26 March 2017

Batavia Series: 1. The Establishment

In The Batavia Series we will use historical maps to explore the spatial developments of Indonesian capital, Jakarta, from its founding as Batavia by VOC, its spreading, the fall of VOC and the reign of Dutch East Indies Colony, until its transfer to the Indonesian Republic. The series will be consisted of several parts based on the development phases of the city.

Note: The historical maps are superimposed to the contextual map of 2017, while larger view of the superimposed maps can be seen at the end of each of the series. For the early series (year 1600s and early 1700s), we will use only the northern part of Jakarta as the contextual map.

Batavia was not erected on an empty ground. In the 4th century, the site was part of Tarumanagara Kingdom, and from 7th to 13th century it was part of Sunda Kingdom, with its Sunda Kelapa port, which was part of the Srivijaya Empire. In 1513 the first contact with the Europeans was made between Sunda Kingdom and the Portuguese merchants, which then built their own port in 1522. In 1527 Fatahillah, a general from Demak Kingdom, conquered the city, put it under Banten Sultanate control, and renamed it Jayakarta. In 1596 merchants from the Netherlands led by Cornelis de Houtman reached Jayakarta for trade and in 1610 they were granted permission to build a trading outpost on the east bank of Ciliwung river, which then finished on 1611. By that time, the British were also had arrived at Jayakarta in 1602.

In other part of the world, the Dutch Government granted VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, United East Indies Company) monopoly right for Asian trade in 1602, thus from that point until its liquidation in 1799, the main role of the history of Batavia was the VOC, a corporation, instead of the Dutch Government directly.


On the right is the map that portrays the Batavia in 1610, but we can tell that the map was made at a much later time especially from how the note on the bottom-right side of the map is talking about "the oldest part of the city":

"Gestippeld is: op de rechter oever der rivier de omtrek van het oudste deel der stad batavia; op de linker oever, de lacere Engelse loge."

"Dotted lines: On the right bank of the river the circumference of the oldest part of the city of Batavia; on the left bank the later English lodge."

Even in 1611, VOC only had the Nassau building on the east bank of the Ciliwung river without any fortification. The British had not had the lodge and batteries on the west bank of the river shown in the map yet.

At that time, the presence of VOC was only as trading post, while the major power of the place was the city of Jayakarta, under the leadership of Prince Jayawikarta, as part of the Banten Sultanate. In the 1610 map we can see that Jayakarta city was located on the west bank of Ciliwung river, with its center, typical to spatial arrangement of Indonesian Kingdoms' cities, is marked by the Dalem (palace), Aloen-aloen (central square), and Masigit (Mosque). From the imposition of the maps, that center of the old Jayakarta city, especially its palace, is more or less located at today's Roa Malaka neighborhood of the North Jakarta.

On the northernmost of the map, there is a marking of "Paep Jan's Batterij". Paep Jan is possibly Dutch way of - erroneously - spelling "Pabean", which means "customs office" in Indonesian language. This misunderstanding seems to be corrected in the map of 1618 below.

In 1617, Governor General Jan Pieterzoon Coen built another lodge to the east of the Nassau lodge, called Mauritius. He also built a hospital, a slipway, and later, fortified the complex with thick and tall walls with cannons installed. It then known as The Fort of Jacatra, which on the 1618 map marked as "fort".

The 1618 map also shows that the area outside the Dutch outpost was entirely part of the Jayakarta city or Banten Sultanate. In the map, to the south of Jacatra Fort was labeled "Kiai Aria's District" - possibly a local ruler under Prince Jayawikarta.

As the Dutch power increased, Prince Jayawikarta allowed the British to build their trading posts in order to balance the power of the foreign establishments. In this map, as well as in the 1610 map, only British batteries are shown, but not their fort and houses. British trading post was located to the south of Jayakarta's customs office.

In 1618, the relationship between the Dutch and Prince Jayawikarta was worsening, which ended in the siege of the Fort of Jacatra by Prince Jayawikarta's army, supported by the British from the sea. Jan Pieterzoon Coen escaped to the Moluccas (today's Maluku) to seek support. Shortly after that, the Banten Sultanate summoned Prince Jayawikarta who was accused of making unapproved friendship agreement with the British.

When Jan Pieterzoon Coen came back from Maluku in 1619, both Prince Jayawikarta and the British were in conflict with Banten Sultanate, which was the major power . So he took that situation as an advantage and razed the city of Jayakarta to the ground.

He then planned the expansion. The first 1619 map on the right portrays best the initial expansion plan; a large new fort nine times the size of the old Jacatra Fort, and new walled settlements area to the south of it.

This new fort and settlements initially planned to be named "Nieuw Hoorn" after the birth town of J. P. Coen himself, but eventually disapproved and named "Batavia" after the Batavi tribe as the ancestor of the Dutch people. The official naming ceremony was held on 18 January 1621.

