Indonesia Expat Article: Bengkulu

04-bengkulu

Issue 170 of Indonesia Expat – which always has an interesting and eclectic array of articles – carried a piece of mine about Bengkulu, the erstwhile British outpost on the west coast of Sumatra.

Bengkulu is where Thomas Stamford Raffles ended up, after his departure in near-disgrace from Java, and generally the only attention is gets from writers and historians is as a sort of extended footnote in the Raffles story – and this despite the fact that he spent far longer there than he ever did in Singapore. But Bengkulu’s past brims with characters and stories, amongst which Raffles probably isn’t the most interesting. I’d love to write a book about the place one day, but for now this article will have to do…

British Bengkulu: A Forgotten Imperial Outpost

Bengkulu, October 1685: The fort stood atop a small hillock on the banks of a coffee-coloured creek. To the west the Indian Ocean stretched blank and white and empty. To the east the dark wall of the Bukit Barisan mountain range rose like a stalled tsunami, a grey curl of monsoon cloud spilling from its lip.

A European ship was moored offshore – the first of its kind to pass this way for many months. Inside the fort – little more than a few mouldering huts ringed by a wonky wooden palisade – two men were busy writing. Benjamin Bloome and Joshua Charlton, the English overseers of this sad little station, had been at their post since June 24, but the passing ship was only now providing them the chance to send a first message to their British East India Company overlords at Fort St. George at Madras in India. They filled 18 densely packed pages with restrained accounts of their frustrated attempts to establish an effective pepper trade before finally coming to the crux of the matter…

Read the full article online here…

© Tim Hannigan 2016

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