IV.3 Crimes, Justice and Punishment

The Batavian crime scene and the contemporary punishments meted out to various individuals seem very harsh to the modern observer. Murder, rape, kidnapping, poisoning, theft, assault and battery and street fights seem to have been ubiquitous when one reads the oldest criminal records of the College of Aldermen. Capital punishment had to be approved by the Supreme Goverment, after which it was registered each month in the Daily Journals of Batavia.

Two execution places, one in front of Batavia Castle and one in front of the town hall, were the daily site of brandings, the cutting off of ears and noses, hanging, drawing and quartering, breaking and stretching on the rack, beheading and other torturously painful deaths carried out by professional executioners and hangmen. Crime and punishment in Batavia is a theme which has not yet been researched by historians. The documents selected from the criminal records detail different crimes perpetrated by different peoples. The key questions will be whether or not the racist character of colonial society led to more specific crimes; whether the implementation of European and colonial law was discriminatory in itself or not, and to what extent and when? And also in how far were crime and punishment related to the institution of slavery and its excesses in Batavia?