Moluccas (məlŭkˈəz, mō–) [key] or Spice Islands, Bahasa Indonesia Maluku, Du. Molukken, island group and prov. (1990 pop. 1,856,075), c.32,300 sq mi (83,660 sq km), E Indonesia, between Sulawesi and New Guinea. The capital of the province is Ambon, on Ambon island. The group's many islands include Halmahera (the largest), Seram, Buru, Ambon, Ternate, and Tidore and the Aru and Kai island groups. Of volcanic origin, the Moluccas are mountainous, fertile, and humid. They are the original home of nutmeg and cloves. Other spices, copra, and forest products are also produced. Sago is the staple food.
The islands were visited by the Portuguese in c.1512 and thereafter colonized by them; they established a trading center at Ternate. In the 17th cent. they were taken by the Dutch, who secured a monopoly in the clove trade. Twice the British gained a foothold in the islands, which passed definitively to the Dutch in the first quarter of the 19th cent. Local separatists declared a Southern Moluccas republic following Indonesia's independence, but they were crushed. The separatist movement experienced a resurgence following President Suharto's fall from power (1998). The islands have been the scene of Muslim-Christian violence in recent years.
See I. Burnet, Spice Islands (2011).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.