The first people in Indonesia arrived about 40,000 years ago when sea level was lower and it was joined to Asia by a land bridge. Then at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 BC a new wave of people came. At first they hunted animals, collected shellfish and gathered plants for food. By about 2,500 BC they learned to grow crops such as taro, bananas, millet and rice. The early farmers also made pottery but all their tools were made of stone.
However by 700 BC the Indonesians had learned to make bronze and iron. Furthermore at that time wet rice cultivation was introduced. Indonesian villages were forced to co-operate to regulate the supply of water to their fields. In time organized kingdoms emerged.
From about 400 BC Indonesians traded with other nations such as China and India.
Hinduism and Buddhism were also introduced to Indonesia and they took route.
By the 8th century AD Indonesian civilization was flourishing. Among the kingdoms was a Hindu kingdom in central Java called Sailandra. There was also the great Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya in south Sumatra. From the 7th century to the 13th century Sriwijaya prospered and it became a maritime empire controlling western Java and part of the Malay Peninsula. It was also a centre of Buddhist learning.
However in the 13th century the Sriwijaya Empire broke up into separate states.
Meanwhile Islam was brought to Indonesia by Indian merchants. It first gained a toehold in Aceh in north Sumatra and in following centuries it spread through the rest of Indonesia.
However in the 13th and 14th centuries a Hindu kingdom flourished. It was called the Majapahit Empire. It was founded in 1292 and soon rose to dominate most of Indonesia. However in the early 15th century the Majapahit Empire went into a rapid decline.
In the early 16th century the Portuguese arrived in Indonesia. at that time there was a huge demand in Europe for spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and mace. Huge profits could be made by transporting them to Europe and selling them. The Portuguese therefore decided to seize the Moluccas, the chief source of spices. In 1511 they captured Melaka, an important port. They also captured the Moluccas.
However in the early 17th century the Portuguese lost their position to the Dutch. The first Dutch fleet sailed from Holland in 1595 under Cornelis de Houtman. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was formed to control trade with Indonesia. In 1605 they took Tidore and Ambon from the Dutch. In 1619 the company captured Batavia. In 1641 they took Melaka. During the 17th century the Dutch gradually extended their power of Java and the Moluccas. However they had little influence in the rest of Indonesia.
Moreover during the 18th century the Dutch East India Company slipped into debt. Finally in 1799 the Dutch government took over its territories.
In 1806 the British and Dutch went to war. In 1811 the British under Lord Minto sailed to Batavia. The British soon captured all the Dutch possessions in Indonesia. The British abolished slavery and they also divided the country into areas called residencies for administration. However in 1816 the British handed Indonesia back to the Dutch.
Many Indonesians resisted the return of the Dutch. However the Dutch eventually defeated them and regained control.
However in 1825 the Javanese War, in central Java, began. It was led by Prince Disponegoro. However the war ended with Dutch victory in 1830. Disponegoro went into exile and died in 1855.
Furthermore during the 19th century the Dutch extended their control over other parts of Indonesia. In 1825 they took Pelambang in Sumatra. They also fought wars with the Balinese in 1848, 1849, 1858 and 1868. However Bali was not finally conquered until 1906.
In 1873 the Dutch went to war with Aceh. The war went on until 1908. Meanwhile in 1894 the Dutch captured Lombok and in 1905 they captured the whole of Sulawesi.