annals of Indonesian economic history after 1870, in striking contrast to the famines, scarcity of food and the low standard of living, which allegedly affected the Javanese in the previous four decades. (5) The famines in east Indramayu (west Java) in 1843-44 and in Demak and Grobogan (central Java) in 1849-50 are notorious events as pernicious consequences of state enterprise in commercial agriculture in Java in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. (6) The known episodes of famine in the Dutch East Indies after 1870 occurred on the island of Lombok in 1891-99, just after Lombok came under colonial rule, and during 1938-40, with devastating consequences for the local population. (7) Those famines were insignificant, to judge by Scott's remarks made in the context of major devastating famines in Indochina in the 1940s, which was a terrible subsistence crisis even in comparison with the 'Great Bengal famine' of 1943. (8)

Curiously enough, all known episodes of famine in the Dutch East Indies occurred in primary rice-growing regions and in times of great pressure on peasants imposed by the colonial state or its agents. The famine in east Indramayu (west Java) in 1843-44 was, for instance, precipitated by a sudden change in the existing arrangements for peasants to dispose of their rice for sale, disrupting arrangements of credit and food supplies. The local peasants were accustomed to sell an increasing portion of the rice crop to satiate the demand for rice in coastal towns from the 1820s onwards. A group of Chinese rice traders had built a network of credit supply to procure rice from the peasants, which served the needs of peasants and supplied local markets with a large amount of rice for over two decades, when a Dutch entrepreneur secured a monopoly of the rice crop in east Indramayu through his close association with the colonial administration. The peasants faced a serious problem because much of their rice crop was taken away from them, disrupting food supplies until the next harvest through credit from the Chinese traders, who were replaced by the new rice mill owner, causing sudden starvation and depopulation of considerable magnitude. (9) The Demak-Grobogan (central Java) famine in 1848-49 was precipitated by assiduous collection of land rent from peasants against the background of increasing landlessness, and shortage of cattle and money income. It was a rice-exporting region into the early 1830s, where the local indigenous supra-village elite had curtailed land available for peasants, causing landlessness among people, who had no other source of income to buy rice. A drought in 1848-49 set in motion a harvest failure, which was aggravated by shortage of cattle, leading to a second crop failure in 1849-50. The colonial officials collected the land rent assiduously regardless of the mounting difficulties of peasants, reducing whatever purchasing power peasants had and causing widespread starvation and depopulation. (10) The Lombok famine of 1938-40 occurred against a background of sudden efforts by the colonial state to commercialise rice production by dismantling the existing arrangements for credit and the sale of rice, reminiscent of the circumstances that led to the famine of Indramayu Regency in 1843-44. These few episodes of famine may not necessarily contradict Scott's view, but they certainly suggest that the colonial state occasionally lost sight of its broad policy of safeguarding subsistence needs, when the interests of the state or its private agents required a greater share of agricultural produce from peasants for sale. This view is further illustrated by a subsistence crisis in yet another primary rice-producing area in Java in the late nineteenth century.

Java experienced several episodes of unusually low rice production in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, notably in 1881, 1883, 1893 and 1902, when both India and China experienced devastating famines causing heavy crisis mortality. (11) Those crop failures were a result of natural calamities, mostly unusually prolonged drought, caused by the increased El Nino-Southern Oscillation in Asia and Africa. (12) But Java has considerable variation in rainfall, which precludes severe droughts precipitating famine, as it was the case in India, so a widespread fall in agricultural production is unlikely to occur throughout the island. Indeed, the number of droughts in Java recognised as El Nino events is small and confined to 1877-78 and 1899-1902, and not all of them caused subsistence crises. (13) But drought proved a catalyst for a severe subsistence crisis in a small area of Java, although the entire island was affected by drought, in 1883-84.

Rice production in west Indramayu, a primary rice-producing area in West Java, declined sharply in 1883-84, and the local population had very little rice for consumption after sacrificing the greater part of its rice crop to pay the land rent. The inhabitants of the famine-stricken area, who were rice producers and had very little or no money income to buy rice, endured great hardship. The subsistence crisis, if the reported statistics are to be believed, led to the displacement of some 3,000 people for a couple of years, and many more people who remained in their villages starved, but crisis mortality was very low if it occurred at all. The local peasants usually had enough rice to last from one harvest to the next and kept some rice in reserve in village rice barns as a contingency measure. The rice production had been falling since 1880 in the wake of devastating cattle disease that swept across West Java, and dry weather in 1883 is said to have severely reduced the rice crop, but these circumstances do not necessarily explain how the existing subsistence safeguards collapsed, reducing a large number of people in west Indramayu to sudden starvation and hardship.

The annual report on colonial affairs acknowledged that the fall in rice production in many parts of Java in 1883 was due to the 'exceptional drought', which caused a large area of wet-rice land to be left uncultivated. There were local factors such as the destruction of villages and deaths caused by the eruption of Krakatau, and the virulent cattle disease that affected most of west Java, and a disease of the rice crop that was particularly destructive in central and east Java. A great deal of wet-rice land was left uncultivated and the land cultivated under rice yielded a poor crop everywhere in Java, forcing the government to implement various short-term measures such as restricting rice exports and importing a considerable amount of rice from Siam, Saigon and Bali to ensure enough food to avoid a major crisis in food supply. (14) But there was no serious shortage of rice, let alone a famine anywhere in Java except in west Indramayu in 1883-84.

The plight of people affected by the famine in west Indramayu was worsened by the fact that they were, as shown below, pure and simplly subsistence peasants completely isolated from local markets, whereas people in most parts of Java were commercialised to a considerable degree and had ample means of survival in times of economic hardship, which minimised the danger of dearth, hunger and famine. While it is true that the production of food crops was not seriously threatened by that of agricultural crops for export, contra Scott and Geertz, it was probably commercialisation of the economy, including diversification of economic activity, which eradicated famine in most parts of Java under colonial rule. Peasants encountering crop failures could find some income from non-agricultural work while more and more people without access to wet-rice land--some 35 per cent of all workers--earned enough to live on without undue hardship by 1880. (15) The state of affairs in areas producing rice for sale, such as west Indramayu was, however, rather different, for the entire population was involved in rice production and very little if any diversification of economic activity was to be found, and no one was particularly careful to ensure subsistence of rice producers, especially when the market economic forces superseded the interests of peasants.

It is difficult to explain the famine in west Indramayu in terms of Amartya Sen's sudden deterioration of 'exchange entitlements'. While starvation is a regular phenomenon in many societies, according to Sen, it does not necessarily imply famine, whereas famines cause starvation, which suggests a general decline in the level of food consumption. Famine is unequal in the way it affects people, although a degree of levelling in the predicament of people affected by famine is found under certain circumstances. (16) The distinction between the predicament of different segments of people in a society affected by famine is, Sen argues, a matter of the political economy of famine, which can be described as a result of the breakdown in exchange entitlements or people's 'ability to command food through the legal means available in the society, including the use of production possibilities, trade opportunities, entitlements vis-a-vis the state, and other methods of acquiring food', as exemplified by the Bengal famine in 1943-44. (17) Sen's hypothesis assumes a commercialised economy such as Bengal, where for 'those who do not grow food themselves (e.g., artisans or barbers), or those who grow food but do not possess the food they grow (e.g., cash-wage agricultural labourers), the vagaries of the market can have a decisive influence on their ability (and that of their families) to survive'. (18) It does not satisfactorily explain famines in societies where the greater part of the population produced their food and the economy was only marginally commercialised.

Sen's 'general framework for analysing famines', explaining famine as a result of sudden rupture in 'endowments' with the consequence of inadequate food for various groups of people in a society, has been praised, and criticised. (19) According to some critics, its inability to consider famine from the perspective of 'redistributive class struggle', recognising the interplay of politics at different levels in society involving different groups of people, a crucial factor in understanding the famines in pre-modern societies, is a major shortcoming in Sen's approach. In explaining famines in the nineteenth century, as Mike Davis argues following Karl Polanyi and Michael Watts, it is necessary to understand them as a consequence of societies being drawn into the capitalist world economy, a process which undermines the existing norms and patterns of command over food, causing subsistence crises. (20)

The dynamics of famines reveal complexities in the way different groups of people negotiate their claims as market economic forces permeate through pre-modern economies to transfer agricultural products to the markets. Transferring a portion of agricultural production from peasants to markets via supra-village intermediaries could precipitate famine in subsistence peasant economies as they come under the influence of commercialisation, (21) exposing structural constraints in peasant economies invisible under normal circumstances, and disrupting the existing mechanisms to deal with the scarcity of food, as exemplified by the famine in west Indramayu in 1883-84. The course of events precipitating the famine and its effects are serendipitously recorded in detail, enabling us to come to face-to-face with famine victims and to see in unusual clarity how they coped with the situation.

It was the way in which an increasing portion of rice production was acquired for export while peasants were being completely shielded from the market economy, denying them any advantage of an alternative to producing rice and other crops for sale, which probably precipitated a famine against a background of drought and severe depletion of the cattle population in west Indramayu in 1883-84. Rice cultivation was the sole means of livelihood of people in the area, who were isolated from the adjacent areas, where economic activities were considerably diverse and provided people with plenty of opportunities to earn a money income. The inhabitants of west Indramayu received no pecuniary benefit from growing rice for sale because of the way surplus rice was expropriated from them by the landlords in lieu of land rent, and being shielded from rice trade in east Indramayu, where the majority of people managed to gain access to wet-rice land, albeit in small plots, which produced enough income from the sale of rice for people to live without hardship into the early 1900s. (22) So the mode of transferring surplus agricultural production to the market clearly determined the degree to which market economic forces affected Javanese peasants, creating communities of subsistence peasants living next to a thriving community of commercial rice-growing peasants with a greater degree of material prosperity.


