Banda Islands

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  • Other Names: Bandaneira

The Banda Islands are a small collection of tiny islands near the eastern end of Indonesia. In the late 16th century through the 1850s, they were the primary source of nutmeg and mace in the world and became the site of extensive fighting between Dutch and English forces.

Dutch-British fighting over the islands continued for nearly a century, from 1585 to 1667. As part of efforts to secure Dutch control over the nutmeg trade, in 1620 Dutch Governor-General Jan Pieterzoon Coen commanded Dutch forces (incl. a number of hired Japanese mercenaries) to massacre, enslave, or expel most of the inhabitants of the islands, some 15,000 people. Only some 1,000 islanders survived, becoming forced labor or slaves for the Dutch East India Company, which formally took control of the islands the following year, in 1621.

The company replaced the local population with enslaved people, colonists, and Company managers and administrators, putting into place intensive plantation practices and seeking to maximize the production of nutmeg and other spices for profitable export.

Fighting between the Dutch and English over the islands ended with the Treaty of Breda in 1667. England agreed to renounce any claims to the Banda Islands in return for Dutch recognition of English claims to New Netherland - the areas known in English as New York, New Jersey, and surrounding areas. The British eventually began to plant nutmeg in Sri Lanka, Grenada, Singapore, and elsewhere.

The Dutch also used the Banda Islands as a destination for exile, exiling a number of independence fighters from more central parts of the Dutch East Indies (today, Indonesia) to the islands.

A number of colonial buildings still survive in the Banda Islands today, or have been rebuilt.