History of Jakarta
Jakarta's earliest history centres on the Port of Sunda Kelapa in the north of the modern city.
In the fifth century, the Port was settled by the Pajajaran Dynasty, the last Hindu Kingdom of West Java (aka "Sunda"), and quickly developed a vibrant sea trade for the realm.
From the 1200s to the early-1500s, Sunda Kelapa was the most important port of the Sunda Kingdom. It thrived on international spice trade (especially pepper), and was one of the few Indonesian ports that maintained ties to Europe. Eventually, the Port caught the interest of the seafaring Portuguese, and they set off to Java in the hope of getting involved in the lucrative spice trade.
In 1522, the Portuguese secured a political and economic agreement with the Sunda Kingdom. In exchange for military assistance against the threat of the rising Islamic Sultanate of Demak in Central Java, the King of Sunda granted the Portuguese free access to the pepper trade. The Portuguese (never known for colonising territories) made no attempt to conquer of the Port Town. They simply remained in the service of the sovereign and made their homes in Sunda Kelapa.
However, the Portuguese foothold in the Town was short-lived. In 1527, Syarif Hidayat Fatahillah, the saint and leader of the Islamic Sultanate of Demak, attacked the Portuguese and succeeded in conquering Sunda Kelapa. He renamed it 'Jayakarta," meaning 'victorious town.'
But European interest in the harbour did not end there.
In 1603, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), recognising the potential of the East Indies spice trade, established its first trading post in northwest Java, and, in 1611, established a second post in Jayakarta.
Shortly after the arrival of the Dutch in the archipelago, the British East India Company also began setting up posts across the region, and this set off a a few years of Anglo-Dutch competition for access to spices.
In 1619, tensions reached a climax when the Jayakartans, backed by the British, besieged the VOC fortress in Jayakarta. The Dutch, seeing a threat to their monopolistic ambitions, retaliated in force. In May 1619, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Governor-General of the VOC, stormed the town with 19 ships, reducing it to ashes. With this decisive victory, the Dutch drove the Jayakartans out of Sunda Kelapa once-and-for-all, and the British permanently withdrew from all of their Indonesian activities (with the exception of one area in West Java).
Following the battle, the Dutch took control of the town and built a stronger shoreline fortress to protect their new possession. They renamed the town, 'Batavia,' after a tribe that once occupied parts of the Netherlands in Roman times, and appointed Jan Pieterszoon as its first Governor. Batavia became the Capital of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) - a Dutch colony which would go on to exist for three centuries.
Within the walls of Batavia, the prosperous Dutch built tall houses and canals in an attempt to create an Amsterdam in the tropics. The town's population swelled over the the next few years, boosted by both Indonesians and Chinese eager to take advantage of Batavia's commercial prospects, and, by the early-1700s, Batavia had grown from a town into a city.
By 1740, ethnic unrest in the Chinese quarters had grown to dangerous levels, and, in October of that year, violence broke out on Batavia's streets, leaving some 5000 Chinese dead. Within months of the uprising, Chinese inhabitants were moved to Glodok, outside the city walls. Other Batavians, discouraged by severe epidemics which followed between 1735 and 1780, also moved beyond the city walls. As result of these developments, the city had spread far south of the Port by 1800.
In 1942, after 300 years of colonial rule, the Dutch East Indies abruptly disintegrated when the Japanese entered and occupied the archipelago during World War II. The Netherlands, Britain and the United States tried to defend the colony against the Japanese Occupation, but the Allied Forces were quickly overwhelmed, and, on 8 March 1942, the Royal Dutch East Indies Army surrendered in Java.
The Japanese immediately began dismantling the Dutch government structure and interning Dutch citizens. As they did this, Indonesians were placed in leadership and administrative positions. As a result, much of the indigenous population of Batavia came to view the Japanese as liberators from the colonial Dutch empire.
When the Japanese were defeated at the end of World War II and left Indonesia, the nationalist leader, Soekarno, seized the opportunity to take Indonesia to nationhood, and declared Indonesia an independent nation on 17 August 1945.
A four-and-a-half-year struggle ensued as the Dutch attempted to re-establish their colony, but, ultimately, in December 1949, the Netherlands formally recognised Indonesian sovereignty, and Soekarno became the country's first President.
Batavia was renamed 'Jakarta,' and, in 1950, Jakarta became the official Capital of the new Republic.
Over the next four decades, the Capital struggled under the weight of an ever-increasing population of poor migrants, but by the 1990s, under the leadership of Indonesia's second president, Soeharto, Jakarta had established a strong and healthy economy.
That all changed, however, with an Asian economic collapse at the end of 1997. The Capital quickly became a political battleground, with intense protests demanding the resignation of President Soeharto.
After months of tension, the floodgates opened on 12 May 1998, when the army fired live ammunition into a group of students at Jakarta's Trisakti University leaving four dead. Jakarta erupted in three days of rioting as thousands took to the streets . . . marking the beginning of Indonesia's transition to democracy.
The next few years would see a rapid succession of leaders, and, in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) became Indonesia's first directly-elected President. In 2014, Jakarta's enormously popular governor, Joko Widodo (Jokowi) replaced SBY as Indonesia's second democratic President.
Today, with a population of 14,250,000, Jakarta is the 9th largest city in the world, and is the Capital of the world's 19th largest economy - Indonesia.
This article was generously contributed by Desmond Breau,
Programme Coordinator at LANGUAGE STUDIES INDONESIA.