Honour and Imperialism: Dutch Honour and the Advent of the Aceh War, 1873-1874
Dijk, J.P. van
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In many historical analyses, imperialism is almost exclusively analysed from an economic or political perspective. Yet human decision-making is also influenced by culturally determined value-systems, which are often left out of the equation in analyses of imperialism. This thesis makes use of anthropological and sociological theories of honour to examine its relation to Dutch imperialism at the advent of the Aceh War in 1873. Two case studies are examined. The first case-study concerns politics and decision making, and assesses to what extent honour was involved in the Dutch decision to declare war on Aceh, the concomitant expedition and its aftermath. The second study concentrates on patriotic sentiments in Dutch songs. The first case-study analyses diplomatic correspondences between Governor-General J. Loudon (1824-1900) and the minister of Colonial Affairs I.D. Fransen van de Putte (1822-1902). Both were motivated by questions of honour to some extent. Loudon was far more driven by honour than Fransen van de Putte. Loudon's kind of honour was typically aristocratic and very impulsive. He considered the so-called 'Betrayal of Aceh' to be an insult both to his own, personal honour, as well as the Netherlands' national honour. Van de Putte is less impulsive. For him, the defeat of the first military expedition to Aceh was the game changer: from that moment onward, Aceh had to be conquered to redeem national honour. This complies with literature concerning loss, restoration, and preservation of honour. The second study analyses various patriotic folk-songs with regard to the war in Aceh. The kind of honour discussed in these songs is mostly military, of the aristocratic kind of honour. This complies with theories of honour insofar that the military was the one institution where this kind of honour was preserved, apart from the aristocracy. In all other layers of society, honour supposedly changed to revere not martial prowess but Christian piety instead. In all, this thesis concludes that some characteristics and transformations of honour described by the literature are demonstrated clearly by these case studies. The kind of honour described here was primarily external and reflexive in nature, and it resembled the aristocratic honour code. Honour definitely was a prominent cultural force both in the Netherlands and its overseas colonies in the Indonesian archipelago and it was a primary motivation, both for politicians to declare war on Aceh and for citizens to enlist for the army.