Member: Indonesian Documentation Centre of Architecture
History of Batavia
Sunda Kelapa, a town which originally was just a small port in the Bay of Jakarta, quickly developed into a big and important harbor during the 16th & 17th centuries. Several European nations competed against each other to conquer the port of Sunda Kelapa because of its strategic location and because it was along the spice trade route.
The arrival of the first Dutch VOC ship in Sunda Kelapa was in 1596. In 1610 VOC got permission to build a trading post in the east bank of the Ciliwung River. Its strategic location motivated the VOC at the beginning of the 17th century, after controlling the Moluccas, to also conquer the town which was known by the name of Jayakarta. The VOC eventually succeeded to conquer it on May 30, 1619 and not long afterwards renamed it Batavia.
It was Jan Pieterszoon Coen who changed the name of Jayakarta to Batavia, and who then moved the seat of the Governor-General and the High Government (Council of the Indies) from the Moluccas to Batavia after which the city developed as the administrational and commercial centre of the VOC in Asia. All the VOC trading posts were subject to the High Government in Batavia and all communications between the various trading posts in Asia and the directors in Europe went through Batavia.
Development as a city
Commercially, Batavia became the main trading harbor of the VOC in Asia as well as a repair dock for its ships. There were many depots and warehouse facilities for trade goods that were shipped to Europe and Asia.
Batavia soon developed into a metropolitan city where many visitors came from all parts of the Indonesian archipelago and foreign countries. The VOC built Batavia as a town encircled by walls, just like a town in Europe at the time, with Batavia Castle in the north; the city became the central point of VOC power over the archipelago. The important buildings and houses for the Europeans were built within the city wall. This city structure which was built during the VOC era in the 17th century can still be seen until today. After the VOC went bankrupt in 1799 it became the capital of the Dutch Indies.
Commodities and the main trading routes
Until the second half of the 17th century, the entire VOC fleet had to stop in Batavia before continuing the voyage to other Asian countries and again on the way back to Europe. Therefore, many commodities were stored and transferred in the warehouses of Batavia. In the beginning of 17th century the VOC was mostly involved in the trade of spices from eastern Indonesia such as nutmeg and mace from the Banda Islands and cloves from Maluku. Subsequently the VOC began to trade with other cities in the archipelago with more diverse commodities; pepper from Banten and South Sumatra was shipped to Europe, rice from Java was brought from Jepara and sent on to Malacca, tea and coffee was traded between the islands and sugar from Java was traded to Japan and Europe. Copper and silver from Japan and silk from Thailand were imported and also used for the inter Asian trade.
Many important buildings and houses for the Europeans still remain. Batavia City Hall was built in 1709 as an office for the Batavia Government and is now Jakarta History Museum. Former VOC warehouses from the 17th century have now become part of the Maritime Museum and others remain in the east of the old city. Former grand residences from Governor Generals are accessible as museums or event venues and two shipyards have been turned into restaurants and a café. The former Portuguese Sion and Tugu churches are still in use and contain original gravestones.