Dutch Trading Post
Heritage Network
Dutch Trading Post Heritage Network

Ambon

Country: Indonesia
Member: Ambon City Government

History
Admiral Steven Van der Hagen arrived with a VOC fleet in Ambon in 1605. With his fleet and garrison of 600 men he took the Portuguese Castle named Fortaleza Nossa Seinhora da Annunciada without bloodshed. The conquest was achieved so easily that it was later described as a miracle.
The first VOC governor of Ambon was Frederik de Houtman from 1605 to 1611. Ambon quickly grew into one of the main bases of the VOC in Asia and became a major city.Prior to the founding of Batavia in 1619, the VOC’s governor-generals took up residence alternately in Fort Victoria on Ambon and in Fort Oranje on Ternate. Besides the governor, there were 33 officials concerned with the trade in cloves, mace and nutmeg, which was the main trade of the VOC on Ambon. These spices were exported to Holland through Batavia. Whenever there was a glut, surplus products were sold in India and Persia. To protect this trade many soldiers were stationed in the VOC forts in Ambon, which had a European population of 770 people by 1683. After the VOC period, Ambon became a ‘gouvernement’ in the Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies.

Trade
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 councilors pronounced judgment together with the rulers, once a fortnight.

Fort Nieuw Victoria

Built initially by the Portuguese in 1575, and named Fortaleza Nossa Seinhora da Annunciada (Allusion to the Virgin Mary). It was taken in 1605 by the Dutch and renamed Kasteel Victoria. Severely damaged by volcanic activity in 1754 the Dutch rebuilt it and gave it the name Nieuw Victoria.

It fell into the hands of the English around 1810-1817. The pentagonal fort, with a bastion in each of its corners, was strengthened by an encircling moat. Currently, some parts of the wall are already destroyed but some related buildings are still standing erect inside the fort. Now the fort is utilized as the Headquarters of Pattimura XVI Military District.
Other forts on the Ambon islands that still remain in some form and can be visited today are Fort Zeelandia, Fort Amsterdam and Fort Duurstede.