The River Cimanuk flows across the Indramayu region, dividing it into two parts and irrigating a large area of land suitable for wet-rice agriculture on both sides of the ricer. Indramayu was one of the five regencies that comprised the Residency of Cirebon; the area to the east of Cimanuk River was under direct government control, whereas the area to the west of the river consisted of two private domains (particuliere landerijen) outside of government control (map 1). (23) In 1812, the British interim administration of lava sold two large tracts of land, Indramayu and Kandanghaur, as part of its efforts to raise revenue. (24) The landlords exercised full control over all affairs in their domains, much to the chagrin of Dutch colonial officials who resented the existence of semi-independent enclaves. Their relationship with the landlords of private domains was uneasy even at best of times, and particularly when something out of the ordinary occurred in the private domains, making official interference inevitable, as was the case after the subsistence crisis of 1883-84. (25)


The landlords of Indramayu and Kandanghaur domains were astute entrepreneurs, who realised the value of their property as a lucrative source of rice for sale. They encouraged local inhabitants to produce rice, subject to a land rent to be paid in kind and compulsory public services levied on all able-bodied men. The landlords supplied some funds for peasants to buy cattle and for irrigation projects in order to attract more people to bring new land under cultivation in the early decades of the nineteenth century. These measures apparently had some success, for the population rose in the 1830s and 1840s, probably as a result of people from the adjacent areas of Cirebon Residency moving into the private domains to avoid growing indigo and sugar on behalf of the government. (26) The population rose slowly over the next four decades, from 37,323 to 49,642 in Indramayu and 23,655 to 61,942 in Kandanghaur between 1840 and 1880. (27) There was plenty of virgin land so a commensurate increase in the area of wet-rice land (sawah) occurred on a par with the population increase and all peasant households had access to arable land in perpetuity. (28) Some peasant households with sufficient manpower and funds enlarged their holdings of wet-rice land and most peasant households appear to have possessed holdings of wet-rice land large enough to produce rice to feed a family of five people on average. People recalled that they produced enough rice to pay the land rent to the landlords and to support themselves from one harvest to the next well into the early 1870s.

The landlords were initially content with collecting one-fifth of rice production, mostly in paddy as allowed by law, and seldom allowed traders from the nearby Indramayu town, the centre of a flourishing rice trade, to visit the private domains. The local population consequently remained entrenched in a rather narrow subsistence economy, in striking contrast to the situation in most parts of Java, where diversification of economic activity provided means of livelihood outside agriculture for an increasing number of people in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. (29) This state of affairs produced a standard of living for people much lower in comparison with that in the adjacent areas of Cirebon Residency and caused serious difficulties in procuring food for the inhabitants of private domains in times of crop failure.

The famine

In April 1883, J. Faes, the head of local government of Cirebon Residency, informed his superiors in Batavia of a crop failure in west Indramayu; he felt that 'it is not entirely unreasonable to presume that the inhabitants of the private domains will be in a miserable state by the end of the year unless something is done to prevent it'. (30) The officials in Batavia were cautious in reacting to the news and asked for further information from the administrators of private domains and the local government. (31) The administrators reluctantly admitted that the prospects for the rice crop were bleak, but felt that the situation was not as serious as to cause widespread starvation and hardship for people, except in the districts of Lelea and Losarang in Kandanghaur domain, where the rice crop was likely to be meagre. (32) Several months later, the administrator of Indramayu private domain confidently reported that, 'it is true that people would not have a large rice crop this year, but it would be large enough to meet their needs so there is no great scarcity of food'. (33)

The official enquiries, however, revealed that the rice harvest in 1883 had fallen by almost half of the production three years previously. (34) 'There will be a great scarcity of food among people', wrote a local official summing up the situation, 'not only later this year, but also in the early months of next year', paving the way for 'hunger in the near future'. (35) This assessment was based on information from Kam Tjeng Bie, the Lieutenant of Chinese in Indramayu, who had seen during a recent visit to Losarang district, hundreds of men and women looking for edible roots to eat, a sure sign of the growing scarcity of food, while people elsewhere in Kandanghaur were equally desperate and walked a long way to find food. (36) In the light of mounting evidence of a major subsistence crisis, the central government found it difficult to remain quiet, especially after the management of the private domains admitted that there was a serious shortage of rice causing starvation among people, and ordered a thorough enquiry into the situation. (37) The central government was reluctant to interfere in the affairs of the two private domains, which were outside its jurisdiction anyway, because official interference could embarrass an influential Dutch nobleman cure politician who was one of the owners of Indramayu private domain. (38) The enquiry was entrusted to a senior officer, H.J. Heyting, who was asked to be discreet and not to provoke the management of the private domains. (39) Being greatly interested in Java's peasant economy, Heyting probed closely into the plight of the inhabitants of private domains, and collected information from nearly 250 households. (40) Heyting's report is unique even among the riches of colonial reports on Java, because of its unusually probing character into the material circumstances of individual peasant households and simple yet moving depiction of the struggle for survival of people in times of extreme hardship. (41) Heyting's sympathetic approach made people reveal to him the extent of their hardship in a candid manner. The statistics of the area planted under rice and rice production that Heyting procured from the administrators of private domains could have been contrived to some extent to hide the scale of the calamity, but they suggest a considerable decline m rice production between 1880 and 1883 (Table 1).

There was apparently little change in the area of sawah planted under rice in Indramayu between 1880 and 1883, but a quarter of the area of land planted under rice failed and rice production had halved by 1883. Indramayu reportedly suffered less than Kandanghaur, where the area of land planted under rice declined by 30 per cent, and three-quarters of the area of land planted with rice yielded just one-third of the rice crop in 1880. The poor rice crop, Heyting concluded, had a devastating effect on food supply, despite the administrators' optimistic claims that rice stocks at the district level were sufficient to last up to several months. (42)

The widespread scarcity of rice was, however, not a result of the poor harvest in 1883, for it was large enough to feed the local population if much of it had not been taken away from the peasants in the form of land rent. The peasants managed to retain only a small portion of rice crop after paying the land rent, collected in prime-quality rice, regardless of a poor rice harvest for the third successive year. (43) The administrators of private domains reportedly bought rice in the adjacent Cirebon and Majalengka Regencies, ostensibly to feed people during the current hardship, but probably to make up for the shortfall in exports caused by the meagre rice harvest in the private domains. (44) They were reluctant to provide rice to feed people and claimed that the existing stocks of rice in the stores were reserved for seed paddy. (45) Some peasants recalled with bitter resentment that, in the past the landlords supplied them with rice for consumption in times of hardship, but were now reluctant to do so because it would be difficult if not impossible for the peasants to repay their debts in the aftermath of a subsistence crisis. Some 5,400 ton of rice was estimated to have been available in the villages by early October 1883 and, according to Heyting's calculations, another 4,250 ton of rice should have been enough to feed the entire population until early June 1884. (46) There was no shortage of rice for sale, but people could not afford it. (47) Even in Losarang district, which was worst hit by the crop failure, rice was available for sale in local markets. (48) The price of rice was high and ranged from f.2.50 per pikul (62 kilogram) to f.3.00 per pikul in 1883, (49) too expensive for people who had little or no money even under normal circumstances.

People strove very hard to obtain some rice, ate just once a day to minimise the trouble of finding food, and left for the adjacent areas when all else failed. They preserved their rice supplies by eating other kinds of food so they would have some rice left until the beginning of the next wet season, but most peasants could not make the meagre rice supplies extend that far because their rice stocks had been very low. The peasant households with large plots of wet-rice land, cattle and the manpower to work land effectively had gathered a good rice crop, experienced no hardship in food supply and ate rice once or twice a day as usual. For instance, Janisem in the village of Alla Atta in Jatitujuh district had a reasonably good rice crop despite the drought, and had stocks of a little over 2 ton of rice to feed his family for another three months. (50) Masrib in the village of Cilandak in the district of Luwangamalang, who had 3.2 hectares of wet-rice land, managed to gather 53 ton of rice in 1882, but less, 35 ton of rice, in the following year; he still had 35 ton of rice in stock and could feed his family of eight people without any difficulty. (51) But most peasants were fast reaching the bottom of their rice barns. Sainten counted the number of days his family could eat rice twice a day and felt that his supplies would last for another three months. His family was small--only two small children--and required a small amount of rice; he had been working hard on his dry rice field that was due to yield within a month, so his family could afford to eat rice twice a day with vegetables and occasionally with fish. (52)

The peasant families without rice stocks obtained some rice in several ways. Dani, a landless villager in the village of Trusan in Pasekan district, who used to rent some land when he could afford it, had little rice left from his last crop, but his family ate rice twice a day because Dani managed to buy some rice with the money he earned from wage labour in Pasekan town. (53) Likewise, Dasan in the village of Sukadedah was engaged in petty trade, the income from which enabled Dasan, his wife and child to eat rice twice a day with vegetables and occasionally with fish. (54) Sepa, a widow in the village of Plumbon in Pasekan district, sold vegetables from her house-yard and participated in harvesting work for others, which enabled her to eat rice twice a day. (55) Sanjem, a widow in the village of Bodas in district Ujung, earned 15 cents a day from pounding paddy, which was just enough to provide both her son and herself a meal of rice twice a day supplemented by yam. (56) The widow Rasa in the village of Kerticala in district Ujung, saddled with the burden of supporting her grandson in addition to two grown-up daughters, earned a little rice from doing odd jobs while one of her daughters also brought home more rice and a little money earned from pounding paddy in Indramayu town. (57)

Many peasants were fortunate enough to eat once or twice a day from working for others or selling something. Income from the wage labour of one person was insufficient to buy rice for a big family, in which case both the husband and wife worked, sometimes together but often at different places. For instance, Lawen himself worked in Indramayu town while his wife earned something from working in the village. (58) Desperate to find food, Armidem walked a long way to Pamanukan, while his wife sold leaves of all sorts to obtain food for her large family of 11 people including six children; she did not know when her husband would come home and her house-yard produced nothing that could be sold or exchanged for rice. (59) Wage labour, selling fruit, leaves and roots gathered from the jungle, carrying sand or water from the Cimanuk River to Indramayu town provided just enough money to buy rice for a family for two meals. Sometimes it was not enough as found by Walizan, whose family consisted of his wife, two children and two brothers. Walizan worked for others during the rice-cultivating period; his daily income of three kati (0.62 kilogram) rice and his brother's income of two kati (0.41 kilogram) of rice was inadequate to feed the family with rice twice a day so they ate rice only once a day. (60)

People who lived in remote villages of Kandanghaur private domain, where the opportunities to earn any money income were scarce, ate yam and leaves in desperation in order to survive. Eating yam was a mark of extreme poverty. Poor old villagers like Aburti and his wife ate yam when they could not obtain a little rice from their neighbours or from their children who lived elsewhere. (61) Sanjem, a poor widow, worked hard to earn some rice to mix with yam gathered by her family members. (62) The old and poor villagers figured prominently among the starving. They could no longer rely on the charity of neighbours or even family members, as in the case of old Kamasi whose children lived far away. (63) The successive crop failures and poor food supply had weakened the bonds of mutual help and disposition for charity among the villagers.

