The history of Java can be broken down into four periods: Prehistory, the classical period of the great Hindu – Buddhist kingdoms , the beginning of the modern era with the rise of the Muslim kingdoms and the beginnings of the Dutch presence, and the period modern that begins with the establishment of the Dutch East Indies .


In 1891, the Dutch anatomist Eugène Dubois discovers in the center of Java the remains of a hominid of the species Homo erectus that has been nicknamed Pithecanthropus or Man of Java . The Java Man lived 500,000 years ago.

At the end of the Pleistocene , the last glaciation caused a sea level depression that reached 200 meters at its peak around 18,000 years ago. Java finds itself attached to mainland Southeast Asia . The first Homo sapiens, whose remains were found in East Java and called the Wajak man , lived 40,000 years ago.

There are 5000 years old , residents of coastal southern China, millet and rice growers, began to cross the strait to settle in Taiwan. Around 2,000 BC BC , migrations take place from Taiwan to the Philippines . New migrations are beginning soon from the Philippines to Sulawesi and Timor and from there to other islands of the Indonesian archipelago , including Java. The Austronesians are probably the first great navigators in the history of mankind.

Main article: Settlement of insular Southeast Asia .

Excavations have yielded many bronze objects whose technique and decoration show an influence of the Vietnamese civilization of Dông Son (tenth-first centuries BC).

Classic period

It is found in the Indian epic Ramayana , written between the iii th century BC. BC and iii th century , the name of Yavadvipa , “the island of millet,” which was indeed grown Java .

The Jataka , a collection of Buddhist tales written between the iii th century BC. BC and iii th century, and chronic Ceylon the Mahavamsa , written in the vi th century tell of a country called Suvarnabhumi , which means “Land of Gold” and perhaps refers Java or Sumatra .

Main article: Indianization of Indonesia .

A Chinese text of the th century recounts the journey of a Chinese Buddhist monk named Faxian who, returning from Ceylon to China, staying in 413 at Ye-po-ti (that is to say Yavadvipa).

The oldest written documents found in Java are inscriptions in Sanskrit and Pallava writing found in the Jakarta region . They date from the th century and attest to the existence of a king named Purnawarman , whose kingdom, Tarumanagara , extended east of Jakarta .

The Canggal inscription, northwest of Yogyakarta , dated 732 AD J. – C. , declares that Sanjaya , raka (lord) of Mataram erected a monument to honor Shiva . The so-called Kalasan inscription east of Yogyakarta, dated 778 , mentions a Sailendra king who observes Buddhist rites. The temples of Central Java built between Models: S2-VIII are of Buddhist or Shivaite rite, but sometimes present elements of both rites, which coexisted.

Bas-relief of the Borobudur Temple showing a sailboat with its typical tanjak sail from the west of the Indonesian archipelago

Stone inscriptions ( prasasti ) of the second half of the viii th century were discovered in the south of the current Vietnam , which speak of invaders from islands and conducting raids on the coast. One of them, dated 787 speaks of a coming army of Java 1 .

An inscription of 907 shows that the authority of King Balitung (reign 899-910), who declares himself a descendant of Sanjaya, extends over part of eastern East Java. In 928 , King Mpu Sindok definitively transferred his palace to East Java.

The inscription of Sdok Kok Thom in Cambodia , dated 1053 , says that Khmer king Jayavarman II (reigned 802-869) established his capital at Angkor after having freed himself from the suzerainty of Java. The stele says: “A Brahmin […] well versed in magic, came […] at the invitation of the king to establish a ritual so that Cambodia can no longer depend on Java. ” 2 . An inscription found in the center of Java and dated 922 reports a judgment in favor of a certain Dhanadi who had complained of having been called “son of Khmer”. The viii th to th century, links existed between the two countries.

Javanese inscriptions and Arabic texts show that in the ix th and th centuries Java, and probably other parts of present-day Indonesia, maintained trade with the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa . The inscription of Kancana in particular, found in East Java and dated 860 AD J. – C. , mentions, in a list of dependents, the word jenggi , that is to say zeng . A Persian captain, Ibn Shahriyar , in his Book of Wonders of India , reports the testimony of an Arab merchant named Ibn Lakis who in 945On the coast of Mozambique, “a thousand boats”, mounted by Waq-Waq coming from “islands facing China” , arrive for zeng products and slaves . In Arabic, Zeng or Zenj designate at the time the inhabitants of the east coast of Africa. A later inscription speaks of black slaves offered by a Javanese king to the imperial court of China.

prasasti (inscription on stone)

An East Java inscription dated 1041 on the “Calcutta Stone” (so named because it is kept at the Indian Museum of Calcutta ) declines the genealogy of King Airlangga , son of the Balinese prince Udayana. After the death of Airlangga, the center of power passes to the Kediri kingdom southwest of Surabaya , then to Singasari south of Surabaya.

