Ambon (ämˈbōn) [key], island, c.300 sq mi (775 sq km), E Indonesia, one of the Moluccas, in the Banda Sea. It is mountainous, well watered, and fertile. Corn and sago are produced, and hunting and fishing supplement the diet. Nutmeg and cloves, once grown in abundance, are produced in limited quantities, and copra is exported. The chief town and seaport, also called Ambon (1990 pop. 275,888), is capital of Maluku prov. It is the seat of the Univ. of Maluku and a private college, and it has an airport. The island and town are also called Amboina.
The island was visited (1512) by the Portuguese, who made it a religious and military headquarters. It was captured by the Dutch in 1605. An English settlement there was destroyed (1623) by the Dutch in what is called the Ambon massacre. Ambon was temporarily under British rule from 1796 to 1802 and again from 1810 to 1814. The town was the site of a major Dutch naval base captured (1942) by the Japanese in World War II, and it was the scene (1950) of a revolt against the Indonesian government during the short-lived South Moluccan Republic. After the end of Dutch rule, it was a source of major immigration to the Netherlands. As a result of continued violence between rebels and government troops, many Ambonese emigrated to the Netherlands. The island has been the scene of Muslim-Christian violence in recent years.