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The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial by Adam Clulow (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media)
In the 1620s, Dutch and English competition for control over the lucrative spice trade in the East Indies (present-day Indonesia) reached a critical point. After uncovering an English plot to take the Dutch castle at Amboyna, the Dutch authorities tortured suspects, placed them on trial, and ultimately condemned to death 10 English merchants and 10 Japanese mercenaries. For the following decade, passions escalated as both sides clashed over the legitimacy of a trial that would become one of the most famous legal cases of its age.
The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website invites us to revisit this seminal case. With a rich trove of digitised archival material, we become investigators, lawyers and jurors tasked with understanding historical events. The process is guided by insights from academic experts who explain the trial’s context within the spice trade and colonialism. Primarily designed for tertiary students, the interactive website is accessible to broader audiences. The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial asks us to investigate an event, on a human scale, that is dense with continuing issues of justice, journalism, politics and propaganda.
The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website is an outstanding example of how maps, sketches, paintings and archival documents (in multiple languages) can be brought to life. It vividly and intelligently introduces us not only to the history surrounding the trial, but also to the tools of the historian in making sense of a trail of angry missives and public pamphlets. The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is fresh, interesting and engaging. It is an important resource for teaching history and a model for multimedia history education.