At that time, Java becomes the center of a brilliant culture. In Bali , the “Old- Javanese ” becomes the language of entries in xi th century . More generally in the Indonesian archipelago, trade translates into the spread of Java’s reputation as a land of scholars. The description of rituals tantric on a megalithic sanctuary discovered Bongkisam in the State of Malaysia for Sarawak , which dates from the th century, gives an idea of the cultural influence of Java, which eventually resulted in a political rule 3 .

The landing of a Sino-Mongolian Expeditionary Force in East Java in 1292 coincides with the advent of a new kingdom, Majapahit , whose capital is built near present-day Mojokerto southwest of Surabaya. This kingdom reaches its peak under Hayam Wuruk (reign 1350-89).

Chinese Grand Admiral Zheng He , who will conduct seven expeditions to India , the Middle East and East Africa between 1405 and 1433, made several stops in Java. A temple is dedicated to him in Semarang , capital of Central Java province . Muslim, Zheng He notes the presence of Chinese Muslim communities in the ports of the north coast of the island.

At the end of the xv th century , the succession disputes led to the decline of Majapahit, now in 1478 under the control of the princes of Kediri. At the end of the xv th century, a Chinese Muslim named Cek Ko-po relies on the northern coast of Java, called Pasisir , the Principality of Demak . This new power undertakes the conquest of Pasisir. When Demak’s troops arrived in East Java in 1527, Majapahit no longer existed. But the prestige of this kingdom is still such that the sultan of Demak proclaims him the heir. However Blambangan escapes the control of Demak. His princes, remaining Hindu, put themselves under the protection of the Balinese kings .

The urban development Pasisir is related to the expansion of maritime trade of the xv th to the xvii th century, the rise of the Chinese communities and the spread of Islam. It is reflected by the emergence of the Muslim principalities port. Their rulers, however, did not bear the title of “Sultan”.

Early modern period

In West Java, thanks to inscriptions, we know that the current Bogor , 60 km south of Jakarta, was the site of Pakuan, the capital of the Sundanese kingdom of Pajajaran (1333-1579), whose king most known is the mythical Siliwangi, who was identified as King Sri Baduga Maharaja (reign 1482-1521). The commercial power of Pajajaran was based on the control of Pasisir ports such as Banten and Kalapa (today a district of North Jakarta).

Demak imposes his hegemony on Banten and Cirebon. In 1527 Fatahillah, a prince of Cirebon, conquered the port of Kalapa, depriving Hindu fisherman Pajajaran, allied with the Portuguese Catholics settled in Malacca (which they took in 1511) and the Moluccas . On the ruins of Kalapa, Fatahillah built Jayakarta. Pajajaran will finally be conquered by Banten in 1579. Pajajaran’s court takes refuge in Sumedang, east of present-day Bandung. It will maintain a tradition that is always at the heart of the Sundanese identity .

In 1576 a Javanese prince, Senopati, grabs a Central Java region that still bears the old name of Mataram , the Kingdom of Sanjaya to viii th century . Senopati and his son submit Demak and the Pasisir of Central Java. The Javanese tradition calls the grandson of Senopati Sultan Agung , “the great sultan” (reigns 1613-46). He continues the work of conquest of his predecessors by first attacking East Java, then West Java. Agung notably crushes an uprising in Sumedang, the Sundanese principality heir to the Hindu kingdom of Pajajaran. This prince of the

One of the aspects that can be seen in this ” recapture ” of Pasisir by a power from the inside is a reaction of traditional cultural and political conceptions of an agrarian society, facing the Muslim cosmopolitanism of port cities open to the world. The new Mataram was fully aware of the name he inherited. His kings proclaimed heirs to the ancient kingdom of Majapahit. The emergence of Mataram closes a sort of parenthesis and marks the return to a power and an agrarian society as in the classical era.

