Padri War

gigatos | December 28, 2021


The Pader Wars (or Minangkabau Wars) were fought in western Sumatra: the first between 1821 and 1824, the second between 1830 and 1837.

In the 1820s, the Dutch had yet to consolidate their possession in parts of the Dutch East Indies, having regained them from Britain.This was especially true on the island of Sumatra, where some areas were not brought under control until the early 20th century.

During the Napoleonic wars, some indigenous peoples of Sumatra had made progress in reducing Dutch control. In particular, the west coast of Sumatra at least as early as 1795 and they held it until 1819. This greatly weakened the already weak authority exercised over those regions (as well as, in general, outside of Java), by the Dutch colonial authorities in Batavia. At the same time, the British authorities did not do much to take advantage of this: they already had their hands full in securing control of Dutch trading bases. While attempts to penetrate the interior were reserved for the much more strategic India. The result was a conspicuous power vacuum, which favored all kinds of revanchists and adventurers: as evidenced by the uncontrolled explosion of piracy, which made the waters of the Malaysian islands, the most dangerous in the world.

To this general phenomenon belonged a local conflict, which broke out in 1803 (or early 1804) in West Sumatra, in the form of an internal conflict within the locally dominant population, the Minangkabau Muslims, involving two factions: the Adat and the Paderi:

First successes of the fundamentalists and massacre of the royal family of Pagaruyung

The jihād was exercised in a context characterized by an extreme fragmentation of political power, in the hands of hundreds of village chiefs (called panghulu). While the state authority, which existed in the person of the raja of the Kingdom of Pagaruyung, also a minangkabau, was weakened, primarily due to the crisis of gold mines (which had been the main basis of livelihood), to the advantage of a more widespread wealth derived from the cultivation and trade of coffee and other products for export.

In 1815, most of that royal family was assassinated by the rebellious ”Paderi”. By order of their leader, Tuanku Lintau (tuanku means ”religious leader”).

The British must not have had much interest in the matter: officially they ”tolerated” the movement. Practically they ignored it. So much so that Raffles, tout-puissant lieutenant-governor of occupied Java, visited the small capital of the Kingdom of Pagaruyung only in 1818, after the third and final fire: he found nothing but a pile of ruins.

Return of the Dutch to Java and first steps in Sumatra

Things changed, a little, with the return of the Dutch. They had regained possession of Java on August 19, 1816, following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. Here Governor General van der Capellen did not have great means, neither financial nor military, and had to make up for the years lost during the British occupation.

A weakness that pushed different local sovereigns to try to recover their independence: on Sumatra itself, for example, the sultanate of Palembang was not reduced to reason before July 1821.

The area closest to the center of the Paderi”s activities, however, was Padang, in the western part of Sumatra, where the British handed over to a Dutch “resident”, Jamer du Puy, but he had only 150 soldiers, in addition to civilian employees, and very little financial resources to support his action.

Du Puy was, however, an ambitious man: faced with requests for support presented to him by the survivors of the royal family of Pagaruyung, obviously supported by the faction ”Adat”, which offered in exchange for submission to the Dutch protectorate, the ”resident” made himself spokesman in Batavia. Here the entourage of the governor van der Capellen did not show, initially, any interest in sacrificing part of the already scarce resources available, to subdue the not too important west coast of Sumatra.

The “resident”, however, was able to convince them, with the argument that if they had not intervened, Britain would have profited, in the person of the famous adventurer Sir Thomas Raffles, the same who had already ruled Java from 1811 to 1816 and that, on February 6, 1819, had taken advantage of a similar situation to found the new colony of Singapore.

van der Capellen, therefore, let himself be convinced: du Puy signed, with the chiefs ”Adat”, a first treaty, with which they exchanged the acceptance of Dutch rule, in exchange for the restoration of the political structure prior to the beginning of the revolt of the Paderi.Then, in 1821, came to Padang the young lieutenant A.F. Raaff, with 500 soldiers. And the war began for the Dutch as well.

First clashes and the ”Treaty of Masang”

The military campaign officially began in February 1821: the first Dutch attack to a ”Paderi” village took place in April 1821. Many small skirmishes and a defeat followed, in 1823 at Lintau. Politically, the war had not been won because the Dutch had refused to resettle a Raja for the former Kingdom of Pagaruyung. This inevitably led many local leaders to side with the ”Paderi” who, for their part, had no intention of submitting.

This, however, did not prevent them from reaching a reasonable compromise: the ”Contract of Peace and Friendship” of January 1824 (also known as the Treaty of Masang) stipulated by the Raaff with the Paders of Bondjol (their major fortified center).

A long pause imposed by the Java revolt

Shortly after, in April 1824, Raaff, who in the meantime had replaced du Puy as resident in Padang, died of a fever. He was replaced by H.J.J.L. Ridder de Stuers, a prepared officer who had to adapt to the peace, because forced by the unexpected outbreak, on July 20, 1825, of a major revolt, which broke out in central Java: a province much more strategic, for the Dutch, than the peripheral Sumatra.

Strengthening the military and diplomatic grip

It so happened that the war was frozen for about six years. Ridder de Stuers took advantage of this to take the necessary steps to ensure the control of the territory: founding several fortifications, starting from the most famous, the Fort de Kock, started in 1825 in Bukittinggi.

At the same time, the Dutch government took care of the diplomatic side by signing, on March 3, 1824, a new Anglo-Dutch treaty, which integrated the previous one of 1814: the Netherlands and the United Kingdom agreed to delimit their respective lines of influence at the Strait of Malacca, which left Sumatra at the disposal of the smaller of the two powers.

In the meantime, the Paderi of Bondjol had done their best to describe themselves as a factor of instability, invading the regions of their northern neighbors, the Batak, with the excuse of slaughtering their pig farms, from their point of view the impure animal par excellence.

Resumption and conclusion of the conflict

The conflict resumed in the 1830s, with some early Dutch successes. The rebel leader Tuanku Imam Bonjol was captured in 1832 but, after three months, escaped his captors. Taking refuge, finally, in the small town of Bonjol, the last stronghold of the ”Paderi”.

This fell on August 16, 1837 after months of blockade and was razed to the ground. Tuanku Imam Bonjol was exiled: first in Cianjur, in the west of Java, then on the rich island of Ambone, finally in Manado on the island of Celebes, the metropolis of minahasa, a population loyal to the Dutch, who had already provided many recruits to the repression of the revolt of Java and the conflict ended.

With the victory, the Dutch strengthened their control of western Sumatra. In the meantime, the religious and tribal leaders of the Minangkabau were able to find a less immediately dramatic way to accord local traditions to the inevitable “Arabization” of customs.


  1. Guerra dei Paderi
  2. Padri War
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