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'A Story of Failure? Re-reading the Ambonese Embassy to the United Provinces (1621)

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia. Part of the CHE Virtual Fellows Seminar Series


Image: anonymous (after Andries Beeckman), Ambonese dansende krijger in blauw gewaad, c. 1675 - c. 1725. Rijks Museum

Date: Tuesday 10 May 2022
Time: 11:00am AWST / 1:00pm AEST
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au

In 1621 five children of rulers of the island of Ambon in the East Indies (modern Indonesia) arrived in the United Provinces. They had been brought to the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company to study Calvinist theology, so that they might spread the light of the gospel among their countrymen. Yet this embassy would have remarkable and unexpected consequences. Their apparition provided fuel for English expansion in the east Indies, opened Dutch eyes to the limitations of their own ambitions, and granted agency to Ambonese royalty in the Indies. Furthermore, the visit left a lasting legacy in the European apocalyptic imagination, which shaped the hopes of some Protestants until the end of the Thirty Years' War. Based on new and neglected manuscript and print sources from Indonesia, India, and across Europe, this paper details the history of the visit of the Ambonese princes and its strange afterlives in European and Ambonese history, placing this peculiar encounter into a truly global context.


Jacqueline Van Gent (The University of Western Australia)


Dr Leigh Penman is a research fellow at the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre and the School of History at Monash University. He is author of Hope and Heresy (2019) and The Lost History of Cosmopolitanism (2021).