What is the Relationship between Spices and Colonization in Indonesia?

What is the relationship between spices and colonialism in Indonesia? Maybe that is the right question to delve into the history of the arrival of the invaders to our country. Indonesia has always been known as a country blessed with natural resources. Not only that, this country is rich in biodiversity, and one of the natural resources it produces is spices. Spices are some plants that can be used as seasonings for cooking.

There is no doubt that Indonesia is rich in spices and was once visited by Europeans to colonize it. Then what is the relationship between spices and colonialism in Indonesia? To answer this question, let’s examine the relationship between spices and colonialism in Indonesia through the discussion of the following article, starting from the history of spice hunting in Indonesia, to the reasons Europeans came to Indonesia:

History of Spice Hunt in Indonesia

The discovery and development of spice plants discovered by ancient people is unstoppable. After trying to study the various types of plants and natural resources available, it turns out that herbal ingredients that can cure illnesses and reduce physical conditions (a type of doping, but made from natural ingredients) can be consumed if mixed with several types of food.

Since 3500 BC the Ancient Egyptians have been using various spices to flavor food and cosmetics and treat the dead. The use of spices extends from the Middle East to the eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Spices from China, Indonesia, India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were originally transported overland by donkey and camel caravans.

Arab middlemen managed the spice trade for nearly 5,000 years before European explorers discovered routes to India and other spice-producing countries in the east. Before learning the seasoning technique, ancient people ate their food simply by burning it, without going through any additional processing stages.

Of course, the resulting taste is the simple and pure taste of the ingredients they burn, often the trigger for disease caused by the food they consume. Not only that, the food they hunt is also very easy to prepare and you have to go looking for food every day, so you can’t store it for too long. From hunting to the day after returning, they wrapped the game in spice leaves.

This inadvertently changes the taste and smell of the prey. Since the discovery of this technology, ancient people have researched new plants that would help enhance the delicious taste of their food. In addition, they are looking for ways to increase food resistance and resistance to pathogens by using certain spices. Today, spices are still an important addition to the delicious taste of food.

Finding cheaper ways to get spices from the East ushered in a glorious New World era of exploration and discovery. European explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias have traveled long distances to find routes to the sources of spices. Christopher Columbus traveled west from Europe in 1492, finding the route to the spice lands, but discovered the United States of America.

In 1497, the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama found a route around the southern tip of Africa and arrived in Calicut on the southwestern coast of India in 1498. Dagama returned from the journey with lots of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. It started thousands of years before Christ. The world’s greatest spice hunt didn’t occur until the 15th century. The trip was initiated by Europeans such as Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and the Netherlands who fought for spice production centers.

Competition is fierce to spend years fighting for spices more valuable than gold. Its efficacy is sought not only as a perfume, but also for preservatives, drugs, and air freshener. European spice exploration was first pioneered by Christopher Columbus, but only the Portuguese Vasco da Gama, who became a successful sailor, recorded gold ink in the 15th century.

This spice route passes through various parts of the world and ports, especially Asia, Africa and Europe. Indonesia is also known as a paradise for various kinds of spices because of its strategic location. Like cloves which grow in Ternate and Tidore, nutmeg which grows naturally in Banda and Sumatra is known as a producer of frankincense, cinnamon and pepper. It used to be a pioneer in the spice trade, and various tribes were involved in forming the archipelago.

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Spices have long been a valuable ingredient. Not all regions can produce the spices that meet their needs, so that groups of people and even countries that can explore remote areas often travel to conserve the natural resources they need. Historically, it is not uncommon for wars to arise from power struggles over an area to preserve natural resources wherever someone wants to control them. The reason for the war here is how they want to take control of this spice trading market.

The Relationship of Spices and Colonization in Indonesia

Based on the history of the spice hunt above, it shows how valuable spices were to the world at that time, even today. Based on the history of its development, this hunt can provide answers to the question of what is the relationship between spices and colonialism in Indonesia, which occurred in the following eras:

Pre-colonial Age

Jack Turner stated in his book “History of Temptation” that Indonesian spices which were traded in ancient times in the Mediterranean region were originally moored in Malabar (India). The results of the spice trade were then distributed by Indian traders to the cities of Rome and Venice as well as other parts of Europe. Not only that, the Arab merchants who were able to obtain these spices also brought them to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Until the 14th century, Europeans had never seen or imagined herbs firsthand. The European spice imagination is in full swing. Imagine, for example, that peppers are harvested like vines and grown on trees rather than real vines. After all, Europe was bewildered in the 15th century, when it was hard to find spices as the Ottoman Turks occupied the fall of Constantinople, the gateway to trade between Asia and Europe.

Europe needed spices from the whims of royal rulers, traders and adventurers. They also decided to carry out a spice expedition in the archipelago. The era of colonialism After Constantinople fell, the Europeans finally started their expedition to the archipelago. Before, rumors were widespread about the archipelago (Indonesia), which was known as a paradise for spices.

This edition is included in Marco Polo’s book. And that explains how abundant spices are in this country. According to Fadly Rahman Negeri Spices magazine, expeditions to the archipelago began in the 15th century. Until 1511, the leader of the Portuguese expedition, Alfonso de Albuquerque, finally succeeded in conquering Malacca (North Maluku). Initially, the Portuguese only wanted to trade spices. However, because Indonesia had many high-quality spices such as cloves, sandalwood and nutmeg, the Portuguese wanted to rule over Indonesia.

