Padri War

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Sep 28, 2022

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The Fathers' Wars (or minangkabau wars) were fought in western Sumatra island: the first between 1821 and 1824, the second between 1830 and 1837.

In the 1820s, the Dutch had yet to consolidate their possession in parts of the Dutch East Indies, having regained them from Britain. This was especially true on the island of Sumatra, where some areas were not brought under control until the early 20th century.

During the Napoleonic wars, some indigenous peoples of Sumatra had made progress in reducing Dutch control. In particular, the west coast of Sumatra at least since 1795 and held it until 1819. This greatly weakened the already weak authority exercised over those regions (as, in general, outside Java), by the Dutch colonial authorities in Batavia. At the same time, the British authorities did little to profit from it: they already had their hands full securing control of Dutch trading bases. While attempts at inland penetration were reserved for the, far more strategic, India. The result was a conspicuous power vacuum, which favored all sorts of revanchists and adventurers: as evidenced by the uncontrolled explosion of piracy, which made the waters of the Malaysian islands, the most dangerous in the world.

To this general phenomenon belonged a local conflict that broke out in 1803 (or early 1804) in West Sumatra in the form of an internal conflict within the locally dominant population, the Minangkabau Muslims, involving two factions: the Adat and the Paderi:

Early successes of hardliners and massacre of Pagaruyung royal family

The jihād was exercised in a context characterized by extreme fragmentation of political power, in the hands of hundreds of village chiefs (called panghulu). While state authority, which albeit existed in the person of the raja of the Pagaruyung Kingdom, also a minangkabau, had weakened, primarily as a result of the crisis in gold mining (which had been its main base of livelihood), to the benefit of more widespread wealth derived from the cultivation and trade of coffee and other products for export.

In 1815, most of that royal family was murdered by the rebellious 'Paderi'. By order of their leader, Tuanku Lintau (tuanku means 'religious leader').

The British were not supposed to have much interest in the matter: officially they 'tolerated' the movement. Practically they ignored it. So much so that Raffles, tout-puissant lieutenant-governor of occupied Java, visited the small capital of the Pagaruyung Kingdom only in 1818, after the third and final fire: he found nothing but a heap of ruins.

Return of the Dutch to Java and first steps in Sumatra

Things changed, a little, with the return of the Dutch. The latter had regained possession of Java on August 19, 1816, following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. Here Governor-General van der Capellen had little means, either financial or military, and had to make up for the years lost during the years of British occupation.

A weakness that prompted different local rulers to attempt to regain their independence: on Sumatra itself, for example, the Sultanate of Palembang was not reduced to reason until July 1821.

The area closest to the center of the Paderi's activities, however, was Padang, in western Sumatra, where the British did, indeed, hand over to a Dutch 'resident,' a certain Jamer du Puy, but the latter had only 150 soldiers, in addition to civilian employees, and very little financial means on which to back his action.

Du Puy was, however, an ambitious man: faced with requests for support presented to him by the survivors of the royal family of Pagaruyung, obviously backed by the 'Adat' faction, who offered submission to the Dutch protectorate in return, the 'resident' made himself their spokesman in Batavia. Here the entourage of Governor van der Capellen showed, at first, no interest in sacrificing some of the already scarce resources at their disposal in order to subdue the not-so-important west coast of Sumatra.

The 'resident,' however, was able to convince them, with the argument that if they did not intervene, Britain would profit, in the person of the well-known adventurer Sir Thomas Raffles, the same man who had already ruled Java from 1811 to 1816 and who, on February 6, 1819, had taken advantage of a similar situation to establish the new colony of Singapore.

van der Capellen, therefore, allowed himself to be persuaded: du Puy signed, with the 'Adat' chiefs, a first treaty, by which they exchanged acceptance of Dutch rule, in exchange for the restoration of the political structure prior to the beginning of the Pader revolt. After that, in 1821, the young lieutenant A.F. Raaff arrived in Padang with 500 soldiers. And the war also began for the Dutch.