The population statistics compiled by the administrators of two private domains suggesting rapid recovery from the subsistence crisis should be treated with a modicum of caution (Table 2). It may well be that people who left their homes for shelter elsewhere began returning once the worst part of the subsistence crisis was over, but it is very unlikely that population rose as fast in a few years as suggested by the statistics. The subsistence crisis probably displaced 5,000 people and brought hunger, misery and illness to more people, although its toll of human lives is likely to have been small. There was considerable population movement between the two private domains and adjacent areas. Moving out in times of difficulty was a common practice in Java, but population movement on a large scale had become less common in the second half of the nineteenth century. This explains why local officials were surprised, and even unprepared for, a large exodus of people from the two private domains at the onset of the subsistence crisis.

The crisis would have caused a considerable stir in colonial political discourse had it not occurred in a region outside government control and had not the landlords of private domains wielded considerable influence. The central government of the Indies was vexed with the head of the local government of Cirebon Residency, J. Faes, a severe critic of the institution of private domains in west Java, who probed into the subsistence crisis; Frederick van s'Jacob, Governor-General (1881-84), discharged him even before ascertaining the truth of the subsistence crisis. (64) Frederick van s'Jacob was a strong supporter of free enterprise in Java and, as a former free sugar manufacturer himself, he may have disliked officials interfering in the management of a private enterprise. (65) The enquiry into the subsistence crisis was conducted in a quiet manner without much cooperation from the managers of the two domains and the results of the enquiry were kept secret. The usually vociferous press in the Indies remained silent as well, implying pressure from the government. The landlords escaped with a request to do more for the well-being of inhabitants in their domains. The colonial state acted in collusion with the Ministry of Colonies to prevent the subsistence crisis in Indramayu and Kandanghaur private domains becoming a public scandal.

Agents of crisis

The migrants from Kandanghaur who sought shelter in Kerrawang admitted that the persistent dry weather severely affected the rice crop of 1883-84; the administrators of private domains also stressed the drought as the cause of the subsistence crisis. (66) The 'lean rice crop is entirely a result of the unusually dry weather in the last wet season', said van der Veen, who was in charge of Kandanghaur, while his colleague in Indramayu, Jellinghaus, observed that 'this year rice fields have badly yielded as a result of the prolonged drought', adding further that the damage done by mice had also affected the crop. (67) Bad weather had always been something of a red herring in official explanations of crop failure or falling agricultural production in Java. In the present case, it was an effort to prevent a thorough investigation into the subsistence crisis, although not necessarily a false claim, for the wet season of 1882-83 was reportedly unusually dry. The wet-season rainfall in the Indramayu-Kandanghaur area did not show significant enough variation to cause a local drought, but low rainfall in the entire coastal belt from Kerrawang to Cirebon made rice cultivation vulnerable to drought. (68) The rice fields located on the banks of the Cimanuk River were less vulnerable to the vagaries of climate, but arable land located further away from the river did not get enough water, except when the water level in the river was high in the wet season. (69) In any case, the peasants in Kandanghaur private domain could depend on irrigation facilities to a lesser extent, and were consequently exposed to drought whenever the wet-season rainfall was inadequate or late. The drought probably reduced the area of sawah harvested by nearly a quarter, but a single crop failure does not necessarily cause widespread hardship and hunger. In fact, rice production had been falling since 1880 as a result of the devastating cattle disease, identified as typhus fever, which decimated the cattle population in West Java. (70)

The cattle disease first appeared in the private domains of Simplicitas in Meester-Cornelis in early 1879, presumably brought in by cattle imported from Sumatra, soon spread to the vicinity of Batavia, and appeared in Kerrawang Residency towards the end of 1879. (71) The disease spread eastwards early the following year as a result of the regular movement of cattle out of Kerrawang Residency into Kandanghaur over the swamps, where guarding the fence built to prevent the movement of cattle was slack to facilitate the ploughing of wet-rice land. (72) Thereafter it was difficult to monitor the movement of cattle from one village to another by peasants who were either unaware of the danger, or anxious to save their cattle from the disease. 'It would be impossible to contain the disease', a local official remarked after reporting one incident of moving infected cattle, 'as long as the movement of cattle between the infected and uninfected villages continues unabated'. (73) The peasants were careless in allowing their cattle to wander around looking for fodder and water, a quest that often brought them into contact with the infected cattle. (74) The local government felt justified in slaughtering cattle in the private domains to avoid a major economic disaster spreading eastwards. Slaughtering cattle began in earnest in early March 1881, and the cattle population had sharply declined by July, due either to the disease or culling of cattle. In Lelea and Losarang districts, for instance, the cattle population declined respectively from 4,687 and 7,810 in 1880 to 1,452 and 1,977 in July 1881. The decline in cattle population in Kandanghaur domain was far greater--from 23,864 in 1880 to 4,906 in July 1881--than in Indramayu domain, where it declined from 8,868 to 2,037 during the same period. (75) It was a major disaster for cattle owners, who received compensatory payments soon after the slaughter of their cattle, but did not receive any compensation for cattle killed by the disease. The peasants could not buy cattle immediately after they received compensation, for they were hard pressed for money to buy food, and in any case the movement of cattle was prohibited. The destruction of cattle had a devastating effect on rice cultivation; Heyting estimated that, as a result of the lack of means to plough the wet-rice land, a little over one-quarter of the area of land remained fallow in 1881. (76) So it is not surprising that the area of land planted under rice and rice production declined considerably during the next few years. (77)

The peasants usually had personal rice stocks and saved some rice in village rice barns as well, to safeguard their survival under difficult circumstances. This practice had been abandoned in some villages due to frequent poor rice crops in previous years. It amounted to 22,892 tons of un-husked rice or paddy in Indramayu and 22,800 tons of paddy in Kandanghaur in 1875, (78) and it was hardly greater five years later (Table 1). In fact, the local peasantry had been trying to maintain a precarious balance between population and food supply, which probably reached a critical level by 1880, against the background of falling rice production and increasing expropriation of rice by the landlords.

Dynamics of subsistence peasant economy

The population of west Indramayu, according to the statistics supplied by administrators rose steadily between 1850 and 1880, doubling it in three decades but rising at a slower pace in Indramayu in comparison with Kandanghaur (Table 3).

The rapid population growth in the two private domains was not unusual by Java's standard, for the population of Java as a whole rose at the rate of 1.5 per cent a year in the nineteenth century. (79) The dynamics of population growth in Java are notoriously difficult to ascertain due to the paucity of data, which more often than not encourages scholars to speculate on slender evidence. Therefore it is fortunate to have some information on matters such as household formation among the inhabitants of Indramayu and Kandanghaur private domains at the time of the famine, which reveals the dynamics of population growth of a predominantly subsistence peasant community (Table 4).

Most households Heyting investigated consisted of married couples, because it was common practice to establish a household after marriage; only a small number of householders--16 per cent of all households--consisted of single men and women, some of whom may well have postponed matrimony under the current difficult circumstances. The incidence of marriage was high, 19 marriages per 1,000 people, compared with 16 marriages per 1,000 people elsewhere in West Java. (80) Young men married and formed households when their means of livelihood as subsistence farmers was assured. (81) This involved obtaining a piece of wet-rice land, agricultural tools, cattle and seed in addition to a dwelling, all of which required funds. The majority of peasant families in west Indramayu apparently did not find it hard to provide funds for their grown-up sons to set up new households upon marriage. Many households consisted of nuclear families, i.e., husband, wife and children, and the average household size was small, 4.1 persons per household. If the mean household size was bigger than that it invariably contained relatives. (82) The small average household size in the early 1880s does not necessarily imply low marital fertility, as observed in pre-industrial Europe, (83) for the proportion of children to total population in the two private domains rose from 44 per cent in 1855 to 49 per cent in 1870, and even a decade later it was still 49 per cent, according to Heyting's survey. (84) The data suggest a regular increase in natural fertility of an agrarian population capable of sustaining itself without straining the resources at its disposal in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. By 1880, many villages had twice as many people and the per capita area of arable land had declined a little, notwithstanding the peasants' efforts to extend the area of arable land, in comparison with the situation three decades previously, causing a slight fall in per capita area of arable land practically everywhere in the two private domains. The situation had probably reached a critical level by 1880, for it was increasingly difficult for people to maintain a satisfactory level of subsistence after fulfilling their obligations to the landlords (Table 5).

It is reasonable to assume that, even with restrained reproduction as suggested by the average family size, rice production could barely keep abreast with the rising population. The food supply of peasant households was assured as long as rice production was stable and the peasants had generous stocks of rice left after paying the land rent. They probably found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet with the rice harvest increasing slowly vis-a-vis the increasing demands of the landlords. The risk of subsistence crises was consequently high, because people had no other source of income to enable them to survive being confined in a narrow subsistence rice economy. The inhabitants of west Indramayu, in contrast to their peers in other private domains in Java, produced nothing but rice; only the inhabitants of coastal villages in Kandanghaur were fishermen while some people in the villages nearby Indramayu town were engaged in handicrafts for living. (85)

The proliferation of non-agricultural economic activities, income from which raised purchasing power, arguably made people less vulnerable to starvation elsewhere in Java after 1850. In most parts of Java peasants were engaged in various non-agricultural economic activities in order to earn some money income, and an increasing number of landless people were able to earn their livelihood through wage labour, domestic industry, petty trade and other paid work in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. (86) Even in remote parts of central Java, people had become accustomed to sell some agricultural crops and products of cottage industries, as the economy became monetised and people's increasing purchasing power generated a market for a wide range of commodities. (87) Therefore peasants with a smaller rice crop and non-agricultural workers had enough money to buy food and did not experience starvation let alone famine. The effects of harvest failure in west Indramayu in 1883-84 were evidently exacerbated by the low purchasing power of people confined within a narrow subsistence economy. Nearly half of the peasant families Heyting encountered were engaged in some income-earning activity due to their present economic hardship, but they usually had very little opportunity to earn a money income from non-agricultural activities.

To make matters worse, the landlords had been extracting more and more rice in lieu of land rent, leaving less and less rice for people to live on from one harvest to another. Increasing expropriation of rice by landlords was hardly conducive for peasants to raise rice production beset as they were with constraints such as poor irrigation facilities and heavy compulsory public services. In the eyes of the peasants, the landlords' persistent efforts to collect more and more prime quality rice was the major factor for their present predicament, a view Heyting found justified after scrutinising the way land rent was assessed and collected.

Tax burden

'The misery people are now experiencing is ascribed to the cattle disease and persistent dry weather, but the major factor of people's misery is self-interest of the landlords', wrote J. Faes, referring to the arbitrary ways in which the land rent was collected. (88) Even under adverse circumstances such as drought and cattle disease, according to Faes, people would not have suffered so much had not the landlords collected the land rent in rice instead of paddy as stipulated by law. His views were vindicated by Heyting's findings, which established that it was not only that landlords collected a rent higher than allowed by law but that the village and supra-village officials also abused collection of the land rent to their advantage.

