Ambon Fort Haarlem

Written by on May 19, 2012 in Indonesia, East Indonesia Forts with 0 Comments

Ambon Fort Haarlem

http://www.bentengindonesia.org/benteng.php?id=61

In 1605 the VOC fleet, commanded by Admiral Steven Van der Hagen, arrived in the Bay of Ambon. The Company took the Portuguese Castle Victoria, with its garrison of 600 men, without bloodshed. The conquest was achieved so easily that it was later described as a miracle. The first governor of Ambon was Frederik de Houtman, who resided there from 1605 to 1611. Ambon quickly expanded to become a major city. By 1683 it boasted a European population of 770, most of them soldiers. Besides the governor, there were 33 officials concerned with the trade in cloves, mace and nutmeg. These spices were exported to Holland through Batavia. Whenever there was a glut, surplus products were sold in India and Persia. The islands administered from Ambon had their own fleet of rowing vessels called cora-coras. Once a year the governor would order all the cora-coras to assemble for a tour of inspection through his territory. This illustration shows one such voyage by the governor; his ship is flying the Dutch flag. The VOC had but one objective in running Ambon; to secure a monopoly of the clove trade. Innumerable agreements were signed with local rulers, with the aim of ensuring that all the cloves went to the VOC alone. The local population could have sold their products for better prices to foreign traders; but when they did so the Company punished the villages by burning their harvest. The task of the governor in Ambon was a difficult one: he had to protect the group of islands falling under Ambon’s jurisdiction and to ensure the smooth running of the valuable spice trade. Besides the countless wars with the English, Spanish and French, who also had their sights set on these fertile islands, the Company had to contend with the local Islamic and Christian rulers. National courts were set up for both religions, at which the governor and councillors pronounced judgement together with the rulers, once a fortnight. Prior to the founding of Batavia in 1619, the VOC’s governor-generals were more or less peripatetic. They took up residence alternately in Fort Victoria on Ambon and in Fort Oranje on Ternate. After this period, Ambon became a ‘gouvernement’.

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