San José State University
Department of Economics
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Refounding of the City of
Jakarta (Djakarta) as Batavia

The city of Jakarta lies on an alluvial plain at the mouth of the Liwung River (Tji Liwung, Chiliwong) on the northwest coast of the island of Java.

The natural state of the land was a swampy area easily flooded during the rainy seasons. On average the area gets about 70 inches of rainfall per year.


Despite the problems of swamps and chronic flooding a settlement developed on the site quite early, perhaps as early as the 5th century. The site had great potential for a port for oceanic trade and in the early 1500's the Portuguese attempted to capture it. They were defeated in 1527 by the forces of the Sultan of Bantam. In celebration for his victory the Sultan named the settlement Jakarta, meaning glorious fortress.

In the next century a more formidable foe came knocking. The Dutch wanted not the settlement but the site. When they captured the settlement in 1619 they razed the settlement to the ground and commenced to build a new city there which they called Batavia. It became the capital of the Dutch East India Company.

In the early days Batavia was primarily a fortress protecting the Company's warehouses. In the early 19th century the city was extended to the high ground to the south.

In 1805 Napoleon's forces captured the Netherlands and established a Republic but the next year Napoleon created the Kingdom of Holland and put his brother Louis on its throne. The Dutch East Indies Company was abolished.

Napoleon sent one of his army's marshals, Herman William Daendels, to administer the Dutch territories in the East Indies. As governor-general Daendels tried to centralize the governance of the territories. He built roads and imposed a tax on agricultural production that could be paid in kind. He made the growing of coffee by the natives compulsory. He brought the local rulers into the system by making them his agents and paying them a salary.

British control was brought to the Dutch territories by the forces of the British East India Company. The venerable Thomas Stamford Raffles was appointed lieutenant governor of the conquered territories. Raffles continued some of the work of Daendels but did away with the requirement that natives must grow coffee. The layout of the city Batavia/Jakarta was highly influenced by the period of British control.

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