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Jakarta (DKI Jakarta) is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Located on the northwest coast of Java, it has an area of 661 square kilometers and a population of 8,490,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political center. It is the most populous city in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and is the twelfth-largest city in the world. The metropolitan area, Jabodetabek, is the second largest in the world.

The history
History of a metropolis

Jakarta, the capital, is the largest city. It is located on the north-western coast of the island of Java on Jakarta Bay, at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. Jakarta is also the centre of activities for the whole of Indonesia. There are more than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia with over 200 languages being spoken.

Half the total population are Javanese with the balance being made up largely of Sundanese in West Java, Javanese in Central and East Java, Madurese in East Java and Madura, Balinese, the Coastal Malays, Buginese, Makassarese, and Bataks. Being a big city, Jakarta's population is a composite of many racial strains, including Arab, Indian, Papuan, Dutch and Chinese. But the majority are of Malay origin.

The city of Jakarta, founded on the former location of the pepper-seaport Sunda Kelapa at the mouth of the river Ciliwung, has always been a blooming center of trade, which attracted visitors from all over the archipelago. The nowadays Jakarta is long since not a pepper-seaport anymore. The 'Big Durian' is the fastest growing capital of the fifth biggest populous country of the world; a crowded metropolis with about ten million people, a dynamic economy and a fast way of life.

Sunda Kelapa

In the 15th century Sunda Kelapa was an important outpost of the inland Hindu kingdom Pajajaran. The city was embraced by a heavy battle for its part of the regional spice trade with other seaports along the Malacca Strait and the Sunda Strait. In 1527 the seaport was occupied by troops of Islamic sultanates of Banten and Demak, under the authority of the North-Sumatran Malay Fatahillah Khan, which married an princes from Banten. He hated the Portuguese, which conquered North-Sumatra in 1521, and made a trade deal over pepper trade with Pajajaran in 1522. Sunda Kelapa became a part of Banten soon, and since then it was called Jayakarta ('City of the Victor'y)

Development of a colonial capital

The Portuguese were followed up by the Dutch at the end of the 16th century. The Dutch monopolized the spice trade completely, and scared away their competitors with their good ships and well organized V.O.C. In the beginning they worked from Banten, but in November 1610 they signed a trading-treaty with prince Wijayakrama of Pajajaran, which let the Dutch built a warehouse in Jayakarta. This little fortress, founded in 1611 east of the city, was moved to the bank of the Ciliwung in 1618, and was called Jacatra since then.

In the first place Wijayakrama let the Dutch for what they were. This all changed when in 1618 a certain Jan Pieeterszoon Coen promovated: from general-bookkeeping and head of the VOC offices in Banten en Jayakarta to governor-general.
When Coen wanted to replace all trade to Jayakarta, Wijayakrama called in the English from Banten to drive away the Dutch. A long siege followed, in which the few Dutch were overwhelmed by an enormous power. The distrust against the three armies gave Coen the opportunity to hold his positions until the reinforcements from the Moluccas arrived. In March 1618 he broke the siege and totally demolished Jayakarta and the palace of the prince. After that he reinforced the old fortress into a big new fortress, "Het Kasteel" (the castle) During the siege the old fortress was renamed to Batavia, from the Bataviers which settled in Holland in the early ages. This name, the city would carry from 1622 until the end of Dutch colonial rule in 1942.

Coen made Batavia into the military and governmental capital of a mighty trading empire, which stretched from Cape Hope to India, and from the Indonesian archipelago towards Formosa (Taiwan) and Japan. In 1628 and 1629 attacks of sultan Agung and the powerful mid-Javanese kingdom of Mataram were foiled, at a cost of great destruction. During the second siege, Coen died of cholera.

His successor, governor-general Jacques Specx (1629 - 1632), rebuilt and reinforced the city from Coen's plans. In contrary to his predecessor, he gave the Chinese the right to demand taxes for services done by the Chinese. Batavia flourished and its economical power got the city it's nickname "Queen of the East".

In the next two centuries the faith of Batavia was the same as that of the V.O.C. The entire 17th century the economy of the city flourished on a profitable monopoly on spices, but in the 18th century the company had to deal with tremendous fluctuations in prices. Corruption and high military costs endangered the position of the V.O.C. more and more.

The descending prosperity was also noticeable in the city. The nice channels that Coen had designed to make Batavia an eastern version of Amsterdam, seemed not suitable for tropical regions. They slowly suffocated, became polluted, and became breeding places of vermin. In good, but badly ventilated Dutch buildings there were rats too much. The plaster was rotten because of the heat. Malaria-, dysenteria-, cholera- and typhoid-epidemics decimated the population.

Fear of a revolt of the Chinese lead to the Massacre of the Chinese in 1740. Batavia became economically dead and slowly but steadily the city started to become ramshackle. Year of bad management, costly wars and treason lead to the bankruptcy of the V.O.C., at the end of the 18th century it's territory was lost to the Dutch government.

Rise of a new city

Governor-general Deandels (1808-1810) ordered to tear down The Castle and the fortress walls. A new city center was built in the less unhealthy south. Wide, three-lane boulevards and beautify government-buildings were constructed in neo-classical style, and formed the base of the modern day Jakarta.

In 1811 British troops under Thomas Stamford Raffles entered Java and drove away the Dutch office. During his short period of leadership (in 1816 the Dutch got the office over the islands again) he introduced many new things and propagated the study of science and culture. The climax of his career was the founding of Singapore, a seaport that was to overshadow Batavia very soon.
Picture: Fortress
After the start of the 'culture system' on Java in 1830, Batavia somewhat flourished again. This system, which was bases on forced labor, brought in millions of Dutch guilders. Channels and roads were rebuilt, the number of governmental buildings increased and in Menteng, Cikini and surrounding areas green suburbs appeared. Batavia once more had a 'Golden Century', this time as 'The pearl of the East'.

This way, the city entered the 20th century as a flourishing colonial capital with about 300.000 residents. The start of gas-lighting, tram (street-trains) and car brought a fast modernization. The city became the center of a generation of young Indonesians with a Dutch education, full with nationalistic ideas and demanding independence.

After the Japanese hostile entry in 1942 Batavia became Jakarta. The city was declared occupied and was embraced by hunger and violence. The Dutch office disappeared and many beautiful buildings from the Dutch time were destroyed.

Years of crisis and the New Order

The after-war Sukarno period left an in-erasable impression on the modern Jakarta. Sukarno had the heavy task to lead a country that was torn apart by battle in the parties, and was robbed by the colonial apparatus. Big parks, wide boulevards and heroic monuments gave shape to his dream, but overshadowed the problems of the city. In the hope of a better living in the big city thousands of migrants flooded Jakarta. The slum areas, poorness and desperation of the early sixties represent a negative time in the city's history.

The succession of Sukarno by Suharto meant the dawn of an new era for Jakarta. Under the "New Order" plans to revive the city's economy and to modernize it were launched. The very simplified city council took care of hygiene, education and supervision on bureaucracy, which were real hot items. Still Jakarta is being embraced by problems that are similar to other fast growing cities in Third World countries. Investments aimed on a quick gain are being prevailed above the development of a primary infrastructure with supporting systems.

For the visitor Jakarta is most of all a busy, colorful metropolis, which houses aspects from all over the archipelago. For the millions that see Jakarta as their home, it's the true 'Ibu Kota', the 'Mother City' of Indonesia.

Last revised on January 13, 2010
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