History

Around 1600 Bantam (Banten) was Java's most important port. It was the first port of call for Dutch vessels in the Indonesian archipelago. The king of Bantam did not enjoy the absolute power but was forced to take into account the wishes of his regent and those of the harbormaster. Bantam was a wealthy town with an important market that attracted many traders from India, Persia and China.

 

However, the town was forced to relinquish its leading position some years later, when Batavia became the VOC's economic centre in Asia. In the early 17th century Bantam was recognized as the principal trading centre of the Indonesian archipelago. Goods of every kind from all over Asia could be found here. For the VOC, spices - particularly pepper - were the most important commodities. The Company tried in vain to establish a key position through its base here; the English opposed them, as did the local regent who feared the VOC would eventually dominate the market. The conflicts increased, and the Company decided to move on to neighboring Jacatra, which was later become Batavia. The Dutch first arrived in Bantam in 1596, at a time when the Portuguese had already built up a strong market position some years previously. The Portuguese had no intention of relinquishing their hold on the town to the Dutch newcomers. The Company's relations with the local rulers of the town were strained, as they opposed the VOC's attempts to dominate the market. Throughout the 17th century new conflicts kept plaguing relations between the VOC and Bantam, from which the Company emerged as the victor each time. In 1756 Bantam finally fell under the Company's control.

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