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The United States of Indonesia, 1941-1950. Rise and fall of a federal state

The United States of Indonesia 1941-1950' is an international comparative research project on the various interests and rationales during the decolonization struggle within and outside of Indonesia with respect to the formation of a federal Indonesian state that would maintain its bonds with the Netherlands.

The project investigates:

  • the development of the concept of state federalism before the unilateral declaration of Indonesian independence on 17 August 1945 and the negotiations in 1946;
  • the design of and antagonism to a federal state structure between 1946 and 1949;
  • the dissolution of the federal state and the establishment of the Indonesian Republic in 1950. 

The emergence of the federal state as such, from various perspectives, has been well described and analysed. However, little attention has been paid to the ideas, considerations and aspirations of the federalists within Indonesia, the Dutch supporters and advocates of this concept, and other international experts involved in the negotiations.

Based on archival research, connected to historiographical discussions about Indonesian state formation, this research intends to contribute to a better understanding of the political negotiations and expectations at the time, to map the geographical context of the concept of federalism, and the personal networks of the main politicians involved.

It will start, by way of hypothesis, with an evaluation of the dominant view of federalism as a Dutch divide-and-rule strategy. By tracing the development of a political idea and the interests of those who embraced it, it will connect the emergence of notions of federalism in Indonesia to both other decolonization processes in South and South-East Asia, as well as to debates in Europe after 1945 with respect to European integration.

Since this research is funded in the NWO programme for academic career development among teachers in secondary education, the project also aspires to arrive at a model or method to stimulate an exchange of knowledge and views on decolonization between Indonesian and Dutch pupils in secondary education.


NWO Postgraduate Research Grant for Teachers / Financing own school (2013-2017)

Tjalling Bouma

Prof. Dr. Susan LegĂȘne (CLUE+)

Dr. Peter Keppy (NIOD)