In Indonesian education, it is often emphasized that the Dutch took advantage of "divide and conquer" tactics (and superior technology) to keep ruling Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies) despite being very outnumbered. At its peak, how many Dutch people lived in Indonesia during the colonial period? And how outnumbered was this compared to the native population?


This Wikipedia article shows the results of the 1930 Dutch East Indies census (in the Social History section), listing 240,417 Europeans out of a total population of over 60.7MM.

Calculating this as 0.4% European (with an additional 2.2%, or 1.35MM, Chinese and other foreign orientals), the European population was outnumbered 250-1 and the non-indigenous population was out-numbered 39-1.

While the absolute numbers would have increased between 1930 and 1941, it seems unlikely that any substantial change in ratio occurred in that 11 years, as there was no event to precipitate such a change until the Japanese invasion.

  • 2
    But what about pre-1930? I am not sure the same ratio can be extrapolated backwards. Aug 17 '13 at 8:12
  • 2
    @FelixGoldberg: IMHO, the 1930 figures represent a good "first pass." The earlier figures may have differed, but the takeaway is that the number of Europeans were very small.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 1 '15 at 13:56
  • This reminds me of a childhood friend who believed that the Americans would win the Vietnam War because "one American soldier is worth 1,000 Vietnamese soldiers." He was wrong, of course, but may have been thinking in terms of ratios like this one.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 1 '15 at 13:58
  • Also from Wikipedia, 'In the 1890s, there were 62,000 civilian 'Europeans' in the Dutch East Indies, most of them Eurasians, making up less than half of one per cent of the population." So it seems safe to say the peak, whenever it was, fell well below 1%, especially if we mean Dutch-born.
    – Brian Z
    Oct 9 '19 at 2:04

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