By M. C. Ricklefs
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Additional info for A History of Modern Indonesia: c. 1300 to the Present
1509-1620 The arrival of the first Europeans in Southeast Asia at the beginning of the sixteenth century has sometimes been regarded as the most important watershed in its history. This view is untenable. Although Europeans- above all the Dutchwere to have a great impact upon Indonesia, this was largely a phenomenon of later times. As the colonial period recedes into the past, questions are being asked about how lasting even this later impact was. Whatever the case, in the early years of the Europeans' presence, their influence was sharply limited in both area and depth.
While Aceh was rising to prominence in the western archipelago, new Islamic states were being created in Java. At first there were several influential states, but by the beginning of the seventeenth century three major political centres were consolidating their power: Banten in West Java, Mataram in the interior of Central Java, and Surabaya in East Java. For the sixteenth century the evidence consists primarily of a few contemporaneous Portuguese records (among which Tome Pires's Suma Oriental is the best informed) and later Javanese historical traditions which are a complex mixture of myth and history.
Although the English did not again challenge the predominant role of the Dutch until the late eighteenth century, and indeed in the early seventeenth century were less of a military threat to the VOC than the Portuguese and Spanish, their activities had nonetheless increased VOC anxiety to find a 'rendezvous'. They also impressed upon the VOC the necessity for rigorous measures if its aim of monopoly of the spice trade was to be achieved. In 1619 Jan Pieterszoon Coen became Governor-General (1619-23, 1927-9), and it was he who placed the VOC on a firm footing.