Indonesia’s Struggle for Merdeka (1945-1949) and the Japanese Legacy

Module Summary

The struggle for independence took on many faces, and each country in Southeast Asia emerged from both Western colonialism and Japanese occupation with its own complex layers of legacy. Using Indonesia as a case study, this module will raise some broad questions about colonization and occupation in order to consider commonalities and differences and come to some conclusion on the overall effect of colonization and occupation on Southeast Asia as a region and as individual countries. Revolving around the central question of whether the Japanese occupation was a prelude to Indonesian independence, this session takes a close look at the following questions:

What effect did colonization and Japanese occupation have on the stability of individual countries and across the broader Southeast Asian region?
In what ways did Japanese humiliation of Europeans influence local attitudes?
How did local legends like the Jayabaya prophecy in Indonesia contribute to the reception of the Japanese?
Was the impact of European colonization greater than that of Japanese occupation in determining how a country fought for independence?
Would the Indonesian Revolution have taken place without the Japanese occupation?

This module is based on the presentation by Shigeru Sato (Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, Australia) for the East-West Center’s 2011 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for Teachers.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this module do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the East-West Center.

Optional Reading

The optional readings for this module are:
Paul H. Kratoska, Southeast Asian Minorities in the Wartime Japanese Empire, Routledge, 2002. See “Introduction” and “Chapter One.”

Teaching Materials

PowerPoint presentation “Indonesia’s Struggle for Merdeka and the Japanese Legacy”

Key topics include: decolonization, development, Netherlands Indies, ethnic minorities, European powers, fascism, imperialism / colonialism, independence movements, Islam in Southeast Asia, nationalism, post-war period, warfare and combat, WWII in Southeast Asia.

We welcome comments from teachers on how you have integrated this material into your teaching, including what was useful and what wasn’t, and what additional resources you would like to see in or recommend for this module.