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Lecture by Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk Industrious women in the Dutch Empire: the Cultivation System and its consequences

6 feb 2018
Van 15:00 - 16:00uur
IISG Amsterdam

The Cultivation System (1830-1870) in the Dutch East Indies constituted a “classic piece of colonial exploitation” (Elson 1994, 303). Javanese peasants were forced to employ part of their land and (an even larger share of) their labour for the cultivation of cash crops such as sugar, coffee and indigo for the European market. While the consequences of this system – both for Java and the Netherlands – have been much debated, the effects of the Cultivation System on women’s work have hardly been investigated. This paper argues that women’s work has been crucial for the fulfillment of the increasing labour demands of the system. Moreover, it contends that the Cultivation System not only drastically influenced women’s work in Java, but, through the vast remittances from the colony to the metropole, also slowly but surely led to shifts in gendered work patterns in the Netherlands. All in all, colonialism shaped, and was shaped by, women’s participation in the household economy in the colony as well as in the metropole, albeit in increasingly contrasting ways.

Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk
Prof. dr. Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (1975) is an economic and social historian specialized in the history of labour relations, notably women’s and children’s work. In 2007, she obtained her PhD in Economic and Social History, on women’s work in the early modern Dutch Republic. Elise published in several leading economic and social history journals, such as the Economic History ReviewFeminist Economics, and the International Review of Social History. She has directed several comparative labour history projects, on the history of textile workerschild labour domestic workers, and sex workers.
Since June 2017 Elise is full professor of “Comparative History of Households, Gender and Work” at Radboud University Nijmegen, a special chair instigated by the Unger van Brero-fonds. Among other things, she is member of the Advisory Board of the European Social Science History Conference, Editorial Board member of Social Science History, the International Review of Social History, and the Scandinavian Economic History Review. She is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the International Institute of Social History (IISH) and research fellow at NIAS.
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk currently leads the NWO Vidi-project Industriousness in an imperial economy. Women’s and Children’s work in the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies 1815-1940. This project aims to analyze the connections between the histories of women’s and children’s work in both parts of the Dutch Empire, and unravel mutual influences between metropolis and colony.

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Terug naar de bron: de geschiedenis ontrafeld met nieuwe technologie. Dat is de missie van het Huygens ING, een onderzoeksinstituut op het gebied van geschiedenis en cultuur.