Ternatan/Tidorese - History and Cultural Relations

The area of Halmahera and adjacent islands is the homeland of cloves, and until the sixteenth century the cultivation of cloves remained confined to this area. At the time the Portuguese arrived in the Moluccas, in 1512, this area numbered four sultanates: Ternate, Tidore, Bacan, and Jailolo. Together these four sultanates, of which the competing realms of Ternate and Tidore were the most important, controlled the total world production of cloves. The power and prestige of the sultanates were based on the control of the sale of cloves to foreign traders and, later on, to Europeans. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Ternate and Tidore succeeded in extending their military power and political and cultural influence over the surrounding islands. Ternate directed its expansion mainly to northern Halmahera, to the islands south of Ternate, and to the east coast of Sulawesi. Tidore directed its expansion mainly to southern Halmahera, the Raja Ampat Islands, and the adjacent coast of Irian Jaya and to eastern Ceram. In the sixteenth century the Portuguese, who had settled themselves on Ternate Island, attempted without success to establish a monopoly on the purchase of cloves, but later on in the seventeenth century the Dutch, who took over the position of the Portuguese, succeeded in this objective. The Dutch restricted the cultivation of cloves to Ambon (central Moluccas) and a few adjacent islands, producing just enough to supply the world market. For any other islands in the Moluccas, including Ternate and Tidore, the cultivation of cloves became strictly forbidden. This interdiction was maintained into the nineteenth century. In compensation for the loss of revenues from clove production and allied trade, the sultans of Ternate and Tidore and their principal officials were provided an annual allowance by the Dutch. Nevertheless, the interdiction of clove production and allied trade resulted in a drastic economic decline for the sultanates and, at the same time, an absolute dependence on the Dutch, cultural isolation, and internal social and political ossification. The abolition of the interdiction on clove production in the nineteenth century brought no change whatsoever because the price of cloves had fallen to a level that made the cultivation of cloves unattractive, and the system of allowances was maintained. Under Dutch protection Ternate and Tidore remained semiautonomous states until Indonesia's independence in 1949. The Indonesian government has pursued a policy of total integration of the sultanates into the modern state. The autonomous sultanates have been abolished by gradually integrating the internai administration with the provincial organization of the Moluccas. The sultanates have virtually ceased to exist now and institutions of the former sultanates survive only in folklore, not as politically significant elements.

Throughout the ages Ternate and Tidore have been influenced culturally by the Islamic northeast coast of Java, by the Portuguese, and by the Dutch. Nevertheless there has always been a strong cultural radiation from the political centers of Ternate and Tidore to the surrounding islands.

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