Batavia in the 19th century

Batavia was the town near "Fort Amsterdam", built in the 17th century by the "Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie". During the napoleonic era in The Netherlands (1798-1815), the government of "Nederlands Indië" was left to its own.

In 1811, Thomas Raffles, at that time employed by the British East India company as Secretary to the Governor of Malacca, decided (with the consent of his boss) to take over the government in Batavia, also to prevent the french, who held sway of The Netherlands, from stepping in completely. Napoleon had nominated the then Governor Daendels to also be governor, and Daendels worked closely with the French. Raffles became Governor of Java (1811-1816). He employed most of the Dutch staff then present (he could not have worked without them). Raffles assumed that all land was in principle owned by the state and that the users should pay rent, which he mostly collected in the form of money instead of in natura. He also changed the style of social interaction in the Batavia society (he deplored the laxe dress code of the Dutch, many men wearing javanese attire). One now had to be "properly dressed", i.e., in European style but using much white because of the climate. In particular Raffles' wife Olivia instilled in the ladies to wear white dresses (see Glendenning 2012). Some of these new aspects of social life persisted after the british rule ended.

In 1816 the Dutch Indies were again under Dutch rule. Europeans were to be lured to the archipelago also because one were to give out rights to (as yet) unused land. The new governor, Godert Baron van der Capellen, sympathising with the native population, objected to that. Unhappy inland rulers went to war. On Java, these were soon settled, on northern Sumatra they went on to 1845.
In 1824, the "Nederlandse Handelsmaatschappij" (NHM) was founded to stimulate production and trade. This company also had, in the beginning, the sole rights on shipping to The Netherlands. (Later, the NHM slowly became just a bank.) In 1830, governor van den Bosch introduced the "cultuurstelsel", in which the population had to pay taxes with goods or products and was also forced to cultivate certain crops. Again people from Europe were motivated to come and take the opportunities. However, often products were expected from unsuitable land, causing resentment. The system was abolished in 1866.

In the first 3rd of the 19th century, the centre of power shifted from Old batavia to the area around Weltevreden and the Koningsplein, to the SSE of the "old" and from its layout and looks dutch town Batavia. One of the magnificent houses (on the NW corner of the Koningsplein) was made into the palace of the "Gouverneur Generaal".

Batavia in the later 19th century, and Weltevreden in the early 20th century. Weltevreden (and Rijswijk) were suburbs to the SSE of Batavia. The government moved, in that time, gradually from Batavia to Weltevreden.

The photos (from left to right): Office buildings (1880); Nieuwpoortstraat (1865); Kroekoet in Toko Tiga in Glodok, the chinese quarter (1872); 1872 bridge accross Cilliwong in Weltevreden and the Batavia Theatre (1880); the harbour of Tanjung Priok (1890).  Photos from "Kon.Inst. voor Taal, Land en Volkenkunde", KITLV (at ...."Batavia, Jakarta Tempo Doeloe".)


The photos (from left to right): Goenoeng Sahari (NE Weltevreden); Kali Tanah Abang (SW Weltevreden); street in Rijswijk; the well-known huge Waringinboom in Weltevreden (1911), under which inland people almost continuously brought offerings.  Photos shown are postcards that have been up for sale in the internet; the waringinboom photo is by K.H.Verschoor.


Map Batavia; adapted from de Jong (1998, p.183).

Around the Koningsplein in Weltevreden, foremost on the west side, spacious white-plastered houses were built. They had (de Jong, p.257) a grand porch at the front, subdivided in an outer and an inner porch, and with a similar porch on the back. The floors were laid with marble and in the more private area with glazed tiles. The rooms had high wooden ceilings. The roofs had tiles. These houses were rather cool during the day.


Batavia: private house at Koningsplein (1895); street from Tanak Abang to Koningsplein (1895). Photos from the KITLV.

Overall, this newer part of Batavia had country-side looks, with open spaces and trees, in contrast to the built-up city scape with canals of old Batavia.

The population of the Dutch Indies was not (and hardly ever was) a purely european group. It has been estimated (see de Jong, p.258) that in 1860, of the about 30.000 dutch citizens in the entire Dutch Indies just under 5000 were purely dutch, the others were of mixed descent. New immigrants came from The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, but more males than females came. Around mid 19th century, only some 30% of the females originated from Europe (de Jong, p.258).

This dominatingly native composition was reflected in the social customs which, after the Brits had left (in 1815), reverted to what they were before (de Jong, p.259). The males of this governing elite would wear, when on duty, a european outfit, but after hours they would change to javanese style clothes (sarong and kabaja). Lower ranked dutchmen might use the local style all day. Women would wear sarongs almost always, even to official events, ornamented with batik shawls, or they would wear tighter fitting robes of richly coloured or flowered cloth, in the style of British India. One would eat following local standards. Bread was replaced by rice and also at breakfast the food would be spicy.

There were also slaves (until the abolition in 1853). They lived mostly in dwellings in the back of the garden of the main house. Therafter these often stayed employed with pay and free food and lodging. In most cases, the female slaves/employees did the coocking and took (for a good part) care of the children, being the "baboe".

The children went to school, but the teachers often had a local background, and many children did not finish school at all. To counter this, the school system apparently had installed a set of prizes for well performing children.

In the course of the 19th century, large numbers of military came to the Dutch Indies, to suppress unrest, especially on Sumatra, but also to extend the influence of dutch government to the outer reaches of the archipelago. They came, of course, without women.

The population of Batavia was numerically dominated by Javans, with a good number of Chinese in trade. The europeans (foremost Dutchmen) numbered roughly 3000, gradually living rather in or near Weltevreden (to the SSE of old, or lower Batavia), so that one can assume that many knew (of) each other.

Later in the 19th century, another centre developed in the hills to the south, on the inland route built in 1806 along the length of Java. This was "Buitenzorg", with a climate yet more agreeable than in Weltevreden.

Other important events:
1844: The British establish a fast postal service through Suez; post now takes only 2 months (de Jong, p.231).
1856: Telegraphic connection to Europe established (de Jong, p.273).
1859: Darwin publishes "The Origin of Species".
1860: Publication of the "Max Havelaar" by "Multatuli", severely criticising Dutch governance in Ned. Indië.
1869: Opening of the Suez canal; together with steamshipping it reduces the voyage Europe-Batavia to 5 weeks (de Jong, p.283).
1869: Alfred Russel Wallace publishes "The Malay Archipelago", a travel document in which he also explains the difference of animals west and east of the line Bali-Borneo.
1880s: With steam and Suez, each week a ship leaves The Netherlands for Nederlands Indië (de Jong, p.286).

Against this backdrop one can place the lives of  Jacometti - BronJacometti - Bethvan Hulstijn - Kroeger,  and Jacometti - van Hulstijn.

de Jong, J., 1998. "De Waaier van het Fortuin - Nederlanders in Azië en de Indonesiche Archipel" Sdu uitgevers, ISBN 90-12-08974-3.

(2014.06.23)   hn31m-Batavia19th.html