HISTORY OF NORTH MOLUCCAS (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
It was Nicoli 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. 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.
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. However, Maluku's
great attraction for present-day visitors is its sea gardens, beaches
and the beauty of the land. Music and dances and hybrid culture
in general, are among the strong tourist drawing cards. Maluku Utara
or North Maluku became a separate province from Maluku on January
1, 2000. Fish and other sea products are nowadays Maluku's major
sources of revenue, but nickel, oil, manganese and timber also contribute
to the province's wealth.