Gedung Merdeka (Merdeka Building) during the Asian-African Conference in 1955
The official name of the city during the colonial Dutch East Indies period was Bandoeng. The earliest reference to the area dates back to 1488, although archaeological findings suggest a type of Homo erectus species had long previously lived on the banks of the Cikapundung River and around the old lake of Bandung. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) established plantations in the Bandung area. In 1786, a supply road connecting Batavia (now Jakarta), Bogor, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang and Cirebon was constructed. In 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor and conqueror of much of Europe including the Netherlands and its colonies, ordered the Dutch Indies Governor H.W. Daendels to improve the defensive systems of Java to protect against the British in India. Daendels built a road, stretching approximately 1,000 km (620 mi) from the west to the east coast of Java, passing through Bandung. In 1810, the road was laid down in Bandung and was named De Groote Postweg (or the 'Great Post Road'), the present-day location of Jalan Asia-Afrika. Under Daendels' orders, R. A. Wiranatakusumah II, the Chief Administrator of the Bandung regency at that time, moved the office from Krapyak, in the south, to a place near a pair of holy city wells (sumur Bandung), the present-day site of the city square (alun-alun). He built his dalem (palace), masjid agung (the grand mosque) and pendopo (public-official meeting place) in the classical Sundanese orientation, with the pendopo facing Tangkuban Perahu mountain, which was believed to have a mystical ambience.
In 1880, the first major railroad between Batavia and Bandung was completed, boosting light industry in Bandung. Chinese flocked into the city to help run facilities, services and as vendors. The area adjacent to the train station is still recognisable as the old Chinatown district. In 1906, Bandung was given the status of gemeente (municipality), and then twenty years later, stadsgemeente (city municipality).
Beginning of time the early 1920s, the Dutch East Indies government made plans to move their capital from Batavia to Bandung. Accordingly, during this decade, the Dutch colonial government commenced construction of military barracks, the central government building (Gouvernments Bedrijven, the present-day Gedung Sate) and other government buildings. However, this plan was cut short by World War II, after which the Dutch were not able to re-establish their colony due to the Indonesian Declaration of Independence.
The fertile area of the Parahyangan Mountains surrounding Bandung supports productive tea plantations. In the nineteenth century, Franz Junghuhn introduced the cinchona (kina) plant. With its cooler elevated landscape, surrounded by major plantations, Bandung became an exclusive European resort area. Wealthy plantation owners visited the city on weekends, attracting ladies and business people from the capital, Batavia. Jalan Braga grew into a promenade street with cafés, restaurants and boutique shops. Two art-deco style hotels, Savoy Homann and Preanger, were built in the vicinity of the Concordia Society, a clubhouse for the wealthy with a large ballroom and a theatre.
After Indonesian independence in 1945, Bandung was designated as the capital of West Java province. During the Indonesian National Revolution, some of the most massive battles occurred in and around Bandung. Dutch troops were virtually absent in Java at the end of World War II. To assist the restoration of Dutch sovereignty, the British took a military hold on Java's major cities, and the British military commander set an ultimatum for the Indonesian combatants in Bandung to leave the city. In response, on 24 March 1946, much of the southern part of Bandung was deliberately set alight as the combatants left; an event known as Bandung Lautan Api or the 'Bandung Sea of Fire'.
In 1955, the first Asian-African Conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, was hosted in Bandung by President Sukarno, and attended by the heads of states representing twenty-nine independent countries from Asia and Africa. The conference venue was at the Gedung Merdeka, the former Concordia Society building. The conference announced ten points of declaration for the promotion of world peace and opposition against colonialism and is known as the Declaration of Bandung. This was followed by a wave of nationalism and decolonisation movements around the globe which remapped world politics. The conference was also the first international conference of people of colour in history. In his book The Color Curtain, Richard Wright claims that there was an epic meaning of the conference for people of colour around the world.
In 1987, the city boundary was expanded by the 'Greater Bandung' (Bandung Raya) plan; with the relocation of higher concentration development zones outside the city in an attempt to dilute population density in the old city. During this development, the city core was often uprooted, with old buildings torn down, lot sizes regrouped and rezoned, changing idyllic residential areas to commercial zones with bustling chain supermarkets, malls, banks and upscale developments.
In 2005, an Asian-African Conference was partly held in Bandung, attended by world leaders such as Indonesian President Susilo B. Yudhoyono, President of China Hu Jintao, Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, President of Nigeria Obasanjo, and other luminaries.