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Anchors of Colonial Rule: Pluralistic Courts in Java, ca. 1803–1848

  • Sanne Ravensbergen


Through an institutional approach and by focusing on long-term developments, this article offers a genealogy of the pluralistic character of the landraad (regional colonial court) in colonial Java. It argues that the pluralistic landraden—consisting of a Dutch president, Javanese judges, a local prosecutor, and Islamic and Chinese advisers—were crucial to the process of colonial state formation. This long-term process reflects continuities rather than rupture and change between the era of the VOC and the nineteenth-century developing colonial state. The spatial sites of the landraden reveal not only the conflicts between several layers, institutions, and individuals in the process of colonial state formation but also the importance of local actors in this process. Local dynamics as well as tensions between the various layers of the colonial state, which were striving either for uniformity or for the maintenance of local pluralities, provide insights into the complex formation processes of dual rule from below.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

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Sanne Ravensbergen is a historian of colonial Indonesia, based as postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for History at Leiden University. Her research focuses on the practices and ideologies of colonial law, legal pluralism, colonial liberalism, local elites, the material culture of courts, and legal professionals.



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Anchors of Colonial Rule: Pluralistic Courts in Java, ca. 1803–1848

  • Sanne Ravensbergen


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