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The Maluku Islands are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone. Geographically they are located east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the Spice Islands by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.

History of Maluku
History of Maluku

Formerly known as the Moluccas, these islands are the original Spice Islands, which in the 16th and 17th centuries lured the major seafaring nations of Europe to come to trade and to establish their power and influence in this part of the East. Chinese annals of the Tang dynasty from around the middle of the 7th century A.D make mention of a land named Mi-li-ku.

The 14th century Javanese manuscript Nagarakertagama mentions the name Maloko, meaning the island of Ternate, part of this province, which in the 17th century was known to the Portuguese as Moluquo. It was Nicole de Conti, however, who in 1440 revealed the existence of the Spice Islands to the Europeans. Using his information, Fra Maura drew his world map, and soon the race to the East began. In 1511, the Portuguese built their first fort in the area on the island of Ternate and established their monopoly of the clove trade.

The Spanish also came, but posed little trouble to the Portuguese. The Dutch, who arrived in 1599, on the other hand, proved to be their toughest contestants in the quest for Maluku's treasures. Armed conflicts broke out, taking a toll not only between the two rival European powers, but also among the local populations. To make it short, the Dutch finally emerged as winners and established their trade monopoly with iron hand.

Whole villages were razed to the ground and thousands of islanders died in the so called Hongi expeditions launched by the Dutch to maintain their trade monopoly, especially on the island of Banda. The British occupied Maluku for a brief period during the Napoleonic war between England and France.

Dutch rule was restored in 1814, leading to a new rebellion under Matulessi which the Dutch suppressed with difficulty. The compulsory cultivation of spices was abolished in Maluku only in 1863. Traces of that turbulent period in Maluku's history can still be found on a number of islands.

Spice Trade

Maluku, since years ago, is an island that internationally known as part of Indonesia that rich of Spice plant. In the early of seventh century, the sailors from Mainland China, especially during the era of Tang Dynasty, were often sail off to seek spices in this area. Due to clove was only grown in that area. Therefore, they preferred to have this information on secret to avoid other nation to come to this area.

In the ninth century, the Arabian traders had succeeded to locate Maluku after sailing on through the Indian Ocean and through the pacific. Whilst Islam was brought in to Maluku island by traders from Aceh, Malaka, and Gresik between the year of 1300 until 1400. With the prevalence of Maluku at that time, along the way to the history of Tang Dynasty in China, Maluku was known as "Mi Li Ku".

While during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1643), Maluku was portrayed as the oasis in the southeastern sea that has "Dupa Mountain" i.e. the mountain that covered by clove plants, which as portrayed by W.P Groeneveldt.<

In addition, Marco Polo had also once hinted clove trades in Maluku during his visit in Sumatra. During the golden era of Sriwijaya Kingdome, Maluku is included in its territorial until the twelfth century. The Majapahit Kingdome took over and maritime territory through all Southeast Asia, in the early of fourteenth century; hence, trader from Java monopolized the herb trades in Maluku.

Portuguese Colonial Era

The European who had first found Maluku was Portuguese, in the year of 1512. Two Portuguese ships, which Anthony d'Abreu and Francisco Serau were in command of each of the ship, landed in Banda Island and Penyu Island. After they developed relationship with local people and the kings, for instance, with the King of Ternate, Portuguese was allowed to build a battlement in Pikaoli, Negeri Hitu Lama and Mamala.

However, the spice trade was not a long lasting relationship, due to the monopoly system and Christian dissemination. One of the very well known missionaries, Francis Xavier, arrived in Ternate in 1547, with his eagerness; he visited islands in Maluku Island, to spread religion. The relationship between Portuguese and Ternate ended in 1570, the war with Sultan Babullah took five years to be ceased, it was in 1570 to 1575, had forced Portuguese to leave Ternate and been thrown away to Ambon and Tidore.
Dutch Era

The Maluku people encountered the Portuguese, and used by the Dutch to land in Maluku. In 1605, the Dutch was succeeded to force Portuguese to hand-over its defense territorial in Ambon to Steven van der Hagen and in Tidore to Cornelius Sebastian. As well as British fortress in Kambelo, the Dutch, also destroyed Seram Island. Furthermore the Dutch controlled most of the Maluku ever since.

The Dutch position was getting stronger, along with the establishment of VOC in 1602. Consequently, the Dutch ruled Maluku ever since. Under the authority of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, acted as the Chief of Operational of VOC. The clove trade activities were fully controlled by VOC. With its full of eagerness, they expelled their opponent i.e.: Portuguese, Spanish as well as British. In addition, even other thousands of Maluku become victims of VOC's impertinence.

In the 1800 the British begun its invasion to take over the Dutch territorial such as Ternate & Banda, and in 1810 the British had succeeded to conquer Maluku through sending General Bryant Martin to be in charge. However, according to London Convention in 1814, which decided British to turn back its control to the Dutch government. Therefore, since 1817 the Dutch started to rearrange its power in Maluku.

War Heroes

The second arrival of the Dutch colony in 1817 was experienced a strong protest from the people of Maluku, due to the condition of politic, economic as well as poor social relationship. The people were finally back on their feet, holding up weapons under the command of Patimura (Thomas Matulessy), an ex-British Army staff, to go against the Dutch.

On May 15, 1817 the attack was launched and concentrated at Dutch Fort Duurstede in Saparua. The resident staff van den Berg, murdered during the attack, this action was also assisted by his fellow; Philip Latumahina, Anthony Rebak and Said Perintah.

The movement of Maluku opposition was spread through out the islands. Paulus Tiahahu and his daughter Christina Marthina Tiahahu fought in Nusalaut Island, while Capitan Ulupaha in Ambon.

The battle with full of strategy and trick was breakable by the Dutch. Patimura and friends was convicted to death in hanging in Fort Nieuw Victoria, Ambon, Whilst Christina Tiahahu died on board on the way to her exile in Java island and the body was thrown out to Banda sea.

World War II Era

The pacific war broke in December 7, 1941 as part of World War II that represents the new era in the history in the colonial domination in Indonesia. Dutch Governor General AWL. Tjarda van Starkenborgh, through radio transmission, stated that the Dutch government in war situation with Japan. The Japan army was not having any difficulties to take over the islands in Indonesia. In Maluku islands, The Japanese troops entered through Morotai in the North and Misool Island in the east.

In the short period all over Maluku islands conquered by the Japanese. To be notified, that during the World War II, the Australian forces had its chance to go against the Japanese in Tawiri village. Therefore, in order to commemorate it, they built an Australian Tower in that village near by Patimura port. Two days after the proclamation of Indonesian independence, Maluku was declared as one of the province of Indonesia.

However, the establishment and the domicile of its province was forcefully based in Jakarta that was in consequent to the condition that Dutch directly rushed into Maluku and reactivated colonial government there. The Dutch was consistently to be in command in the rich of spice area such Maluku.

Last revised on May 20, 2011
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