Butonese - History and Cultural Relations

According to their own tradition, migrants from Johore established the kingdom of Buton, probably in the beginning of the fifteenth century. The kings (raja) had relations with the Hindu kingdom Mojopahit on Java and probably were also Hindu. The sixth raja converted to Islam in 1540, and so became the first sultan. Under his reign the whole kingdom was formally converted to Islam. It is clear from western records that Buton lay at a strategic point on the route from Java and Makassar (South Sulawesi) to the Moluccas, the heart of Indonesian spice production. Especially in the first half of the seventeenth century it was difficult for Buton to maintain its independence in the power struggle between the two Indonesian sultanates of Makassar and Ternate (North Moluccas), in which the Dutch East India Company, VOC, also played an important role. In 1613 Buton entered into the first contract with the VOC, during a meeting between the fourth sultan, La Elangi, and the first Governor-General, Pieter Both. With this contract Buton sought support for its independence from Makassar and Ternate. Only after the sultanate of Makassar had been subjugated by the VOC in the years 1667-1669 did Buton become free from this power struggle. From then on Buton formed part of the territory administered under the Pax Neerlandica. During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries the sultanate of Buton managed to remain an independent kingdom. The government of the Netherlands-Indies was not really powerful enough in the nineteenth century to intervene effectively. But this changed at the beginning of the twentieth century. A new contract was imposed in 1906, which stated that the government could interfere in the sultanate's internal matters. Although it was "self-governing," Buton was then definitely part of the colonial system. The foundations were laid for entirely new sociocultural and economic developments, especially in connection with government, education, health services, and the economy. It was one more step toward complete integration in the sociopolitical system of the Indies, and after 1949 in the state of Indonesia. This integration, or incorporation, culminated in 1960 with the dissolution of the sultanate a few months after the death of the last sultan.

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