maandag 17 juli 2017

Jan Baptist van Doren: a soldier beating his sword into a pen

Jan Baptist jozef van Doren had a quite adventurous life. Born in Gent (now Belgium) in 1791, he experienced that his country became part of the France of Napoleon. In 1808 he became a member of the French revolutionary army which was beaten in 1813. He then joined the new army of the Dutch-Belgian union and fought against France/Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo, May 1815. He continued his career in the Dutch army, but applied in 1821 for the colonial section which gave a better view to a quick career. He obtained in the Indies the rank of major. He worked in the Indies between 1822 and 1840. In 1845 he took his leave from the army and lived from a good pension.He then started writing and published his first book in 1851: two volumes, somewhat more than 700 pages, neatly bound, with many drawings: Reis naar Nederkands Oost-Indiƫ, of Land- en Zeetogten gedurende de twee eerste jaren mijn verblijfs op Java [The trip from Holland to Indonesia, including travelling on land and sea during the first two years of my stay in Java]. The first volume is an account of the trip to Batavia, with many digressions about Africa, the Canary Islands, and much information about the soldiers for the colonial army taken from West Africa, now Ghana.
I include here an illustration about crossing the equator. The Greek God of the sea, Neptunus, is sitting and wants to baptise new members of his conmgregation. Two soldiers are sitting, clothed as bears, in front of him.
The first part opf the book is difficult to read: there is no division in chapters, the author changes easily from his personal experiences to authors who write about history, he often repeats. But he has pleasant anecdotes.
In volume two it is the island of Java which is the subject, mostly the European and Eurasian people here. Below are some examples of the drawings in this volume: first of Prambanan (or Candi Kalasan), then of the dance of Alifuru people in the kraton or palace of Surakarta (pages 310, 390).

Van Doren was present at the surrender of Kiai Maja to the Dutch army on 14 November. He quotes a letter by Lieutenant Roeps, dated 16 Nov. 1828 which states that Maja had supported Dipanagara because he hoped that he would be the restorer of true Islam. But in fact, Dipanagara wanted basically to establish a reaqm and kraton for himself. Maja was a scholarly man, owned many Arab manuscripts and was much younger, only 35 at the time against the 43 of the prince. Maja had a deep hatred 'against all Christians', was very quick in movements and speech and a true agitator. I read also the section on this event in Peter Carey, The Power of Prophecy, 636-9: it has a much more complete and intense account of the differences between Maja and Dipanagara. They lived in exile at not great distance, but never met again, not for security reasons, but due to their different characters and ambitions. Carey has van Doren in his list of references but not in the index and I could not find him in any footnote.
After the great book on his first two years, Van Doren wrote more than twenty, mostly much shorter books. In ons he claimed that is was not necessary to convert the Javanese: they had already the belief in the same One God as the Christians. Moreover: Christianity among the Europeans in Java was so thin and bad (no regular sexual life) that the Dutch better should refrain from attempts for conversion. See his Het voor en tegen van den uitbreiding des evangelies onder de javanen (1852, 20 pages only). In 1862 he published a booklet about the haji as the cause of the troubles in Banjarmasin and blamed Governor General Duymaer van Twist for allowing too much liberal freedom of religion.

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