In the early 17th century Lombok’s Sasak princedoms were usurped by the Balinese, who took control of western Lombok, and the Makassarese, who invaded eastern Lombok. By 1750 the whole island was in Balinese hands.
In western Lombok, relations between the Balinese and the Sasaks were relatively harmonious, but in eastern Lombok the Balinese had to maintain control from garrisoned forts, and peasant rebellions were common.
The Dutch intervened in the late 19th century, and, after an initial defeat that cost 100 lives, overran Cakranegara. Here the last rajah families surrendered by perang poepoetan – men, women and children in white clothing throwing themselves at the perplexed Dutch, who kept shooting.
In the following years, the Dutch were able to maintain the support of the surviving Balinese and the Sasak aristocracy, and they controlled more than 500,000 people with no more than 250 troops.
Even after Indonesian independence, Lombok continued to be dominated by its Balinese and Sasak elite. In 1958 Lombok became part of the new province of Nusa Tenggara Barat (West Nusa Tenggara), and Mataram became its administrative capital. Following the attempted coup in Jakarta in 1965, Lombok experienced mass killings of communists and ethnic Chinese.
Under former president Soeharto’s ‘New Order’, there was stability and some growth, but crop failures led to famine in 1966, and to severe food shortages in 1973. Many moved away from Lombok under the government-sponsored transmigrasi programme.
Tourism took off in the 1980s but was mostly developed by outside investors and speculators. As Indonesia descended into economic crisis and political turmoil in the late ’90s, Lombok began to feel the pinch.
On 17 January 2000, serious riots engulfed Mataram. Christians and Chinese were the primary victims, but the agitators and provocateurs were from outside Lombok. Ultimately all Lombok suffered, and tourism has yet to recover, the situation compounded by the Bali bombs of 2002 and 2005.
Today Lombok’s tourism potential remains strong, particularly with work starting on a new international airport in 2006. But with many Sasaks adopting a stricter practice of Islam, the cultural gulf between conservative Islamic and liberal Western values is acute.