The Mother City

Jakarta, a family history

A colorful, lively biography of a city and a family and a beautiful blend of travelogue, family chronicle and colonial history.

In The Mother City Philip Dröge explores traces of the old colonial town of Batavia in the modern Indonesian capital Jakarta. For over three centuries his ancestors lived in this city. Who were they? What was their city like? A genetic test finds Indonesian, Chinese and even Papua DNA in the author’s body. What kind of people were his Asian ancestors?

During his enthralling search for answers, Dröge unveils the history of Jakarta and discovers some dark secrets about his family. He finds unexpected ancestors, among whom a German soldier involved in ethnic cleansing, a female slave from Sumbawa, a Dutch harem-keeper and a Chinese woman with exceptionally long ear lobes.

The Mother City is the intimate biography of a megalopolis. From humble beginnings to the present city of thirty million, it is a chronicle of four centuries of love, violence, slavery, sex, suppression, and hope.