The landlords were well aware of the potential commercial value of their investment and lost no time in making arrangements to collect the land rent in rice. The area of wet-rice land was small but it yielded a good crop in the early 1800S. (89) The landlords probably derived a considerable profit from selling rice in Batavia, where the price of rice remained high for well over a decade notwithstanding periodic fluctuations (90) They soon observed that it was even more lucrative to export rice to Europe. The bulk of rice exported from Java to the Netherlands, which amounted to over 10,000 tons a year on average in the nineteenth century, came from west Indramayu. (91) It was a highly profitable business for the landlords whose initial outlay of capital had long been recovered and whose future profits were assured with very little expense. The canals, dams, roads and bridges in the private domains were all built and maintained by the compulsory public labour services of people. The landlords left the peasants alone as long as they paid the land rent in superior quality rice.

The landlords were entitled to a share of the 'produce of the soil', a tax consistent with 'law, and with the established usage of the country' under the original conditions of the sale of lands. (92) But what portion of agricultural production ought to be taxed was not stipulated, for the limited scope for exploitation of private domains allowed by law was considered sufficient to discourage the landlords from excessive exploitation of people. (93) The landlords, however, blatantly ignored the regulations, which led to widespread unrest among people, forcing the government to stipulate in 1817 that the landlords should not exact any more than one-fifth of the rice crop. (94) This piece of legislation too had little effect on the landlords, who allegedly exacted a large portion of agricultural production ranging from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. (95)

A new set of regulations subsequently stipulated that a moderate rent of one-fifth of rice production should be collected in paddy. (96) There was, however, no supervision of assessment and payment of the land rent. The landlords continued to collect one-fifth of the rice crop as stipulated, and found it more profitable to collect the land rent in superior quality polished rice, export of which brought considerable profits, rather than in paddy that had to be milled at their own expense. The land rent consequently amounted to 1.5 kati (0.62 kilogram) of polished rice per square rood of wet-rice land, which comprised less than one-fifth of the yield of poor land and almost one-tenth of the yield of good land. (97) By collecting the rent in polished rice the landlords are said to have raised it by 60 per cent. (98) In monetary terms, the rent amounted to f.25.00 per 0.7 hectare (one bouw) of wet-rice land, or three times the average land rent in east Indramayu. (99)

The central government had ostensibly sanctioned collection of the land rent in rice, provided all such agreements were made with the consent of the peasants and registered by the local government. (100) The local government's conscience was occasionally pricked by what it regarded as an unfair method of collecting the land rent, but it dared not interfere with the existing arrangements. (101) The inhabitants of west Indramayu protested in vain against the arbitrary method of collecting the land rent, (102) for any criticism of the land rent raised the ire of the central government. Faes' view that the amendment of regulations concerning the land rent was a flagrant breach of law made him unpopular with his superiors in Batavia. (103) In an effort to redress peasants' grievances over the abuses in collection in land rent, local officials perhaps exaggerated the abuses in their reports to the central government, hoping it would ask the landlords to look into the matter. They rejected those claims and insisted that the landlords had the right to exact the land rent in rice in accordance with the amended regulations. (104)

Peasants had no control over assessment of the land rent conducted by the village head and his assistants. They measured wet-rice land once every three years, made a test harvesting of several units of a holding of wet-rice land, and accordingly estimated the size of the harvest of the entire holding and assessed its rent. (105) This method of land rent assessment was prone to mistakes and abuse by village officials, who were affluent peasants chosen by the administrators of private domains and had no loyalty to their fellow peasants. (106) The village officials drove a hard bargain in assessment of the land rent and made no concessions, except to their cronies as evinced by numerous complaints by peasants.

The assessment of land rent was favourable to affluent peasants and a burden to the majority of peasants, whose rice crop was small due to the poor quality of land and insufficient resources to cultivate it effectively. Their difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that the land rent had to be paid in full grain rice, to obtain which a large amount of paddy had to be sacrificed. This was not a major problem in times of good harvests, peasants admitted, for they could achieve a favourable ratio of rice to paddy. When the rice crop was poor in quality as well as in quantity, however, payment of the land rent required most if not all of the rice crop to obtain the due amount of rice in full grain. The end result was widespread discrepancies in payment of the land rent and many peasants paid more than they should have paid according to the regulations. This practice was so widespread that it could not have resulted from village officials applying different standards to suit the local conditions. It was, as Heyting observed, 'due to the unjust and arbitrary method of test harvesting. Test harvesting of one square rood of land is not a reliable measure of the yield, but a convenient way for the petty native officials involved in collection of the land rent to derive personal benefits.' (107)

The village officials, according to Heyting, pocketed the difference between what peasants should have paid and what was exacted from them, which explains considerable variations in the land rent levied on the same amount of rice in one village. For instance, Patman and Asibah, both inhabitants of the village of Selur, each harvested 3.16 ton of paddy, but paid respectively 0.2 ton and 0.6 ton of rice. (108) Patman was an ex-village head who could have easily secured a low assessment while Asibah, a common peasant who had his land in another district, could not influence the village officials. Likewise, Sapta and Kamin in the village of Pagedongan, each harvested 0.5 ton of paddy, but Sapta paid 62 kilogram of rice while Kamin paid 1.24 kilogram of rice. (109) Marsidem and Kalim in the village of Sumber paid respectively 22 kilogram and 62 kilogram of rice on the same amount of rice, 0.42 ton of paddy. (110) Neither the peasants nor the village officials concerned offered any explanation of these discrepancies.

After carefully weighing up his information, Heyting concluded that payment of the land rent consumed 'more than one-fifth of the crop, often occupying one-fourth or one-third of it, in most cases exhausting the entire crop. There were cases where the peasants found that even their entire rice crop was insufficient to pay the rent.' (111) Heyting observed that the landlords collected the land rent in rice, because they had no facilities to process paddy on a large scale and were also disinclined to spend money to build a mill. The difference in payment of the land rent in rice and paddy was considerable, concluded Heyting, after calculating the money value of the rent in rice and paddy. In Indramayu, the peasants paid 1,732 ton of rice in lieu of the land rent in 1880, which had a money value of f.189,972 at the current rate of f.6.80 per kilogram of rice. If the peasants paid the land rent in paddy, it should have amounted to 3,464 ton of paddy with a money value of f.153,653 at the current rate of f.2.75 per kilogram of rice. In Kandanghaur, the money values of the rent in rice and paddy were respectively f.257,565 and f. 202,372 for the same year. (112) It was a difference of considerable magnitude and, with the added cost of pounding paddy, payment of the land rent in rice was most probably a heavy burden for the peasants.

The burden of rent was exacerbated by the added demand to provide gunny bags for packing the rice, something the peasants found taxed their slender money income even further. The task of transporting rice to the district stores and from there to the main store in Pasekan district for shipment, all making use of compulsory public labour services, albeit in return of a small wage, was also burdensome. (113) The additional expense, time and labour weighed heavily on peasants who endured so much hardship to cultivate rice with inadequate manpower, cattle and funds, only to find the greater portion of their rice harvest being taken away from them every year. The majority of peasants would have been discouraged from increasing rice production under such circumstances, knowing very well they could not enjoy any more than bare subsistence needs of their families. Many peasant families probably did not have much rice left after paying the land rent even under normal circumstances. Successively smaller rice crops had a devastating impact on the local peasantry, particularly when the greater part of the rice crop was spent to pay the land rent, reducing the food supply by half in 1883 (Table 6).

The figures for rice production and land rent appear to be more or less correct, for they agree with the figures given in other official documents. The amount of paddy required to pay the land rent, however, should have been higher and consequently the amount of rice available for consumption should have been smaller, given the fluctuating rice crop and its varying quality, which forced peasants to spend more than the usual amount of paddy to obtain enough superior quality rice to pay the land rent. The collection of land rent in superior quality rice, notwithstanding the adverse conditions affecting rice production, most probably made a subsistence crisis inevitable when forces beyond peasants' control threatened rice production.

The land rent had been increasing for some years before the subsistence crisis; it rose from f.60,000 in 1870 to f.70,000 in 1880.114 The amount of land rent collected declined sharply in the following three years--f.56,000 in 1881, f.41,000 in 1882 and f.32,000 in 1883--but began to rise steadily thereafter bearing witness to the landlords' hard position in collecting the land rent. They made good their losses during the previous three years by collecting nearly 90 per cent of the land rent collected before the subsistence crisis. The landlords probably began collecting increasing quantities of rice in the 1870s to meet the growing demand for rice in Europe as well as in Java, against the background of buoyant private enterprise in commercial agriculture in the Dutch East Indies. (115) They probably lost sight of the fact that rice production in their domains had been falling and was barely enough to feed the population after paying the land rent in prime quality rice even under normal circumstances. Times were anything but normal in the early 1880s, as the cattle population was decimated with the concomitant result of declining area of land planted under in rice. The collection of land rent as usual, let alone an effort to increase it to satisfy the growing demand for rice in the lucrative European market, exacerbated the difficulties in food supply encountered by people with no other source of income to weather a subsistence crisis.


The subsistence crisis in west Indramayu was merely an aberration in Dutch colonial economic policy if one accepts that it had a carefully devised mechanism to safeguard the subsistence needs of indigenous people as argued by Scott and Geertz. The idea that the colonial state preserved the subsistence peasant economy calls for a radical revision in light of the extent to which it was commercialised and the indigenous peasants' inability to derive a greater degree of economic prosperity from commercialisation of economy, probably due to the constrains within which the market economy developed under colonial rule, weakening the weight attached to the colonial state's adherence to safeguarding the subsistence needs of people.

The famine is also difficult to explain satisfactorily in terms of Sen's famine trajectory as defined by a sudden deterioration of exchange entitlements affecting certain groups of people dependent on the market for their food supply. A subsistence crisis in a community of primary producers with access to land such as in west Indramayu is more satisfactorily explained by analysing the dynamics of the subsistence peasant economy.

The private domains of Indramayu and Kandanghaur had a turbulent history from the beginning, marked by constant complaints of abuse of power and uprisings against atrocities of the landlords. But it is difficult to explain the famine of 1883-84 in simplistic terms of abuse of power on the part of landlords and their agents and much less by natural disasters, which no doubt exacerbated the difficulties of peasants trying to survive being confined within a narrow subsistence economy.

