For a brief period, the Portuguese established missions, forts and trading posts on several Indonesian islands, but failed to maintain control.
During the 1600s, the Dutch awarded a monopoly on trade and colonization in the region, and the East India Trading Company conquered Jayakarta, founding the city of Batavia (present-day Jakarta).
Unlike the Portuguese before them, the Dutch utilized an exceptional financial backing, better organization, strategy, weapons and ships, but were still unable to completely dominate the Indonesian spice trade.
The Dutch East India Company dissolved in 1800, as a result of bankruptcy, and the Netherlands turned the Dutch East Indies into a nationalized colony.
Although the Dutch lived with the natives, they sat at a higher social class, and their control over the islands at times were quite cruel.
While in control of Indonesia, upgrading the current infrastructure and modernizing the economy became a high priority for the Dutch.
A national awakening for the natives of Indonesia began in the early 1900s, as the first nationalist mass movement, Sarekat Islam, was formed. Within a few months the movement grew to 93,000 members. After World War I, the Dutch attempted to repress the Sarekat Islam.
As World War II began, Indonesia became occupied by Japanese forces, and Dutch rule over the islands came to an end. For most of the Indonesian population, the Japanese occupation was brutal, and thousands were subjected to various war crimes or taken away as war laborers.
After Japan conceded in August of 1945, Sukarno, a powerful forerunner of the nationalist movement, declared independence for Indonesia, and was appointed president.
In a bold move, Sukarno transitioned Indonesia from a democracy to authoritarianism, and preserved power by balancing the Communist Party of Indonesia against opposing military forces.
Violence erupted by the mid-1960s, as an attempted coup was carried out, and nearly 500,000 were killed as the army retaliated.