Also known as West Irian, Irian Jaya is that part of New Guinea west of the 141st meridian and the adjoining offshore islands. Since 1963 it has been a Province of Indonesia and its area of 412,781 km2 represents about 22 per cent of that nation's land. The capital of the province is Jayapura, about 30 km west of the northern end of the Papua New Guinea-Irian Jaya border.
The province is divided into eight regions with administrative centrea at Biak, Manokwari, Sorong, Kaimana, Merauke and Wamena. Road links through the province are underdeveloped and transport between coastal centres relies on shipping. Overall there has been less development in Irian Jaya than New Guinea. Few cash crops were planted before World War II. Prominent crops in recent years include coffee and copra, cocoa, nutmeg and mace. The most prosperous development has been the Japanese-Indonesian prawn and tuna fisheries. For many years the largest export revenue came from oil, discovered in the far west of the province. In recent years, there have been increasing exports of copper, gold and silver.
For many centuries, areas of the western and northern cast were regarded as part of what is now Indonesia. John Hayes, a captain of the British East India Company, attempted to establish a plantation at Dorey Bay in 1793. This failed, as did a Dutch settlement on the south-western coast. The Dutch claimed the whole of West New Guinea in 1848 and their missionaries were established near Manokwari from 1855 onwards. However, no Dutch administrative posts were based in West New Guinea for another fifty years. Even lated, most Dutch posts were manned by Indonesians. Parts of Irian Jaya were occupied by the Japanese in World War II. In 1962 the Dutch agreed to cede the territory to Indonesia.