City History: Jakarta

Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, has had many names. So, the history of the city goes back to the middle ages, including several changes of names. What we know as Jakarta today was mentioned at the 5th century for the first time, but the official history of the city starts in 1527. The reason for that and how it goes on is my topic for this article.

The Portuguese arrived in 1522, but, and that’s a huge but, they weren’t able to hold the city.

View on the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta

Jakarta was conquered by the Portuguese in 1522

Rather the Islamic Sultanate of Demak defeated the Portuguese in 1527, so the sultan renamed the city to Jayakarta, which means “victorious city”. Anyway, the Portuguese weren’t the only one conquering Jakarta.

The Dutch influence on Jakarta

Moreover, by the end of the 16th century, the Dutch arrived at the Sunda Kelapa harbor. Despite from setting up the Dutch East India Company and thus intervening and being a big part of the lucrative global spice trade, the Dutch also developed the infrastructure of Jakarta.

A bike from colonial times

A bike from colonial times

As I now realize, the “Batavia Yacht Club” has its name from the earliest infrastructure of Jakarta! The reason for this is that the Dutch baptised this system Batavia.

Facing problems

About two decades later, in the 18th century, Jakarta found itself dealing with the huge problem of overcrowding. As a logical result, the quality of life decreased. Moreover, Chinese people immigrated.

Unfortunately, this disrupted the balance of power. This led into a massacre where about 5000 Chinese lost their life. Reason for that probably is that the Dutch authorities got nervous, so they killed these people in a bloodbath.

Change of power

What comes now is a bit more complicated, but the nations who took over power changes and goes back and so on. During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1811, there was a short period of time when the British took over control.

Independence was far away in the 18th century

Independence was far away in the 18th century

But this won’t last long, as the British gave back control to the Dutch only four years later. Thenceforth, the Dutch remained until WWII, but before that, Jakarta got modernized. However, Japanese forces occupied Indonesia and thus Jakarta in WWII.

End of the colonial era

After the war, Jakarta was briefly occupied by the Allies, but given back to the Dutch later on. On August 17 in 1945, still under Japanese control, Indonesian nationalists declared independence and the city got renamed Djakarta. Nevertheless, when the full Indonesian independence was achieved, Djakarta became the capital. This was on December 27 in 1949.

After the gain of Independence

Since their independence, Jakarta has grown immensely, several office buildings have been built. Furthermore, the city’s infrastructure was modernized, Jakarta became one of the largest metropolises of tropical Asia and emerged as a financial and commercial center.

Grand Indonesia Shopping Town in the dark

Today, Jakarta is a booming town

Despite all, the city got hit by the financial crises in Asia in 1997/98. However, the city of Jakarta is the heart of Indonesia and an important financial and commercial center in South-East-Asia.


Interested in more history? Check out our other posts about the topic!


2 Comments on “City History: Jakarta”

  1. Pingback: Looking back on week 15 | travelux

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