The Moluccas (Maluku) is a group of islands in the east of the Indian Archipelago, located between (clockwise) Celebes, the Philippines, New Guinea and Timor. The Moluccas belong geographically to Melanesia, but politically to Indonesia. The Moluccas consist of over a thousand islands, more than half of which are uninhabited. On the inhabited islands you can find different peoples with very different traditions and customs.
There is evidence of an ancient and rich trading tradition on the islands. Chinese and Indian coins have been found from ancient times. From the 14th century, the Moluccas came under Islamic influence. Arab and Persian traders had already introduced Islam in what is now Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the previous century. Sultanates sprang up all over the Indian Archipelago, including the Moluccas.
In the 16th century, European traders came to the area for spices. The Portuguese Francisco Serrão was the first European to reach the Banda Islands and Ternate in 1512. The Portuguese had already conquered the Malacca Sultanate in 1511, cutting off the trade route between the Muslims and China. The Muslim rulers of Ternate feared the increasing influence of the Christians and managed to scare the Portuguese away. These left the area and settled in Ambon, which became the center of Portuguese activities in the region. The Ternate sultans turned out to be the fiercest opponents of the Portuguese; the sultanate grew into an important power in the region.
The Moluccas were also the goal of Ferdinand Magellan on his sailing trip around the world (1519-1522). After the Portuguese and Spaniards, the English and Dutch also came. The United East India Company, as representative of the Dutch State, conquered important trading areas in Asia. The Moluccas were very important to the VOC because of the trade in cloves and nutmeg, among other things. The Sultan of Ternate, in whose kingdom much cloves were produced, was at war with the Portuguese, who in turn were allies of the Sultanate of Tidore. The VOC negotiated an exclusive supply contract with Ternate in exchange for military support. In 1605 the VOC then expelled the Portuguese from Tidore. Spanish troops from the Philippines then occupied part of Ternate. In response, the VOC built a large fortress on Ternate in 1607 to protect its own interests.
In the decades after the division of Ternate, there was a lot of fighting in the Moluccas. Gradually, the Dutch managed to control the situation and push the Spaniards into the defensive. In 1662, the Spanish evacuated the Moluccas because they considered their troops necessary for the defense of the Philippines.
The VOC's headquarters were Fort Oranje, located on Ternate. There were also a number of smaller fortresses in the area. Minahasa, the northern tip of Celebes, had been under Dutch authority since 1679. The reason for this was that this area (because of the rice fields present) was considered important for the food supply of the Moluccas.
After 1600, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had a monopoly on the production and trade of mace and nutmeg for a long time. The organization enforced that nutmeg trees grew only in the Moluccas, especially in the Banda Islands. The English eventually managed to grow nutmeg trees on Grenada, breaking the monopoly. When the Frenchman Pierre Poivre also smuggled the seed and started to grow it, the English also lost their position.