Jakarta

Country: Indonesia
Member: Indonesian Documentation Centre of Architecture

Batavia – headquarters of the VOC in Asia

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. On May 1619, under the command of Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the VOC conquered Jayakarta and renamed the city Batavia, a name that would be in use for the next 300 years. The VOC moved the seat of the Governor-General and the High Government (Council of the Indies) 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. Commercially, it became the main harbor of the VOC as well as a repair dock for its ships. After the VOC went bankrupt in 1799 it became the capital of the Dutch Indies.

Commodities and the main trading routes


Batavia was the main port of the VOC. 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.

Batavia city plan from 1762.tif
Jakarta History Museum.jpg

VOC period heritage in Jakarta


As a central administration of VOC in Asia, Batavia soon developed into a metropolitan city where many people came from all parts of the Indonesian archipelago and other foreign countries. The VOC built Batavia as a town surrounded by defense walls, with Batavia Castle in the north.
Many important buildings and houses for the Europeans still remain. Batavia City Hall was built in 1709 as an offices for 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.