By the start of the twenty-first century, Indonesia will cease to be a “developing country” by World Bank standards. Yet, its overall record during the twentieth century has been uneven. From being an exceptionally successful export performer in late-colonial times, it sank to extreme poverty under Sukarno, only to achieve remarkably well in material terms under Suharto. The profound discontinuity in the economic development of modern Indonesia makes a careful assessment of the colonial legacy all the more pressing. This contribution addresses the question of the apparent inability of foreign trade to generate sustained economic growth already in the late-colonial period.