The Dutch in Indonesia – The Founding of Batavia

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Coen’s first step was to establish a permanent headquarters at Jayakarta on the north-western coast of Java, close

To the pepper producing parts of Sumatra and the strategic Sunda Straits. In 1618, he sought and received permission from Prince Wijayakrama of Jayakarta to expand the existing Dutch post, and proceeded to throw up a stone barricade mounted with cannon. The prince protested that fortifications were not provided for in their agreement and Coen responded by bombarding the palace thereby reducing it to rubble. A seige of the fledgling Dutch fortress ensued, in which the powerful Bantenese and a recently arrived English fleet joined the Jayakartans. Coen was not so easily beaten, however (his motto: ”Never Dispair!”), and escaped to Ambon leaving a handful of his men in defense of the fort and its valuable contents.

Five months later, Coen returned to discover his men still in possession of their post. Though outnumbered 30 – to – 1 they had rather unwittingly played one foe against another by acceding to any and all demands, but were never actually required to surrender their position due to the mutual suspicion and timidity of the three attacking parties. Coen set his adversaries to flight in a series of dramatic attacks, undertaken with a small force of 1,000 men that included several score of fearsome Japanese mercenaries. The town of Jayakarta was razed to the ground and construction of a new Dutch town begun, eventually to include canals, drawbridges, docks, warehouse, barracks, a central square, a city hall and a church-all protected by a high stone wall and a moat – a copy in short, of Amsterdam itself.

The only sour note in the proceedings was struck by the revelation that during the darkest days of the seige, many of the Dutch defenders had behaved them selves in a most unseemly manners-drinking, singing and fornicating for several nights in succession. Worst of all, they had broken open the company storehouse and divided the contents up amongst themselves. Coen, a strict disciplinarian, ordered the immediate execution of those involved, and memories of the infamous siege soon faded-save one. The defenders had dubbed their fortress “Batavia,” and the new name stuck.
Coen’s next step was to secure control of the five tiny nutmeg-and mace – producing Banda Islands. In 1621, he led an expeditionary force there, and withing a few weeks rounded up and killed most of the 15,000 inhabitants on the islands. Three of the islands were then transformed into spice plantations managed by Duth colonists and worked by slaves.

In the years that followed, the Dutch gradually tightened their grip on the spice trade. From their base at Ambon, they attempted to “negotiate” a monopoly in cloves with the rulers of Ternate and Tidore. But “leakages” continued to occur. Finally, in 1649, the Dutch began a series of yearly sweeps of the entire area, the infamous hongi (war – fleet) expeditions de islands other than Ambon and Seram, where the Dutch were firmly established. So successful were these expeditions, that half of the islanders starved for lack of trade, and the remaining half were reduced to abject poverty.

Still, the smuggling of cloves and clove trees continued. Traders obtained these other goods at the new Islamic port of Makassar, in southern Sulawesi. The Dutch repeatedly blockaded Makassar and imposed treaties theoretically barring the Makassarese from trading with other nations, but were unable for many years to enforce them. Finally, in 1669, following three years of bitter and bloody fighting, the Makassarese surrendered to superior Dutch and Buginese forces. The Dutch now placed their Bugis ally, Arung Palakka, in charge of Makassar. The bloodletting did not stop here, however, for Arung Palakka embarked on a reign of terror to extend his control over all of southern Sulawesi.

–> Read Also : The Dutch in Indonesia – The Dutch in Java

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