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History of the Banda Sea  

Hans Hägerdal

The Banda Sea is a watery landscape in eastern maritime Southeast Asia, encompassing much of the present Maluku Province of Indonesia. Historically, its hundreds of islands include the economically vital Banda Islands and Ambon, as well as the outlying islands of Wetar and Kisar, and the Kei and Tanimbar archipelagos. In spite of its relative remoteness in relation to the historical centers of Indonesia, the sea evolved as a vibrant economic crossroads from about the 14th century, mostly because of the trade in cloves and nutmeg that attracted visitors and settlers from various parts of Asia. The islands also delivered sea and forest products of some consequence. The potential commercial profits made the Banda Sea an early priority for colonial encroachment after the arrival of Europeans in Asian ports. The Portuguese established a presence after 1512, followed by the Dutch and English in 1599. European powers strove to impose monopolies in the spice trade. The contest for the islands was eventually won by the Dutch East India Company, whose dispositions turned the sea into a colonial backwater. This it remained during the Dutch Colonial State of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Indonesian Revolution in 1945–1949 was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to establish an independent South Malukan state in 1950. The relative neglect and the transmigration policies of the successive Indonesia governments led to local civil war in 1999–2002.

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The Dutch East India Company (VOC) in Southeast Asia  

Peter Borschberg

The Dutch East India Company, also known by its historic initials VOC, was a chartered trading company that was active between 1602 and 1795. Formed by a merger of six smaller trading firms that traded in the East Indies and backed by a monopoly of trade, this proto-conglomerate emerged as a driving force in globalization, transregional investment, and early European colonization in Asia and Africa. The VOC operated as a profit-driven shareholder corporation and at the apex of its power, around the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, maintained a series of factories and settlements stretching from Cape Town in Southern Africa, the Malabar and Coromandel coasts of India, Bengal, to insular and mainland Southeast Asia and as far as Taiwan (Formosa) and Japan. Chartered companies possessed considerable investments and infrastructure outside Europe, especially with their administrative apparatus, contacts, business networks, and trading knowledge. This in turn laid the foundations for Dutch imperialism during the 19th century.