Dutch New Guinea and the Molucca Islands


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Dutch New Guinea and the Molucca Islands is Number 87 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The territory of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world (after Greenland), is today shared by Indonesia and the state of Papua New Guinea. The former Dutch New Guinea is now the Indonesian part of the island. The Molucca Islands, also known as the Spice Islands or, in Indonesian, as the Maluku, are an archipelago located to the west of New Guinea and also part of Indonesia. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions, with separate treatments of each of these topics for New Guinea and the Moluccas. The study explains that the Dutch drove the Portuguese and Spanish from the Moluccas in the early to mid-17th century in order to consolidate their monopolies over the trade in cloves, nutmeg, and other spices. They did not establish a formal presence in New Guinea until 1678, when they concluded a treaty with the local rajah of Onin. The book notes that the “bulk of Dutch New Guinea is entirely unexplored. The natives are divided into numerous tribes constantly warring against each other, and Dutch authority has only been established on portions of the coast.”  A concluding section, entitled “Notes on the Principal Molucca Islands,” provides brief sketches of the geography and economy of 16 islands and island groups.

Last updated: November 14, 2017