The landlords of Indramayu and Kandanghaur domains remained steadfastly faithful to the idea of allowing the inhabitants of their domains to grow rice for sale locally and overseas, whereas the landlords of private domains elsewhere in west lava allowed a degree of freedom to the inhabitants of their domains to grow a range of products for sale. West Indramayu was suitable for only two crops, rice and sugar. Whereas rice cultivation could be left to the indigenous people, sugar cultivation required technology, capital and entrepreneurial skills, in addition to a large administrative apparatus beyond the reach of individual landlords trying to derive as much profits as possible from their modest investments. Therefore the landlords of Indramayu and Kandanghaur private domains were reluctant to diversify agriculture in their domains and concentrated on producing rice for sale.

The subsistence rice economies are, however, not monolithic. They in fact encompass a wide range of economic activity outside agriculture, which supplements the income of peasant families and stimulates economic growth as evinced by the situation elsewhere in lava, where domestic industries and petty trade played a major role in the economic life of rice-growing communities in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The inhabitants of west Indramayu were not engaged in nonagricultural economic activities, had very little extra income with which to survive in times of crop failures and enjoyed a very low level of well-being compared to the inhabitants of adjacent areas, where people had ample means of earning a money income from a wide range of economic activities outside agriculture.

The land rent was the means by which the landlords exacted a share of agricultural produce sanctioned by law. The size of the land rent and how it should be collected were vaguely defined by regulations, so the landlords exercised a considerable degree of freedom in collecting it. The land rent was assessed arbitrarily and often collected in polished rice of full grain, which more than doubled the amount of paddy required to pay the land rent. This state of affairs introduced an element of uncertainty into peasant economic life, for the peasants could not be certain of the portion of rice crop they could enjoy after paying the land rent. It was, furthermore, collected regardless of the difficulties peasants encountered from time to time, and minor officials added a small commission to the tax for their own benefit, reducing even further the amount of rice at the disposal of peasant households. There was little rice peasants could sell for cash money to meet the expenses of their material needs, and their ability to earn any cash income from other economic activities, which required them to be away from home, was severely curtailed by the demand for corvee labour services. The local economy was consequently depressed and people remained firmly entrenched in the subsistence rice cultivation.

The land rent was not burdensome as long as rice production was bountiful and enough to satisfy the needs of the landlords and peasants, a state of affairs that appears to have lasted well into the 1850s. The situation changed as the population growth accelerated while rice production remained static or increased very little in the following three decades, just when the landlords felt a greater sense of urgency to gather more rice for sale against the background of greater freedom allowed to private enterprise in the Dutch East Indies.

Peasants now found themselves consuming their stockpiles of rice saved from earlier harvests in order to fill the deficiency caused by more rice being spent to pay the land rent. The rice cultivation was seriously affected by the destruction of cattle and crop failures after 1880. The local peasantry was dependent on the landlords' good offices to borrow rice and credit, but its pleas for help in its current plight went unheeded by the landlords and their agents who were so engrossed in exporting rice in increasing quantities. There was no shortage of rice for sale in the markets, but people in west Indramayu were too impoverished to buy rice at the prevailing high prices. The relief measures organised by Heyting, as some contemporary observers noted, prevented people dying of hunger. (116) The peasants in west Indramayu had been trying hard to produce enough rice to meet their needs and to pay the land rent under the difficult circumstances of rising population against the static area of land under cultivation. The famine brought to the surface the structural weaknesses of local subsistence economy. Peasants' efforts to maintain a precarious balance in subsistence needs by resorting to a regime of population homeostasis was somewhat successful, but it did not minimise the risk of subsistence crises under adverse conditions and against increasing demands on the rice supplies made by the landlords. The last frontier of indigenous economy that came to be commercialised was the Indramayu region, which was the foremost example of commercial rice-producing area in Java. The plight of peasants in west Indramayu trying to safeguard their livelihood worsened with the rapid commercialisation of rice local industry, which apparently prevented them from being successful players in a market economy, because of the distorted ways in which market economic forces were allowed to operate, in the first four decades of the twentieth century. That state of affairs, explored in a sequel study, calls for a revision of the notion that the Dutch colonial state consistently ensured the subsistence needs of the indigenous population while exploiting their land and labour for its own ends.

doi: 10.1017/80022463410000068

(1) James C. Scott, The moral economy of the peasant (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1976), p. 10. Ronald Seavoy says that lava was famine free because the Dutch colonial administration was efficient in distribution of rice in times of crop failures; Ronald E. Seavoy, Famine in peasant societies (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), pp. 177-8. The Dutch colonial government's efforts to ensure lava's food supply after 1880 are presented through official records in Het ekonomisch beleid in Nederlandsch-Indie, vol. 2, ed. P. Creutzberg (Groningen: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1974), pp. 171-547.

(2) Scott, Moral economy of the peasant, pp. 91-2.

(3) Ibid., p. 1.

(4) W. Huender, Overzicht van den economischen toestand der inheemsche bevolking van Java en Madoera ('s Gravenhage: Nijhoff, 1921), pp. 222-3. For a survey of famines in India under British rule, see B. Bhatia, Famines in India: A study in some aspects of the economic history of India (1860-1945) (London: Asia Publishing House, 1963).

(5) H. Dick, V.J.H. Houben, J.T. Lindblad and Thee Klan Wee, The emergence of a national economy: An economic history of Indonesia, 1800-2000 (Sydney: Allen & Unwin and University of Hawaii Press, 2002), p. 65.

(6) For a resume of the conventional view on the subject of famines in Java in the mid-nineteenth century based on pre-1945 Dutch writings, see D.G.E. Hall, A history of Southeast Asia, 4th edn (London: Macmillan, 1981), p. 590; J.S. Furnivall, Netherlands India. A study of plural economy (Amsterdam: Israel BV, 1976), pp. 137-8, and Clive Day, The policy and administration of the Dutch in Java (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford, 1975), p. 315. The best conventional account of the subject is G.H. van Soest, Geschiedenis van het kultuurstelsel, vol. 3 (Rotterdam: H. Nijgh and van Ditmar, 1871), pp. 165-222. The political fallout, which arose from the publicity given to the two famines, is examined with aplomb by Cornelis Fasseur, The politics of colonial exploitation: Java, the Dutch and the cultivation system, trans. R.E. Elson and Ary Kraal (Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1992), pp. 74-85 and 102-25. The conventional view of the famines of Cirebon and Semarang is revised by modern studies mentioned below.

(7) The famines in Lombok are examined by Lance Brennan, Les Heathcote and Anton Lucas, 'The causation of famine: A comparative analysis of Lombok and Bengal, 1891-1974', South Asia, 7, 1 (1984): 1-26. Alfons van der Kraan does not discuss the famines in his study of Lombok, but gives a detailed account of Lombok's worsening economic conditions; Lombok: Conquest, colonization and underdevelopment, 1870-1940 (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong; Heinemann, 1980), pp. 129-73.

(8) Paul R. Geenough, Prosperity and misery in modern Bengal: The famine of 1943-44 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).

(9) This revisionist view of Cirebon famine in the light of contemporary documents is presented in M.R. Fernando, Famine in Cirebon Residency in Java, 1844-1850: A new perspective on the cultivation system (Monash University, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies Working Papers no. 21, 1980).

(10) The Demak-Grobogan famine in 1848-50 is examined in detail by R.E. Elson, 'The famine in Demak and Grobogan in 1848-1849: Its causes and circumstances', Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 19, 1 (1985): 39-85. Elson provides a brief analysis of Indramayu and Demak-Grobogan famines in his masterly study of economic changes in Java in the middle decades of the nineteenth century; Village lava under the cultivation system (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1994), pp. 108-14.

(11) Mike Davis, Late Victorian holocausts (London and New York: Verso, 2001), pp. 23-90.

(12) This view was first expressed by Hendrik Berlage on the basis of his famous study of the Java tree rings; Berlage, 'Over het verband tusschen de dikte der jaarringen van djatibomen (Tectona Grandis) en de regenval op Java', Tectona, 24 (1931): 939-53. The Berlage series of data has been enlarged and re-examined by J. Murphey and P. Whetton, 'A re-analysis of tree ring chronology from Java', Proceedings of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, B92, no. 3 (1989): 241-57.

(13) Davis, Late Victorian holocausts, p. 235.

(14) Koloniaal Verslag (hereafter, KV) (1884): 161-2.

(15) M.R. Fernando, 'Growth of non-agricultural economic activities in Java in the middle decades of the nineteenth century', Modern Asian Studies, 30, 1 (1996): 77-119.

(16) Amartya Sen, Poverty and famines: An essay on entitlement and deprivation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 45-51.

(17) Ibid., p. 45.

(18) Amartya Sen, 'Starvation and exchange entitlements: A general approach and its application to the great Bengal famine', Cambridge Journal of Economics, 1 (1977): 55.

(19) For a critique of Sen's work in the context of criticism against it, see Stephen Devereux, 'Sen's entitlement approach: Critiques and counter-critiques', Oxford Development Studies, 29, 3 (2001): 245-63, and David Arnold, Famine: Social crisis and historical change (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988). Utsa Patnaik has also made some critical comments on Sen's views and argued that 'pre-famine conjuncture' of identifying the classes and groups vulnerable to starvation in the event of an economic shock is necessary to understand the Bengal famine; 'Food availability and famine: A longer view', Journal of Peasant Studies, 19, 1 (1991): 1-25.

(20) Davis, Late Victorian holocausts, pp. 8-11 and 20-1.

(21) Ajit Kumar Ghose, 'Food supply and starvation: A study of famines with reference to the Indian subcontinent', Oxford Economic papers, 34, 2 (1982): 373.

(22) This conclusion is amply supported by information on indigenous domestic economy in the so-called Diminishing Welfare (Mindere Welvaart) commission reports covering the period from the 1880s through to the early 1900s; M.R. Fernando, 'Peasants and plantation economy: The social impact of the European plantation economy in Cirebon Residency from the cultivation system to the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century' (Ph.D. diss., Monash University, 1982), pp. 338-63.

(23) For a general survey of the history of private domains in Java, see Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch Indie, 2nd edn, vol. 3, ed. D.G. Stibbe ('s Gravenhage and Leiden: Nijhoff and Brill, 1919), pp. 345-50.

