The Great Post Road (Indonesian: Jalan Raya Pos or Dutch: De Grote Postweg) is the name for the historical road that runs across Java that connects Anyer and Panarukan. It was built during the reign of Herman Willem Daendels (1808–1811), governor-general of the Dutch East Indies.
La Grande Route, as Daendels called it, was a military road which was laid down under the order of King Lodewijk Napoleon who ruled the Kingdom of Holland at that time. France was at war with England and the road was intended to ease military support, e.g. transfer of soldiers, in order to defend Java. In 1750, before the road was constructed, connections existed between Batavia and Semarang and onwards to Surabaya. A North-south connection between Semarang, Surakarta and onwards to Yogyakarta was also available at that time. However, these connection paths were not easily passable as heavy tropical rainfall frequently destroyed them.
Daendels faced difficult conditions in the Dutch East Indies when he started the road construction. The financial situation in the colony was so tight that the minister of Colonial Affairs in The Hague sent him a letter emphasizing the difficult financial situation and the need to reduce expenditures. The British posed a major threat. Furthermore, there were uprisings in Bantam and Cirebon, and some of Daendels' opponents actively frustrated his endeavours. Daendels then decided to use Javanese unpaid forced laborers to perform most of the heavy work, which resulted in thousands of deaths due to the difficult health challenges of the forests and marshes as well as the labor conditions.
Many of Daendels' opponents became historical sources of the harsh conditions during the road construction. Major William Thorn wrote that about 12,000 natives are said to have perished during the construction. Nicolaus Engelhard, who was a governor over most of Java and who had to give up his position to Daendels, stated that 500 workers had died in Megamendung area nearby Buitenzorg (the present-day of Bogor), excluding the number of people who died as the result of illness. Furthermore, Engelhard criticized Daendels for the thousand casualties resulting from the road construction in the woods of Weleri in Pekalongan region.
Today the present Javanese North Coast Road (Indonesian: Jalan Pantura, abbreviation from "Pantai Utara") follows by and large the Java Great Post Road. However the original post road runs through the Preanger (Priangan, West Java) highlands, from Meester Cornelis (Jatinegara) south to Buitenzorg (Bogor), and east to Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang, and Cirebon. The current north coast road however runs through coastal northern West Java and was built after the construction of Daendels' post road. It connects Bekasi, Karawang, Pamanukan, and Cirebon. The road originally ran from Anyer, present day Banten, but formerly West Java to Panarukan, East Java, but later was extended to Banyuwangi. In its current form the Java main road extends through five provinces: Banten, DKI Jakarta, West Java, Central Java and East Java.
The road initially served as the backbone of Java's transportation and logistic. It connects some of the largest cities in Java, including Anyer, Cilegon, Tangerang, Batavia, Meester Cornelis (today absorbed into Jakarta), Buitenzorg, Cianjur, Bandung, Sumedang, Cirebon, Tegal, Pekalongan, Semarang, Rembang, Tuban, Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Pasuruan, Probolinggo and Panarukan.
In 1996, the Dutch producer Pieter van Huystee produced the film De Groote Postweg (The Great Post Road). This film was shown in several cinemas in the Netherlands, Italy and France. The Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer did the narration for this film.