The conquest of the Banda Islands by the Dutch , also known as the Banda massacre , is a military conquest which, in 1621, resulted in the occupation of the Banda Islands by the Dutch East India Company , as well as a severe loss of population on these islands, whose inhabitants were killed by the famine as a result of the war, as well as massacres and deportations perpetrated by the Dutch conquerors.



The Dutch East Indies company (known by its Dutch acronym, VOD) sailed from Batavia in the late 1620s 1 . The fleet consists of 19 ships, 1,655 European military troops , and 286 Asian auxiliaries, led by the Governor General of the Netherlands Indies  Jan Pieterszoon Coen 1 . On 21 February 1621, the fleet arrived in Fort Nassau , where she is strengthened by a garrison of 250 men and 36 indigenous ships 2 .

After trying in vain to recruit English from the nearby islands of Run and Ai , Coen sent scouts to the coast of Lontor , the largest of the Banda Islands. The reconnaissance takes two days, during which some boats receive cannons from local residents. Scouts find fortified posts along the south coast and in the hills, and fail to uncover a beachhead . On March 7, a small detachment of VOD landed on the island, but is pushed back, one of them dies and four injured 3 .

On March 11, Coen orders a decisive assault. He divides his forces into several groups, which attack different points of the island. The invaders quickly capture the main strongholds, and at the end of the day, control the plains of the north of the island and the promontories of the south. Defenders and local people flee to the hills of the center of the island, with the Dutch forces chasing them. The evening of 12 March, the Dutch occupied the whole island, with a balance of 6 dead and 27 wounded 4 .

Temporary peace

After the success of the initial Dutch assault, the aristocracy of Lontor ( orang kaya ) seeks peace. Gifts are offered to Coen and all VOC applications are accepted. They surrender, destroy the fortifications, and release hostages. They promise to pay VOC with part of their crop, and sell the rest exclusively to VOC at a fixed price. In exchange, the Dutch agree to guarantee the right of the natives to personal liberty, their autonomy, and the right to continue to practice Islam 5 , 6 .

Resumption of hostilities

Although peace was agreed between orang kaya and VOC, most islanders fled to the hills and began to engage in skirmishes with the Dutch. Coen and his forces respond with the destruction of villages, and put to forced labor of their inhabitants to benefit the VOC 5 .

On 21 April, a Dutch military, obtained under torture, a confession of an orang kaya that local foment a plot against the Dutch 7 . Coen captures at least 789 orang kaya and members of their families. He deports them to Batavia, where some are reduced to slavery 8 , 6 . He ordered his troops to sweep the island and destroy the villages, in order to force the population to make 8 . In the following months, the Dutch and the natives engage in fierce fighting. Due to the destruction caused by the Dutch, many defenders die of hunger or commit suicide by jumping from cliffs rather than surrendering6 .

According to Coen, “about 2,500 people died from hunger and misery or by the sword, a good number of women and children were taken, and no more than 300 escaped” 8 . Another count estimated that of those islands whose original population was 15,000 people , only 1,000 survived, including those who lived or fled to the island of Ai and Run under control English 8 , 6 . Modern researchers including Willard Hanna and Vincent C. Loth , estimate that 90% of the population of the Banda Islands was killed, enslaved, or deported in the Dutch countryside 9 .


After the campaign, the Dutch control almost all the Banda Islands . The English evacuate the island of Run, and assure only an intermittent presence on Nailaka . In 1667, with the Treaty of Breda the English officially abandon any claims on these islands 1 .

The islands suffered a severe depopulation. Only about 1,000 of the 15,000 inhabitants survived initial 6 . To keep these islands productive, the VOC repopulated them, especially with slaves, captured in Indonesia, India, on the coast of China, and placed under the orders of Dutch planters ( perkeniers ) 10 . The natives were also enslaved and forced to teach newcomers nutmeg and mace 11 . Due to the abuse of slaves, the native population of the Banda Islands dropped to a hundred in 1681. 200 slaves were imported each year to maintain a stable slave population of about 4,000 people11 .


  1. ↑ a , b and c Loth 1995 , p.  19.
  2. ↑ Corn 1998 , p.  165.
  3. ↑ Corn 1998 , p.  165-166.
  4. ↑ Corn 1998 , p.  166.
  5. ↑ a and b Corn 1998 , p.  167.
  6. ↑ a , b , c , d and e Loth 1995 , p.  18.
  7. ↑ Corn 1998 , p.  169.
  8. ↑ a , b , c and d Corn 1998 , p.  170.
  9. ↑ Lape 2000 , p.  139.
  10. ↑ Loth 1995 , p.  24.
  11. ↑ a and b van Zanden 1993 , p.  77.