(24) The sale of land in Java under Raffles' administration is dealt with in J.H.F. Sollewijn Gelpke, De landerijen onder het Engelsche tusschenbestuur verkocht (Semarang, 1889). Indramayu domain was 2,332 km in extent while Kandanghaur domain was smaller and 1,274 km in extent. The Javanese rulers of Cirebon leased villages to the Chinese in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in order to bolster their income; D.H. Burger, Het ontsluiting van lava's binnenland voor het wereldsverkeer (Wageningen: H. Veenman, 1939), pp. 15-17. The inhabitants of villages in Cirebon region leased out to the Chinese rebelled against the landlords towards the end of the eighteenth century; I.A. van der Brook, De Cheribonsche opstand 1806 (1891), and Th. Stevens, 'Cheribon at the beginning of the nineteenth century: An analysis of reactions from a Javanese sultanate to the economic and political penetration of the colonial regime between 1797 and 1816', in Papers of the Dutch-Indonesian historical conference held at Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands, 19-22 May 1976 (Leiden and Jakarta: Bureau of Indonesian Studies, 1978), pp. 79-86. The practice of leasing villages to the Chinese was found elsewhere in Java as well, J. Bastin, 'The Chinese estates in east Java during the British administration', Indonesie, 7, 5 (1954): 433-9.

(25) The famine in Indramayu-Kandanghaur private domains sparked a debate on repurchasing them, but it did not produce any results immediately. The government bought back both domains in 1910-11, marking the beginning of the end of private domains in Java in the wake of new ethical policy introduced in 1902, which emphasised the need to improve the well-being of indigenous people. For information on the repurchase of Indramayu and Kandanghaur private domains, see S. De Graaff and D. G. Stibbe, eds., Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch Indie, 2nd edn, vol. 2 ('s Gravenhage and Leiden: Nijhoff and Brill, 1918), pp. 151 and 264.

(26) Total population of the two domains amounted to 46,248 in 1828, which rose to 60,978 in 1840 and to 111,584 in 1880; 'Statistiek van Cheribon 1835-1857', Nationaal Archief, The Hague (hereafter, NA) aanwinsten 1963, no. 12, auctie Beyers.

(27) 'Statistiek van Cheribon 1835-1857'; Heyting, 'Monographie Indramajoe west', appendix 'Staat aantoonende de geslagde en mislukte sawahs van 1879 t/m 1883', and 'Monographie Kandang Haoer', appendix 'Staat aantoonende de geslagde en mislukte velden van 1879 t/m 1883'.

(28) For a description of the land tenure systems in Java in the nineteenth century, see Hiroyoshi Kano, Land tenure system and the desa community in nineteenth-century Java, IDE Special Papers, no. 5 (Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economics, 1977), and P. Boomgaard, Between sovereign domain and servile tenure: The development of rights to land in Java, 1780-1870 (Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1977).

(29) P. Boomgaard, Children of the colonial state (Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1989), pp. 116-35; R.E. Elson, Village Java under the cultivation system, 1830-1870, pp. 251-77, and M.R. Fernando, 'Growth of non-agricultural economic activities in Java in the middle decades of the nineteenth century'.

(30) Letter, Resident of Cirebon to Governor-General, 14 May 1883, no. 3791/62, NA, Archief Ministerie van Kolonien (hereafter, MvK) Mail Rapport (hereafter, MR) 1883 no. 604, Verbaal (hereafter, V) 3 Sept. 1883, kabinet F 14.

(31) Mr Schiff, who acted on behalf of the administrators of the two private domains, told some senior officials in Batavia that Faes' warning of a crop failure had no factual basis: letter, Director of Internal Administration (D. Ples) to Governor-General, 25 June 1883, no. 4299, 'Commissoriaal van den 18 Junij 1883 no. 1176T, and letter, Secretary General to Resident of Cirebon, 5 July 1883, no. 1093, MR 1883, no. 604.

(32) Letter, F. Jellinghaus, administrator of Indramayu, to Assistant Resident of Indramayu, 10 May 1883, and letter, C.H. van der Veen, administrator of Kandanghaur, to Assistant Resident of Indramayu, 25 Apr. 1883, MR 1883, no. 604.

(33) Letter, Jellinghaus to Director of Internal Administration, 15 July 1883, NA, MvK, MR 1883, no. 747, V 3 Sept. 1883, F 14 kabinet.

(34) The estimated rice harvest in Indramayu amounted to 744 ton of paddy in 1883 against 1,364 ton of paddy in 1881, a fall of nearly half, while in Kandanghaur the decline in production was equally great, from 1,736 ton of paddy in 1881 to 1,054 ton of paddy in 1883; letter, Assistant Resident of Indramayu to Resident of Cirebon, 27 July 1883, no. 1180/62, MR 1883, no. 747.

(35) Letter, Assistant Resident of Indramayu to Resident of Cirebon, 27 July 1883, no. 1180/62.

(36) Letter, Assistant Resident of Indramayu to Resident of Cirebon, 27 July 1883, no. 1180/62.

(37) The administrators conveyed their earlier optimistic views of the situation in order to discredit the local officials. Some senior officials in Batavia trusted the administrators' optimistic reports and admonished the local officials for their hasty reports of crop failure. Referring to the senior officials' reaction to his early reports on the crop failure, Faes wrote that 'the administrator (of Indramayu) regards my view of the state of well-being of people being alarming is exaggerated, but he does not deny it altogether. His own information and comments are not free from exaggeration either, because otherwise the government would not have admonished me without a further inquiry'; letter, Faes to Governor-General, 1 Aug. 1883, no. 4609/62, 'Consideratien en advies van den Resident van Cheribon over commissoriaal van den 21 July 1883, no. 14053 (marginaal renvooi)', MR 1883, no. 747.

(38) L.G.A. Graaf (Count) van Limburg Stirum (1802-84) was one of the landlords of Indramayu until his death in August 1884 and the Countess van Limburg Stirum took his place after her husband's death. In 1885, the owners of Indramayu private domain were J.H. Tiedeman, S.G.F. Gevers, Countess van Limburg Stirum, J.H. Gevers, A.J. van der Niepoort, J. Roomswinkel, E.A.C. Roomswinkel, J.H. Roomswinkel, A.R. Roocnswinkel, G.C.C. Wiggers van Kerchem, G.A. de Lange, D. Jannette Walen and J.A. van den Brugh. The landlords of Kandanghaur domain in 1885 were A.H. den Texgeb, W.G. Vriese and F.A. Vriese; Regeringsahnanak 1885, vol. 1 (Batavia, Landsdrukkerij, 1886), appendix BB, p. 208.

(39) NA MvK, Besluit, 3 Sept. 1883, no. 17.

(40) Heyting published a noteworthy study of the domestic economy of Javanese peasants based on his close observation of three peasant families; G.H. Heyting, 'Het budget van een Javaansche landbouwer', Indische Gids, 11, 2 (1889): 1685-721, 1805-917 and 2149-86.

(41) The first part of Heyting's report is entitled 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedings-middelen in het bijzonder.' The second part of the report consists of two detailed reports entitled 'Monographie Indramajoe west' and 'Monographie Kandanghaur'. The third part of the report consists of Heyting's extensive notes on the condition of individual peasant households he investigated, organised into two dossiers entitled 'Desa onderzoekingen op her particuliere land Indramajoe west' and 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land Kandang Hauer'. The entire report can be found in NA, MvK, V 7 Mar. 1884, no. 2, 'Resultaten van her onderzoek ingesteld nopens den toestand op de landen Kandanghaoer en Indramajoe'. The general report was also filed in Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, Jakarta (hereafter, ANRI) Algemeene Secretarie, MGS 2-1-1884-3.

(42) 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in her algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder', appendix A 'Aantooning der aanwezige hoeveelheden rijst bij de bevolldng der landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west'.

(43) The landlords' stores contained 930 ton of rice and 992 ton of paddy, all collected from peasants; Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder', appendix B 'Aantooning der aanwezige hoeveelheden padie en rijst bij de bevolking en handelars in de afdeeling Indramajoe'.

(44) Rice exports from Java to the Netherlands, which came from west Indramayu, had fallen in 1881-82, but rose in 1883, attesting to the assiduous conduct of the administrators of private domains; Changing economy in Indonesia, vol. 4, Rice prices, ed. P. Creutzberg (The Hague: Nijhoft, 1978), pp. 67-8.

(45) Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder', appendix B 'Aantooning der aanwezige hoeveelheden padie en rijst bij de bevolking en handelars in de afdeeling Indramajoe', marginal notes.

(46) According to Heyting's estimates, 9,648 ton of rice was required to feed the entire population of 104,900 at the rate of 45.5 ton of rice per day from the 1 Oct. 1883 to the 1 June 1884. The stocks of rice in villages amounted to 5,398 ton so another 4,250 ton of rice was required to meet the deficit; Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijz

(47) Traders in the adjacent Indramayu town across the river had 2,127 ton of rice and 2,521 ton of paddy for sale; Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in her algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in her bijzonder' and appendix B 'Aantooning der aanwezige hoeveelheden padie en rijst bij de bevolking en handelaren in de afdeeling Indramajoe'.

(48) Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west en in her algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder', appendix A, marginal notes.

(49) Heyting, 'Monographie Kandang Hauer', appendix 'Particuliere land Kandang Hauer: Staat aantoonende de geoogste en mislukte velden van 1879 t/m 1883'.

(50) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op her particuliere land Indramajoe west', entry no. 120.

(51) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land Kandang Hauer', entry no. 92.

(52) Ibid., entry no. 94.

(53) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land Indramajoe west', entry no. 1.

(54) Ibid., entry no. 6.

(55) Ibid., entry no. 11.

(56) Ibid., entry no. 47 (for 49).

(57) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op her particuliere land Kandanghaur', entry no. 47.

(58) Ibid., entry no. 42.

(59) Ibid., entry no. 16.

(60) Ibid., entry no. 38.

(61) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land Indramajoe west', entry no. 68.

(62) Ibid., entry no. 47 (for 49).

(63) Ibid., entry no. 13.

(64) When Faes returned to the Netherlands in November 1883, he met the previous Minister of Colonies, F.G. van Bloomen Waanders, with whom he was on friendly terms. The latter told Faes that he had received a communication from the Governor-General about removing him from the office of Resident of Cirebon in view of his meddling in the affairs of the private domains. Despite the minister's protest, the Governor-General forced Faes to retire; Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in de residentie Cheribon en het land Tjiomas in de afdeeling Buitenzorg', p. 1348. Faes' official records on the subject make it clear that he encountered hostility from the Director of Internal Administration (Binnenlandsch Bestuur) and the Secretary General (Algemeen Secretarie). They ignored or minimised the gravity of the crisis depicted by Faes on the basis of information made available to them by the representative of the managers of two private domains.