First clashes and the 'Treaty of Masang'

The military campaign officially began in February 1821: the first Dutch attack on a 'Paderi' village took place in April 1821. Many small skirmishes and one defeat followed, in 1823 at Lintau. They, at least, demonstrated the impossibility for the small Raaff army to reduce the 'Paderi' to reason. Politically, the war had not been won as the Dutch had refused to resettle a Raaff for the ceased Kingdom of Pagaruyung. This, inevitably, induced many local leaders to come over to the side of the 'Fathers,' who, for their part, had no intention of submitting.

This, however, did not prevent them from reaching a reasonable compromise: the January 1824 'Contract of Peace and Friendship' (also known as the Treaty of Masang) entered into by the Raaff with the Bondjol Fathers (their major fortified center).

A long pause imposed by the Java uprising

Shortly thereafter, in April 1824, Raaff, who had meanwhile replaced du Puy as resident of Padang, died of a fever attack. He was replaced by H.J.J.L. Ridder de Stuers, a prepared officer who had to adjust to the peace as forced by the unexpected outbreak, on July 20, 1825, of a major revolt, which broke out in central Java-a province far more strategic, for the Dutch, than peripheral Sumatra.

Strengthening the military and diplomatic grip

It so happened that the war was frozen for about six years. Ridder de Stuers took advantage of this to take the necessary steps to secure control of the territory: founding several fortifications, starting with the most famous, Fort de Kock, begun in 1825 in Bukittinggi.

At the same time, the government of the Netherlands provided for the diplomatic coté, with the signing on March 3, 1824, of a new Anglo-Dutch treaty, supplementing the previous one of 1814: the Netherlands and the United Kingdom agreed to demarcate their respective lines of influence at the Strait of Malacca, what left Sumatra in the availability of the smaller of the two powers.

Meanwhile, the Bondjol Paderi had done their best to portray themselves as a factor of instability by invading the regions of their northern neighbors, the Batak, under the guise of slaughtering their herds of pigs, from their point of view the impure animal par excellence.

Resumption and conclusion of the conflict

The conflict resumed in the 1830s, with some early Dutch successes. The rebel leader Tuanku Imam Bonjol was captured in 1832 but, after three months, escaped his captors. Taking refuge, finally, in the small town of Bonjol, the last stronghold of the 'Fathers'.

This fell on August 16, 1837 after months of blockade and was razed to the ground. Tuanku Imam Bonjol was exiled: first to Cianjur in western Java, then to the wealthy island of Ambone, and finally to di Manado on the island of Celebes, the metropolis of the minahasa, a population loyal to the Dutch, who had already provided many recruits to the suppression of the Java uprising And the conflict ended.

With the victory, the Dutch strengthened their control of the western part of Sumatra. Meanwhile, the religious and tribal leaders of the Minangkabau could find a less immediately dramatic way to accord local traditions to the, inevitable, "Arabization" of customs.


  1. Padri War
  2. Guerra dei Paderi
  3. ^ Salvo che per un implicito impegno al rispetto del sultanato di Aceh: una questione che si sarebbe risolta con un successivo trattato, del 1873.
  4. ^ Vi sarebbe morto molti anni dopo, il 6 novembre 1864.
  5. ^ Sjafnir Aboe Nain, 2004, Memorie Tuanku Imam Bonjol (MTIB), transl., Padang: PPIM.
  6. ^ The port where they embarked and disembarked, Pedir, Sumatra, gave them their name.
  7. ^ a b c d Dobbin, Christine (1983). Islamic Revivalism in a Changing Peasant Economy : Central Sumatra, 1784-1847. Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies : Monograph Series. Vol. No.47. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK: Curzon Press. p. 117-192. ISBN 0700701559.
  8. ^ Bennett, Clinton (2013). The Bloomsbury Companion to Islamic Studies. London, UK: Bloomsbury. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-4411-2788-4.
  9. H. Burgers (2010), De Garuda en de ooievaar, blz. 87
  10. Sjafnir Aboe Nain, 2004, Memorie Tuanku Imam Bonjol (MTIB), transl., Padangue: PPIM.
  11. G. Kepper, 1900, Wapenfeiten van het Nederlands Indische Leger; 1816-1900, M.M. Cuvee, Den Haag.
  12. Taufik Abdullah (1 de janeiro de 2009). Indonesia: Towards Democracy. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 5. ISBN 978-981-230-366-0. Acessado em 25 de agosto de 2013.

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