Batavia, Dutch East Indies

Batavia, Dutch East Indies

Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Netherlands Indies from 1619 to 1942. Its name is now Jakarta, the capital city of the Republic of Indonesia.

Before the Dutch

In the 15th century AD there was, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River in the western part of Java Island, a harbour called Kalapa. It was one of the sea ports of the Sundanese kingdom of Pajajaran whose capital, Pakuan, was situated on the location of the modern city of Bogor, some 60 km upstream on the river.

The Portuguese, who had conquered Malacca in 1511 and wanted to set foot in the Moluccas, the famed "Spices Islands", were looking for a relay harbour on Java. Kalapa was attractive to them, all the more so since Pajajaran, which was still a Hindu polity, could make an allied against Muslims who dominated the regional trade at that time. In 1522, the Portuguese signed with Pajajaran a treaty.

In 1527 Fatahillah, a prince from the Banten kingdom, attacked the Portuguese garrison. Banten had just freed itself from the overlordship of Pajajaran. On the ruins of the Portuguese fort, he founded the town of Jayakarta ("victorious act" in Sanskrit).


In 1595, Amsterdam merchants had set up an expedition to be sent to the Indonesia archipelago. Under the command of Cornelis de Houtman, the expedition arrived in Banten in 1596. The goods it brought back to the Netherlands only produced a modest profit to the merchants who had set up the expedition.

In 1600 the Dutch set up the Dutch East Indies Company, "Vereenigde Oostindie Compagnie" in Dutch or VOC. In the Moluccas, the Dutch took a first Portuguese fort in 1605.

Jan Pieterszoon Coen was appointed the VOC governor general for the Moluccas. He too wanted to set up an establishment in Java. He took Jayakarta in 1619. On the ruins of the Javanese town, he founded Batavia, which he named after the ancestors of the Dutch people, the Germanic tribe of the Batavians.

In 1613, prince Rangsang became king of Mataram in Central Java. The following year, he attacked the principality of Surabaya in the east. The man who would be remembered as Sultan Agung had started a series of successful campaigns against rival kingdoms and principalities on Java. In 1625, in addition to Central Java, Mataram was in control of central and eastern parts of the island's northern coast, called the "Pasisir". Now Agung wanted to take on Banten and Batavia.

Agung launched a first offensive on Batavia in 1628. Having suffered heavy losses, he had to retreat. he launched a second offensive in 1629. The Dutch fleet destroyed his supplies and his ships in the harbours of Cirebon and Tegal. Mataram troops, starving and decimated by illness, had to retreat again.

However, Agung pursued his conquering ambitions to the east. He attacked Blitar, Panarukan and the Blambangan principality in Java's eastern salient, a vassal of the Balinese kingdom of Gelgel. Agung died in 1646. His son succeeded him under the title of Susuhunan Amangkurat.

ee also



*Lombard, Denys, "Le carrefour javanais"
*Ricklefs, M. C., "A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300"

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