The dormant political atmosphere, so long characteristic of the colonial society of the Indies, was undergoing an almost imperceptible change at the dawn of the twentieth century. Apart from the official adoption of the “Ethical Policy”—the moral assumption by the Netherlands of a concern for “native” welfare—ripples indicative of a new consciousness were occurring within the indigenous society. A movement for female education and emancipation was instigated by Raden Adjeng Kartini, daughter of the Regent of Djapara. A socio-cultural organization of Javanese intellectuals named Boedi Oetomo (Splendid Endeavor) was founded in May 1908. The Sarekat Islam (United Islam), initially concerned with economic matters, had by 1912 begun to stress religious principles and was soon to gain a mass following under Hadji O. S. Tjokroaminoto. The Eurasian E. F. E. Douwes Dekker, through agitation and the establishment of a real independence party, the Indische Partij (Party of the Indies), was the first to make a major contribution in the field of political nationalism.

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