For many centuries, the Dutch dominated the lucrative spice and opium trade of South East Asia, and the British East India Company (EIC) first attempted to enter it by establishing a pepper-trading center and garrison at Bencoolen (Bengkulu) on the South-West coast of Sumatra in 1685.
For a time, Bencoolen was a Presidency in its own right, and controlled the administration of other British factories along the West coast of Sumatra. As it was far away from the primary regional trade routes however, Bencoolen functioned mainly as a penal colony - it could not successfully produce pepper as planned and it became a financial loss to the EIC. Despite this chequered history, Bencoolen was in fact the last territory in Indonesia to be held by the British.
British expansion throughout South East...read more