The Jakarta area has probably been populated for thousands of years. By the first century AD the area was linked with international trade networks, as evidenced by archaelogical finds of Indian trade goods in the area. A fifth century inscription was found in the Tugu area of the city written in Sanskrit. Yet Jakarta did not emerge as a major centre until around the start of the sixteenth century. By 1500 it was the main port of a Hindu-Buddhist Sundanese kingdom known as Pajajaran. 

    The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the area, signing a trade agreement with Pajajaran in 1522. However, this trade deal made powerful Muslim leaders feel nervous and the city was attacked by Fathillah in 1527. At this point the name of the city was changed to 'Jayakarta' (Great Victory) and the date of Fatahillah's conquest (June 22nd) is still celebrated as that of Jakarta's birthday. Jakarta spent the next century as a small vassal state of the Islamic sultanate of Banten.

   In the early part of the seventeenth century, the Dutch and English established fortified posts in the city. When the Sundanese attacked the Dutch in 1618, the Dutch attacked and defeated both the Sundanese battery and the English trading post. Banten counter-attacked but Dutch reinforcements from the Moluccas arrived in time and by May 1618, Dutch governor-general, Jan Pieterszoon Coen was in full command of the city. The Dutch built a massive fortress in the 'Kota' area of the city and remained in control of Jakarta for all but a few of the next 330 years. In particular they survived an attack from the Javanese kingdom of Mataram in 1629.

    By the eighteenth century Batavia (the Dutch name for the city) featured Dutch townhouses, orderly canals, warehouses and large, imposing public buildings. Yet the city was severely affected by outbreaks of malaria. It is said that more than half of the Dutch who arrived in the city died within their first twelve months. The city had a reputation as a pestitential place though better 'country' neighbourhoods developed along the Ciliwung River in the south. Much of the day to day trade in the city was conducted by Chinese migrants, who were periodically subject to vicious racial pogroms.

    The nineteenth century saw the development of the 'Monas' area of the city. Court buildings, libraries, schools and the governor's palace were built in this area. Today they remain as some of the finest historic edifices in the city. In the 1920's and 1930's the leafy, attractive Menteng residential area was developed. Many of the country's elite still reside in this area today. After WWI and Indonesian independence the capital of the republic was moved back here from Yogyakarta. In 1966 a special administrative district (DKI)  was established for the capital. Since this time the arrival of millions of newcomers from all around the archipelago has transformed the city into one of Asia's largest and most overcrowded megalopolises, with all the attendant problems of crime, pollution and social deprivation.