Later, the Portuguese succeeded in confiscating the archipelago’s spices and managed to monopolize the spice trade in Europe. Disliked by the Portuguese, who controlled European trade through a monopoly, the Dutch took steps to circumvent the Portuguese monopoly. The Dutch introduced the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Association of the East India Company) (VOC), which was founded on 20 March 1602.

VOC is a Dutch company that monopolizes trading activities. Here, Dutch origin colonized Indonesia for centuries. From the explanation above, we can conclude that spices are related to colonialism, because Indonesia is rich in spices which became a magnet that attracted Europeans and controlled Indonesia.

Reasons for Europeans Coming to Indonesia

By 1390 cloves reaching Europe would be around 6 tonnes annually, and nutmeg would be around 1.5 tonnes. The first Europeans to enter the archipelago, the Portuguese. Then the Spanish and Dutch came to Indonesia as traders. Later, even the Netherlands established the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) or the Dutch Trade Alliance. After that, the VOC dominated Indonesia for a long time. It started when the Portuguese headed for the spice production center of the Maluku Islands under the guidance of Francisco Serrau after the conquest of the city of Malacca in 1511.

The arrival of the Portuguese seems to have attracted the attention of Abu Beras, sultan of the Kingdom of Ternate. He then offered to build a fort on Ternate Island in exchange for selling all the carnation products to the Portuguese. With this offer, the Portuguese cooperated. This was the beginning of the Indonesian colonial era. Based on the ambition to dominate the archipelago’s rich spice trade through European countries. The kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore, quoted from the official website of the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud), developed rapidly thanks to spices, especially cloves.

Initially, Ternate and Tidore lived peacefully side by side. Their arrival had the ambition to hunt and control spices by colonizing the archipelago. Indonesia is rich in spices so it has different regions. At times, it even becomes an item that has high selling value or is expensive. Spices also have medicinal and health benefits. Around 1390, cloves reached Europe reaching about 6 tons annually, and nutmeg up to about 1.5 tons.

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The first Europeans to enter the archipelago, the Portuguese. Then the Spanish and Dutch came to Indonesia as traders. The Netherlands also later established the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch trade association. After that, the VOC dominated Indonesia for a long time. The initial entry of the mainland into Indonesia Quoting from the website www.indonesia.go.id, it began after the city of Malacca was conquered in 1511. Under the guidance of Francisco Serau, the Portuguese headed for the spice-producing center of the Marc archipelago.

The arrival of the Portuguese seems to have attracted the attention of Abu Beras, sultan of the Kingdom of Ternate. He then offered to build a fort on the island of Ternate in exchange for selling all the carnation products to the Portuguese. With this offer, the Portuguese agreed to cooperate. This was the beginning of the Indonesian colonial era. Then, after the defeat of the Portuguese in 1641, Dutch merchants came and founded the VOC. During this time, a monopoly on nutmeg was established in 1621, and clove was also monopolized in 1650.

Based on the ambition to dominate the archipelago’s rich spice trade by European countries. The kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore, quoted from the official website of the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud), thrived thanks to spices, especially cloves. Initially, Ternate and Tidore lived peacefully side by side. But peace did not last long, especially after the arrival of the Portuguese and Spanish. They started playing against each other, and as a result, the two empires disbanded and competed against each other.

The Portuguese came to Marc by making Ternate an ally. Meanwhile the Spanish came to Marc in 1521 by making Tidore their ally. Their arrival not only imposed a trade monopoly, but also disrupted domestic governance. The competition between Portugal and Spain for control of the Maluku Islands ultimately led the two countries to resolve the conflict. Then in 1529 they signed the Treaty of Zaragoza.

As a result of the Agreement, Spain had to leave the Maluku Islands and finally control the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Portuguese continued to trade in the Maluku Islands. In implementing monopoly policies, the VOC has become the richest private company in history. Even forced planting that changed the color of world trade.

Types of Spices in Indonesia

There are seven types of spices that make Indonesia rich: pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cloves, turmeric and ginger.

1. Pepper

In Indonesia, pepper plants are spread in Aceh, Jambi, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, Lamphun, West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi. Furthermore, Southeast Sulawesi, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, Yogyakarta Special Region. In 2016, pepper became Indonesia’s most important spice.

2. Cloves

Carnation cloves originate from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Cloves were a popular and expensive spice in the early days of Portugal’s expansion. At the time, people corresponded to the price of gold bars. In Indonesia, cloves are found in areas such as Jambi, West Java, Central Java, East Java, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Marc. Furthermore, NTT, Papua, Riau, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, South Sumatra and DIY.

3. Cinnamon 

Cinnamon is a spice with a musty aroma and unique taste. Therefore, cinnamon is often used as an additive in cakes and drinks. Cinnamon is found in many areas, including Jambi, West Sumatra and Yogyakarta. As of 2016, cinnamon is the second most important ingredient after pepper.

4. Nutmeg 

Nutmeg is a typical plant of Banda and Marc. However, its distribution can be found in various regions such as Bengkulu, Marc, Papua, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi and North Sulawesi. Nutmeg is not only a spice, but also a raw material for producing essential oils. In 2016 it became the third largest raw material.

5. Vanilla

Vanilla is actually a Mexican spice, not Indonesian. However, in Indonesia it is widely cultivated in various regions such as East Java, Lampung, NTT, Central Java, Central Java and DIY.

6. Ginger

Ginger is one of Indonesia’s main seasoning ingredients. Ginger has health benefits, especially as an ingredient in Chinese herbs.

7. Turmeric 

Turmeric is a plant that is used for treatment. In Southeast Asia, turmeric is not only used as the main spice, but also as part of religious ceremonies.

So, that’s an explanation of the relationship between spices and colonialism in Indonesia.