In 1597 , Cornelis de Houtman , who led the first Dutch expedition to Asia, made a stopover in Banten, which became a prosperous sultanate thanks to the cultivation of pepper, one of those spices so popular that brought the arrival of Europeans into the world. Indonesian archipelago. In 1619 , the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or ” Dutch East India Company “, created in 1602 by Dutch merchants), which chased the Portuguese from the Moluccas, conquered Jayakarta. On the ruins, they rebuild Batavia, where the VOC installs its new headquarters. Agung tries twice to take Batavia, without success. On the one hand, his allies of the other Javanese principalities betray him, and on the other hand, Batavia resists because it is supplied by sea while Agung has no fleet.

After Agung’s death, Mataram begins its decline. The kingdom is undermined by wars of succession that the Dutch take advantage of. To finance their campaigns against the rebel princes, the kings of Mataram go into debt with the VOC by pledging Pasisir territories . By a treaty signed in 1743, Mataram ceded to the VOC its territories of Pasisir and Blambangan. Another treaty in 1749 granted the Dutch sovereignty over the whole kingdom.

In 1755 , the Dutch managed to force the king, Sunan Paku Buwono III and his uncle Mangkubumi pretender to the throne, to sign the treaty of Giyanti. Mataram, who controls only half of Central Java and half of East Java, is split in two. Mangkubumi receives a half, takes the title of Sultan Hamengku Buwono I and installs its capital in Yogyakarta , next to the Senopati tomb. His nephew keeps the other half and his capital, Surakarta . At the eastern end of Java, the last princes of Blambangan converted to Islam around 1770. Eager to eliminate the threat of Balinese Java, the Dutch have finally removed the last Hindu state.

At the end of the xviii th century, the VOC controls Pasisir but delegates the administration to bupati (counts). Despite the 1749 treaty, relations between Javanese kings and the VOC are more like an alliance. After more than a century marked by wars and political violence, Java will experience a period of peace. The princely courts will compete in the cultural and artistic creation, marked in particular by a return to the sources, as well native as Indian.

In 1799 , the VOC was declared bankrupt. Its assets are taken over by the Government of the Netherlands.

In 1825, a Prince of Yogyakarta, Diponegoro , who challenged the Dutch designation of his nephew as Sultan, took up arms. Then came the Java war , which ended only in 1830 with the capture of Diponegoro, which the Dutch had invited to a negotiation. The war left 15,000 dead in the Dutch army and more than 200,000 in the Javanese population (a census carried out around 1815 estimated the total population of Java at a little over 4 million).

To punish Yogyakarta, the territories of the sultanate other than its central region are confiscated by the Dutch. For the sake of fairness, the Dutch are treating Surakarta the same way.

Java now pacified, the Dutch can begin the economic development of the island. Governor van den Bosch set up a system of forced ( culuurstelsel ) crops whereby farmers had to devote 20% and then 33% of their land to cash crops. The abuse of this system end up being reported in the Netherlands itself, particularly in the novel Max Havelaar from Multatuli , pseudonym of the Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker . The system is gradually abandoned. The agrarian law of 1870 opens Java to the private enterprise.

All along the xix th century, the Dutch are campaigning in the other islands to subdue the native states they have not yet submitted. The Dutch Indies took their final form in 1908 , the official date of the pacification of the AcehSultanate in northern Sumatra, and the conquest of the remaining remaining Balinese kingdoms.

Birth of the nationalist movement

On May 20, 1908, young Javanese noblemen of European education founded the Boedi Oetomo , or Budi Utomo in his modern spelling (“supreme intelligence”). This date has been declared “national revival day”. This group is led by Wahidin Sudirohusodo (1852-1917), a doctor who wants to educate Javanese by combining modern Western science with traditional Javanese culture.

The Budi Utomo is growing rapidly and claims at the end of 1909 to have 40 branches and 10,000 members, mostly students and civil servants. These emphasize the Javanese culture while considering that progress requires the adoption of the social and political institutions of the West. The conservative management is trying to curb the group’s political activity. It is facing increasing opposition from the youngest members, who advocate direct action against the colonial order. The attraction of explicitly political and radical organizations like Sarekat Islam, founded in 1911, leads to a disaffection of the Budi Utomo members.

This Javanese organization has nevertheless played a fundamental role as a model for the Indonesian nationalist movement. With the Budi Utomo, the history of the Dutch Indies is now that of Indonesia.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Angkor: An Introduction by Georges Cœdès , Oxford University Press, 1963
  2. ↑ ibidem
  3. ↑ Wolters, W. Oliver, Indonesia – The Archipelago and Its Early Historical Records , in Encyclopaedia Britannica