The late-nineteenth-century, Dutch colonial conquest of the Aceh sultanate on Sumatra was protracted and brutal, costing the lives of tens of thousands of its inhabitants, causing the displacement of tens of thousands more, and resulting in the destruction of hundreds of villages. Much of the fertile Aceh River delta was left a smoking ruin due to Dutch scorched-earth tactics. Critics in the Netherlands accused their government of volkerenmoord, i.e. of the intent to exterminate the Aceh nation, triggering a national debate. Using the Dutch military journals for the 1870s and 1880s as its principal source, this article argues that the war constituted indirect genocide. Although hundreds of Acehnese combatants and non-combatants were summarily executed during the conflict, tens and perhaps even hundreds of thousands more were killed, displaced or traumatized because of the systematic destruction of the region's environmental infrastructure of homes, fields, irrigation and drainage works, food stores and livestock, exposing people to disease, malnutrition and starvation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations