The name Indonesia, meaning 'Indian islands' was introduced by English researcher (J.R.Logan) in the 19th century. It derives from the Greek, 'Indos' (India) and 'nesos' (islands). The archipelago location has played significant role in economic, political, cultural, and religious development of the region. For about two thousand years, trading ships sailed between great empires of India and China through the waters and the islands of the Indies. Small and then larger kingdoms, consisted of diverse nations-bringing various languages, traditions and socio-political structures-were growing as a result of that great trade revolution and a strategic location facing Middle East and South-East Asia.
Early Hindu kingdoms were present in the archipelago even before the beginning of the A.D., but one of the first significant Indianized empire, known as Sriwijaya, arose on Sumatra around the 7th century. The Buddhist Sailendra dynasty and the Hindu Mataram dynasty flourished between 8th and 10th centuries. These kingdoms absorbed most of Indian influences and contributed to creation of important religious heritage in the forms of the Buddhist monument in Borobudur and Hindu temple complex in Prambanan. Around the 11th century the centre of power shifted to East Java and this period is claimed to be crucial for shaping Javanese culture & identity, as a consequence of different influences syncretisation. Two ages later, the Majapahit kingdom started to rule the region, systematically developing its territorial expansion. During the 14th century kingdom claimed control over much of the archipelago, being led by its commander hero, known in the history as Gajah Mada.
Meanwhile, Islamic traders introduced their faith to Indonesians in the trade ports around 11th century. First province where islam really took hold was Aceh in northern Sumatra, where Arab traders were already well-settled. By the 15th century, the next trading kingdom of Melaka was embracing further islam influences, by reaching the heights of its power. Even before the collapse of Majapahit kingdom, many smaller satellite kingdoms declared themselves independent islamic states. Further on, during the 15th and the 16th centuries, Indonesian rulers made islam the state religion. New islamic entities were building their position on the spice trade and very soon islam followed the trade routes across the archipelago.
The next big era in the history of Indonesia started with the arrival of European traders and conquerors. Portuguese as European pioneers, were the first to dominate the valuable spice trade in the spice islands of Moluku, trading with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon or gloves among the most popular spices. Soon the Spanish, Dutch and British came along in search of wealth and potential teritorial entities. Among all the new conquerors, it was the Dutch who would eventually lay the foundations of the Indonesian state, however the colonial period of Indonesia cannot be dated with the first arrival of the Dutch around the 16th century. Instead, it was a slow process of political, social and economical expansion that took long centuries to reach the boundaries of contemporary Republic of Indonesia.
During the 18th century, the United East India Company has become the dominating power on Java, established after the crumbling and collapse of the Mataram empire. The Dutch trading company at that time was putting big efforts in improving its influences in the local economy, mostly by interfering in indigenous politics between Javanese rulers. Problems with managing its establishments, heavy corruption and fierce competition coming from the English East India Company, however, resulted in the systematic weakening of the United East India Company towards the end of the 18th century. As a consequence, the Company was nationalized by the Dutch state and passed into the hands of the Dutch crown with the beginning of the new century.
During the next hundred years, Indonesia became a stage of international political games, conflicts and witnessed another massive influx of foreign nations, cultures and traditions, what resulted in another layer of its modern state form. What in specific19th and 20th centuries brought into Indonesian historical heritage, we will share with you soon, so...stay tuned!