(65) In 1848, s'Jacob established one of the first sugar mills to be built without government subsidy, Krembon sugar mill in Surabaya Residency, and ran it for 10 years. This contract was awarded by J.J. Rochussen (Governor-General, 1845-51), who reportedly provided s'Jacob with money for the undertaking; C. Fasseur, Kuhuurstelsel en koloniale baten (Leiden: Universitaire Pers, 1975), p. 154. 's Jacob was also the director of Maatschappij tot Exploitatie van Staatsspoorwegen from 1867 to 1879. He wrote a pamphlet on the issue of 'free' labour, Gedwongen en vrije suiker cultuur op lava (Rotterdam: van Baalen, 1859), at a time when the liberal critics were waging a fierce battle against the state monopoly of commercial agriculture in Java.

(66) Letter, Assistant Resident of Indramayu to Resident of Cirebon, 4 May 1883, no. 772/62, MR 1883, no. 604.

(67) Letter, van der Veen, Administrator of Kandanghaur, to Secretary General, 25 July 1883, and letter, Jellinghaus, Administrator of Indramayu, to Secretary General, 15 July 1883, MR 1883, no. 747.

(68) Koninklijk Magnetisch en Meterologisch Observatorium te Batavia, Verhandelingen no. 24, Regenval in Nederlandsch-Indie, vol. 1, gerniddelen van den regenval voor 3293 waarnemingsplaatsen in Nederlandsch-Indie, berekend uit waarnemingen verricht in het tijdvak 1879-1928 (Batavia: Landsdrukkerij, 1931), pp. 24-5.

(69) Heyting, 'Monographie Indramajoe west'.

(70) On the cattle disease in west Java, see P.H. van der Kemp, 'Een terugblik op de over west-Java gewoed hebbende runder-epizoothie van 1879 t/m 1882', Tijdschrift voor Indisch Taal, Land en Volkenkunde, 30 (1885): 194-200. The rinderpest was reportedly widespread in Sumatra in the early 1880s, being brought in by the cattle imported from India, Thailand and the Straits Settlements; Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indie, 2nd edn, vol. 4, p. 522. For a lengthy discussion on the nature and spread of rinderpest, see D. Driessen, 'Bijdrage tot de runderpest-geographie', Geneeskundige Tijdschrift voor Nederlndsch-Inde, 31 (1881): 309-510. The official guidelines on the cattle disease are given in Bijblad van bet Statsblad 2464 and 2905.

(71) KV 1880, p. 106; KV 1881, p. 113.

(72) Letter, Resident of Krawang (J. de Blaauw) to Director of Education, Religious Affairs and Industry, 28 Dec. 1879, no. 3,008/19, NA, MvK, MR 1880, no. 64; KV 1881, p. 114; 'Verslag omtrent den stand der veepest in de districten Losarang en Lelea (gedeeltelijk) van den 13 tot en met den 19 Februarij 1881',

enclosure, letter, Resident of Krawang to Director of Education, Religious Affairs and Industry, 5 Mar. 1881, 534/19, NA, MvK, MR 1881, no. 251.

(73) Letter, Assistant Resident in Charge of Cattle Disease (Engelbronner) to Resident of Cirebon, 2 Apr. 1881, litt J (38), NA, MvK, MR 1881, no. 343.

(74) Letter, Assistant Resident in Charge of Cattle Disease (Engelbronner) to Resident of Cirebon, 2 Apr. 1881, itt J (38).

(75) 'Weekrapport van en met 4 tot en met 9 Maart over den toestand der veeziekte in de vrije landen Indramajoe west en Kandanghauer', enclosure, letter Assistant Resident in charge of the affairs of cattle disease (Morris) to Resident of Cirebon, 12 Mar. 1881, no. xiii, NA, MvK, MR 1881, no. 286 and 'Weekrapport besmette kring Indramajoe west en Kandanghauer', enclosure, letter, Controleur Indramajoe to Resident of Cirebon, 16 July 1881, enclosure, letter, Resident of Cirebon to Director, Education, Religious Affairs and Industry, 10 July 1881, litt A 81, NA, MvK, MR 1881, no. 681.

(76) Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder'; 'Monographie Indramajoe West', appendix 'Staat aantoonende de geslagde en mislukte sawahs van 1879 t/m 1883', and 'Monographie Kandang Hauer', appendix 'Staat aantoonende de geslagde en mislukte sawahs van 1879 t/m 1883'.

(77) Rice production declined considerably in other areas heavily affected by the cattle disease, such as the Residencies of Banten and Krawang in west Java. In Krawang, which suffered heavily from the cattle disease, rice production was insufficient for local consumption let alone for export in 1881. The situation in Banten, where physically weak peasants without cattle could hardly keep up with cultivating rice, production plummeted from 160,800 ton of paddy in 1879 to 89,000 ton of paddy in 1881; Changing economy in Indonesia, vol. 10, Food crops and arable lands, Java 1815-1942, ed. Boomgaard and Zanden, pp. 116 and 118.

(78) 'Verslag betreffende de particuliere landerijen Indramajoe west en Kandanghauer', ANRI, Arsip Daerah (hereafter, AD) Cirebon 5.10, and Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in bet algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder'.

(79) For a well-informed if somewhat argumentative discussion on Java's population growth in the nineteenth century, see Children of the colonial state, pp. 165-98. For a review of the field of historical demography of Java, see M.R. Fernando, 'The Malthusian narrative of Java's demographic paradigm revisited', Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 40, 1 (2006): 85-112.

(80) Children of colonial state, pp. 143 and 176.

(81) H.E.B. Schmalhausen, Over Java en de Javanen (Amsterdam: P.N. Kampen, 1909), pp. 54-5.

(82) In east Indramayu, the mean household size was 4.6 persons per household in the 1880s; Onderzoek naar de mindere welvaart der inheemsche bevolking op Java en Madoera: Samentreking van de afdeelngsverslagen over de uitkomsten der onderzoekingen naar de ekonomie van de desa in de Residentie Cheribon (Weltevreden: 1907), appendix 1. The flourishing rice trade in east Indramayu, which probably enabled even peasants with smallholdings of wet-rice land to earn a modest money income, may account for this slightly larger average household size.

(83) Household and family in past time, ed. P. Laslett and R. Wall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 97-100, 115-17, 147-8.

(84) Calculated from statistics in annual general reports of Residency Cirebon for 1855, 1860, 1865 and 1870, ANRI, AD Cirebon, 3.12, 4.5, 4.11 and 5.5.

(85) Heyting's survey records a few householders of non-agricultural workers: four traders, one carpenter, nine labourers and one person engaged in some other activity. Two men, Abdullah, a trader, and Amid, a carpenter, appear to have been engaged in non-agricultural activity on a part-time basis; they had holdings of wet-rice land cultivated by others. The private domains in the environs of Batavia produced 3,392 ton of sugar, 512 ton of coffee, 48,872 ton of tea and 93 ton of quinine in addition to cocoa, nutmeg, mace, cloves and indigo in small amounts in 1880; KV 1881, pp. 182-3.

(86) Ibid., pp. 9 and 17.

(87) A detailed study of economic conditions in Purworejo Regency reveals an interesting picture of economic prospects of people who did not produce agricultural crops for sale in Europe and yet achieved a degree of prosperity; C.L. van Doorn, Schets van de economische ontwikkeling der afdeeling Poerworedjo (residentie Kedoe) (Weltevreden: Kolff, 1926), pp.16-59. A similar state of affairs was found in other remote parts of central Java; P. Carey, 'Waiting for the "Just King": The agrarian world of south-central Java from Giyanti (1755) to Java War (1825-30)', Modern Asian Studies, 20, 1 (1986): 59-137.

(88) Letter, Resident of Cirebon to Governor-General, 14 June 1883, no. 3791/62, MR 1883 no. 604.

(89) Writing to the central government in May 1821, the Resident of Cirebon said that 'there was no rice or paddy for sale in the entire residency, except in Indramayu and Kandanghaur'; Kemp, Bijdragen tot de wordingsgeschiedenis van het reglement op de particuliere landerijen bewesten de Tji-Manoek (Batavia: Ogilvie & Co., 1889), p. 48.

(90) Information on rice prices before the mid-1830s are far from satisfactory, but the figures show a steady increase from 59 guilders per koyang (1,667 kg) in 1818 to 123 guilders per koyang in 1836; Changing economy in Indonesia, vol. 4, Rice prices, pp. 48-52.

(91) Ibid., pp. 16-17 and 65-7.

(92) P.H. van der Kemp, Bijdragen tot de wordingsgeschiedenis van het reglement op de particuliere landerijen bewesten de Tji-Manoek, appendix E, p. 114 and Sollewijn Gelpke, De landerijen, pp. 4-5.

(93) Sollewijn Gelpke, De landerijen, p. 17.

(94) Statsblad 1817 no. 43, article 1.

(95) P.H. van der Kemp, 'Rapport van J.M. Beuschem en D.J.W. Pietermaat over de particuliere landerijen bewesten de Tjimanoek', Tjdsehrifi voor Nijverheid en Landbouw in Nedelandsch Indie, 9 (1869) : 258.

(96) Statsblad 1836 no. 19, articles 8-11.

(97) G. Vriese, a co-owner of Kandanghaur, reportedly introduced this method of estimating and collecting the rent in 1818; Anonymous, 'Her belastingstelsel van Indramajoe en Kandanghaoer', Tijdschrifi voor Nederlandsch Indie, 13, 2 (1851): 70-2.

(98) In Kandanghaur, where 0.7 hectare of wet-rice land produced 1.5 ton of paddy on average, the rent should be 5 pikul (310 kg) of paddy, which yielded 2.5 pikul (155 kg) of rice, according to the regulations. To obtain polished rice as insisted on by the landlords, however, over 496 kg of paddy was required, which amounted to one-third of the average rice crop. In fact, the peasants used 744 kg of paddy for the purpose, because the landlords insisted on being paid in rice of full grain; J. Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in de Residentie Cheribon en het land Tjiomas in de afdeeling Buitenzorg', pp. 1334-5. Much of this article is devoted to examining the ways in which the landlords deviated from the laws concerning land rent and compulsory public labour services. Prior to going public over these issues, Faes made similar observations in his correspondence dealing with the subsistence crisis, notably in his letter to the Governor-General, 14 June 1883, no. 3791/62. The Secretary General, J.H. Bergsma, rejected his views in his advice on the matter to the Governor-General. Faes bitterly criticised Bergsma's position in his correspondence and in the article mentioned above. Heyting also notes the practice of collecting the rent in superior quality rice of full grain; letter, Secretary General to Governor-General, 25 June 1883, no. 4299, MR 1883 no. 604.

