Spice islands lie in the modern day province of maluku in eastern indonesia. they have attracted regional and international traders for more than 3,000 years.
- prior to 1500, no european had ever landed on the shores of maluku, but there had always been asian traders. the biggest and most valuable commodities were nutmeg and cloves.
- after the first portuguese and european vessel, under the stewardship of francisco serrao, arrived in maluku in april 1512, the balance of power that had remained quite stable and little changed over the centuries, changed abruptly.
the building of a series of forts set a new precedent in maluku. the forts were built to ensure security as an asian trading centre and to protect goods and people so they would not be arbitrarily seized by a local ruler.
- this pioneer idea later evolved into the modern concept of foreign naval bases. but it also set an immediate cultural barrier between newcomers and local people; a
lso a local legacy of foreign naval bases.
the portuguese power in the islands faded with their empire. the dutch had a confrontation with them in ambon, and expelled them.
- the huge impact that these tiny and remote islands had on the european continent at that time was immense.
maluku was the most valuable piece of real estate in the world 500 years ago. thus henry the navigator, christopher columbus, vasco de gama, and ferdinand magellan began their fates with destiny. they spread the word of god and enthusiastically secured as much spices as their boats would hold.
- sack full of nutmeg from banda would put a common sailor into an early retirement if he made it back to europe alive with the legendary spices to hand. fishing and nutmeg are the only 2 industries that the bandas have.
- nutmeg is a large evergreen tree, native to the moluccas - the spice islands - and now cultivated in the west indies. the fruit produces 2 spices, mace and nutmeg. nutmeg is the seed kernel inside the fruit and mace is the lacy aril covering on the kernel.
- mace is the spice that originally made this commodity so precious as it was used as a meat preservative, but also critically it was thought to be a cure for the bubonic plague which was so fatal at that time.
- the historical significance of these islands cannot be overstated. largely because of the magnetic force of spices, european ships risked sailing into unknown waters (portuguese ventures down and around africa), found a new world (columbuss crossing of the atlantic), and first circled the globe (magellans crossing of the pacific.