This paper deals with several themes central to recent debate about Dutch colonial society in Java, the key island of the erstwhile Netherlands Indies. Primarily, these themes relate to the colonial-metropolitan nexus, and my discussion seeks to illuminate these themes with particular reference to the documented experiences of three women who were either on their way to the Indies—or making their way back from there—early in the 1830s. The paper's fundamental argument concerns the importance of the concept of “Empire Families” to an understanding of Dutch colonial communities in the Indies. It is an understanding that serves to correct some misconceptions about the dynamics of those societies in the early to mid-nineteenth-century period. Among other things, building on the work of others and drawing on unpublished documentation, it seeks to locate some aspects of colonial “discourse,” particularly those relating to “colonial women,” in the broader framework of social history.
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