(99) Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west', p. 1336; letter, Faes to Governor-General, 25 Aug. 1883, no. 4833/62, MR 1883 no. 747.

(100) The central government ordered local officials of Cirebon Residency not to act against collecting the land rent in rice instead of paddy as long as the landlord did not exact over one-fifth of the rice crop in the private domains of Ciasam and Pamanukan in the adjacent Krawang Residency; NA, MvK, Besluit 16 Mar. 1837, no. 10. This injunction was considered to apply to Indramayu and Kandanghaur private domains as well.

(101) J.W.H. Smissaert, Een woord over de nota van den heer Sloet tot Oldhuis (Leiden, 1850), pp. 19-22. Faes was very critical of the conduct of local officials as well as the central government, which had embraced liberal principles after 1848 but refused to rectify abuses in collecting the land rent in the private domains; Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in de Residentie Cheribon en het land Tjiomas in de afdeeling Buitenzorg', pp. 1335-9.

(102) In 1868, according to Faes, the inhabitants of Kandanghaur hired an educated Ambonese at the considerable expense of f.500 to make their complaints about the land rent known to the local government headed by S.C.H. Nederburgh. The following year, some 300 peasants met Nederburgh when he visited the area, again with the Ambonese friend as their spokesman, and obtained a promise from the resident to investigate their complaints. Instead, Nederburgh took punitive measures against the leader of the complaining peasants; Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in de Residentie Cheribon en het land Tjiomas in de afdeeling Buitenzorg', pp. 1354-6.

(103) I.H. Bergsma, the Secretary-General, was displeased with Faes for his critical stance regarding the ways in which the regulations of private domains of 1817 and of 1836 should be interpreted. Faes was equally critical of what he saw as Bergsma's incompetence; Faes, 'De landen Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west in de Residentie Cheribon en het land Tjiomas in de afdeeling Buitenzorg', pp. 1338-9.

(104) The position of senior officials over this issue is set forth in a letter, Secretary-General to Governor-General, 25 Sept. 1883, no. 4299, 'Last om te dienen van consideratien en advies omtrent vreezen gebrek van voedingsmiddelen en de ongunstigen staat der bevolking op de particuliere landen Kandanghaoer en Indramajoe west in de residentie Cheribon, dd. 14 Junij 1883, no. 3791/62', MR 1883 no. 604. The Secretary-General was relying on information he received from Mr Schiff, who represented the administrators of the two private domains, in refuting the stance of local officials. The Secretary-General admitted that the land rent was collected in rice, but it did not contravene the law because the 1837 amendments allowed it, while stating that the peasants were allowed to pay the rent partly in broken rice as well.

(105) Anonymous, 'Het belastingstelsel van Indramajoe en Kandanghaoer'; Heyting's 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder'; and FJ.L. Mersen Senn van Basel, Nota betreffende rijstheffing op de particuliere landen Indramaijoe-west en Kandanghauer (Weltevreden, 1904), pp. 2-3.

(106) Letter from G. Vriese to A. De Wilde, 26 Oct. 1847; Baron Nahuys van Burgst, Beschouwingen over Nederlandsch Indie gevolgd door eene nadere toelichting ('s Gravenhage: Belinfante, 1848), pp. 122-4.

(107) Heyting, 'Monographie Indramajoe West'.

(108) Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land Indrmajoe west', entry nos. 29 and no. 33.

(109) Ibid., entry no. 54 and no. 56.

(110) Ibid., entry no. 72 and no. 73.

(111) Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in het bijzonder'.

(112) Heyting, 'Monographie Indramajoe west' and 'Monographie Kandanghauer'.

(113) This payment varied from place to place depending on the distance. Thus people transporting rice from Bangaduwa received 7 cents a day while those from Lobener received only half that amount.

(114) The figures for rent on rice crop are from a statement in NA, MvK, V 15 Aug. 1910, no. 10.

(115) In 1879, rice from Indramayu and Kandanghaur was sold at f.19 per 100 kg; even the best quality rice sold in local markets was a great deal cheaper, nearly f.12 per 100 kg for no. 1 quality rice in Jakarta; Changing economy in Indonesia, vol. 4, Rice prices, pp. 44 and 57.

(116) K. Wybrands, 'Schaarschte en rapporten', Her Nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indie, 31 May 1903.

M.R. Fernando is a member of the Humanities and Social Studies Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Correspondence with regard to this paper should be addressed to The writer would like to convey his thanks to Dr Ward Keeler (Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin) and to the anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies for their useful comments on a previous draft of this paper. Responsibility for the views expressed in this paper remains with the writer.
Table 1: Rice production in Indramayu and Kandanghaur private
domains, 1880-83

       Area of land planted         % of
       under rice (in ha.)    increase/decline


1880          21,256
1881          21,574                  1
1882          16,805                -22
1883          20,094                 24


1880          21,824
1881          19,220                -12
1882          15,468                -19
1883          15,304                 -1

       Area of land harvested         % of
        under rice (in ha.)     increase/decline


1880           20,293
1881           19,265                  89
1882           14,088                  84
1883           15,235                  76


1880           21,353
1881           18,144                  94
1882           14,640                  95
1883           11,612                  76

         Production of            % of
       un-husked rice (in   increase/decline


1880         19,802
1881         17,719               -10
1882         11,709               -34
1883          9,388               -20


1880         22,813
1881         16,248               -29
1882         13,291               -18
1883          8,552               -36

Sources: Heyting, 'Monographie Indramajoe west', appendix 'Staat
aantoonende de geslagde en mislukte sawahs van 1879 t/m 1883' and
'Monographie Kandang Haoer', appendix 'Staat aantoonende de geslagde
en mislukte velden van 1879 t/m 1883'.

Table 2: Demographic impact of subsistence crisis

Year        Indramayu        Increase/ decrease       Kandanghaur
       Population 1st Jan.                        population 1st Jan.

1882         46,989                                     62,752
1883         49,117                2,128                59,417
1884         48,304                 -813                55,936
1885         55,915                7,611                58,560

Year   Increase/decrease   Total population   Increase/decrease
                               1st Jan.

1882                           109,741
1883        -3,335             108,534              -1,207
1884        -3,481             104,240              -4,294
1885         2,624             114,475             +10,235

Sources: Regeringsalmanak and KV for the years 1882-85.

Table 3: Population growth of Indramayu and Kandanghaur
private domains, 1828-80

Year   Indramayu   Kandanghaur    Total

1850    26,747       20,092      46,839
1860    36,729       34,978      71,707
1870    43,412       48,913      92,325
1880    49,642       61,942      111,584

Sources: Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der
particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in
het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen
in het bijzonder', appendix 1 and 'Statistiek van Cheribon

Table 4: Members of households by relation to head of household

         Married       Other          Children   Relatives   Servants
        household    household
        heads and      heads
                    single   widows

Men        167        39        7                               11
Women      167         2       23
Total      334        41       30       474         49          11

        Others   Total

Men               224
Women             192
Total     28      967

Source: Heyting, 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land
Kandang Hauer' and 'Desa onderzoekingen op het particuliere land
Indramajoe west'.

Table 5: Population and agricultural density in Indramayu and
Kandanghaur private domains, 1858-83

District          No.        Population       Population
               villages                      per village

               1850  1875   1850     1883    1850   1883

Pasekan          19    23   16,249   21,597   855     939
Lobener          20    23    2,807   12,900   140     561
Ujung            14    19    2,371    6,591   169     347
Jatitujuh        19    21    5,320    6,269   280     298
Indramayu        72    86   26,747   47,357   371     551
Lelea            12    13    5,148   10,793   429     830
Losarang         13    25    8,470   21,239   652     850
Kandanghaur      22    13    8,812   18,832   400   1,449
Luwangmalang     17    20    3,662    6,670   215     333
Kandanghaur      64    71   26,092   57,534   407     810
Total           136   157   52,839  104,891   388     668

District        Area of sawah      Area of sawah
                   in ha.          per capita
                                    (in ha.)

                 1850     1883     1850  1883

Pasekan          3,754    4,315    0.2    0.2
Lobener          3,034    4,229    1.1    0.3
Ujung            2,130    4,516    0.9    0.7
Jatitujuh        2,981    3,078    0.6    0.5
Indramayu       11,899   16,138    0.4    0.3
Lelea            2,627    3,270    0.5    0.3
Losarang         2,281    6,244    0.3    0.3
Kandanghaur      5,180    4,340    0.6    0.2
Luwangmalang       867    1,422    0.2    0.2
Kandanghaur     10,955   15,276    0.4    0.3
Total           22,854   31,414    0.4    0.3

Sources: 'Statistiek van Cheribon 1835-1858'; 'Verslag
betreffende de particuliere landerijen Indramajoe west
en Kandanghauer'; Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand,
vooral der particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en
Indramajoe west in het algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar
aanwezige voedingsmid-delen in het bijzonder', appendix A
'Aantooning der aanwezige hoeveelheden rijst bij de
bevolking der Kandanghauer en Indramajoe west'.

Table 6: Rice production, land rent and amount of rice
available for consumption, 1879-83

Year    Rice harvest     Rent     Amount of paddy
       (ton of paddy)   (ton of   to pay land rent
                         rice)         (ton)


1879       23,252        1,927         5,507
1880       19,802        1,676         4,789
1881       18,339        1,591         4,545
1882       11,709          990         3,301
1883        9,388          739         2,465


1879       25,196        2,520         7,199
1880       22,813        2,281         6,518
1881       16,247        1,626         4,646
1882       13,291        1,329         4,430
1883        8,553          855         2,851

Year        Amount of          Rice
       rice remaining (ton)   supply


1879          17,745           469
1880          18,126           401
1881          13,794           376
1882           8,408           223
1883           6,923           193


1879          17,997           389
1880          16,295           349
1881          14,621           244
1882          11,962           187
1883           5,702           131

Notes: One pikul of paddy yielded 57.5 kati normal rice and between
30 and 35 kati superior quality rice, depending on the state of the
crop. In calculating the amount of paddy required to pay the land
rent, the rate of 35 kati superior quality rice is used for the
1879-81 period and the rate of 30 kati superior quality rice is used
for the 1882-83 period. In calculating the amount of rice for
consumption, it is assumed that 0.7 kati of rice was sufficient
per person per day.

Sources: Heyting, 'Rapport omtrent den toestand, vooral der
particuliere landerijen Kandang Hauer en Indramajoe west in bet
algemeen, als omtrent de aldaar aanwezige voedingsmiddelen in bet
bijzonder', 'Monographie Indramajoe west' and 'Monographie
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Author:Fernando, M.R.
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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