The second 1619 map on the right shows the larger context of the existing environment. The city of Jayakarta was already controlled by the Dutch, its occupants were expelled, with only remnants of the Central Square (F), Palace (G), Mosque (H), Market (I), a Javanese Cemetery field (M), and the old Jayakarta's small fortification (L). At that time the Dutch had also mapped the land to the far south of the settlements, which were mainly plantations.

In 1619 they left all that as context, not as an integral part of their plan yet. The new settlements were planned literally only as an extension of the plan of the new fort.

And it is notable that they were quite cautious at that time. They planned two part expansion, point C and D, and both of them were planned as walled settlements, quite minimalistic and shyly narrower than the fort itself. They planned them parallel to the river and perpendicular to the sea, going inland to the south of - and protected from the sea by - the fort. It can be interpreted that at that time from their perspective, might be due to all the trade competitions, the sea posed more danger than the interior of the land.

In the 1622 map, however, they were far more elaborated and optimistic in their plan, even after they razed the Jayakarta city and expelled its occupants. the Dutch seems either had a good relationship with, or had superior power compared to, the Banten Sultanate.

The two part extensions stayed where they were, but combined into one large walled extension almost as wide as the new fort. Unlike in the 1619 map where buildings were scattered inside the settlements area, in the 1622 map they are more organized along two planned canals. They were planned to be perpendicular to the fort, spanning north-south, and one of them positioned to be pointing to the center of the fort.

They had a Fish Market (C) on the large open field between the fort and the settlements, which later will be called Kasteelplein. They also had their Church and Town Hall (D) and special port for the Dutch occupants of the city (F).

We can tell that urban design was already in action from that time forward.

In larger context, we can also see that they had more elaborated political and economical systems. There were Boom Gate and Toll Gate (J, M) near the old British fortification to halt ships from entering the Ciliwung river directly, a Shipyard (L), a Barge Storage (N), and might had a security post outside their settlements (S).

They had also charted the area far to the south from the settlements to the curve of Ciliwung river and plotted rectangle land mass there, possibly for future plan. Right on the bank of the river, there were what they called "Het Plaisante Huis" (The Pleasant House, point G) and "Brassers Redoute" (Brazzers Redoubt, point H). My investigation have not yield anything regarding what these two places were.


Nassau, the first building built by the Dutch, was responsible for the grand theme of the development of the Batavia city to centuries ahead. The Nassau building was built 16 degrees inclined to the west from the north, might be due to the local form of Ciliwung river's outlet to the sea. The Mauritius building was built perpendicular to it and the Fort of Jacatra that then enveloped them followed suit. When they planned the expansion in 1619, they were still using this 16 degrees inclination for the new fort and the new settlements, eventhough it was no longer contextual for the inland part of the Ciliwung river itself was not regular in shape. They will then conserved this axis far reaching into the future, beyond the curve of the Ciliwung river, and the road to the new Tanjung Priok Port, up to when they build the Weltevreden in the far south (even Weltevreden itself still had this axis on it, but we'll save it for later).

That they were following Jayakarta's axis were unlikely, for Jayakarta was located at the other side of the river and it was fully and elaboratedly charted only after the raze took place.

The initial intention of the Dutch near Jayakarta was actually only to build a trading outpost. But the circumstances at that time, which were a threat (siege and attack by Prince Jayawikarta and the British) followed by a great advantage (of local conflicts), might led them to think "God, dit is te makkelijk!" (God, this is too easy!), and in very short time they had their plan for expansions of their settlements that was growing larger and more deeply rooted over time.

In the next chapter of this Batavia Series, we will explore the further elaboration and expansion of Batavia.


Detailed maps:



  1. Hi,
    Paep Jan could also be a reference to the legendary christian Pape Jan (in English Presbyter John) that all early explorers believed existed.

  2. For map references, also please contact Leiden University, the have a big project where old maps are referenced on modern maps.

  3. The area (near) where the battery was located was indeed belonged to The British. But it wasn't so until after 1617. And their battery actually located slightly to the south (the "Batterij bij de Eng. loge") of what then we know as the Jayakarta's Customs Office.

    From the other maps, we clearly know that the building right on the west bank tip of the outlet of Ciliwung river was a Customs Office.

    So I think my interpretation was correct. But you've made it richer, because now we know why did The Dutch called the "Pabean" as "Paep Jan", that name was familiar to them.

    I can imagine the first time The Dutch asked the locals (of course in Dutch):

    "What?" while pointing to the seemed to be official and fortified building.
    "Pabean," the Jayakartan man said.
    "God, the legend was true!" said The Dutch in shock.

    Regarding Leiden University, I will certainly send them an email. And thank you very much for the comment!


Popular Nonsensical Matters