Banda Islands, Indonesia
Coordinates: 4 37 S 129 50 E
Total land area: 17 square miles (14 sq km)
Wars continue to be fought for resources and control of territory, but it’s been some time since any nation took up arms against another for spices. One of the stakes in the second Anglo Dutch War however, was just that: control of the nutmeg trade. Located North of East Timor, the volcanically formed Banda Islands, in the sea of the same name, are part of a larger archipelago once known as the Spice Islands. It was here in the present-day Moluccas that Arab traders first discovered nutmeg trees and began a lucrative export business. In 1512 Portuguese mariners arrived with the Dutch hot on their heels. Aiming to establish a trade monopoly the Dutch quickly set about building plantations and forts (some of which still stand) only to find themselves in a contest of power with England, another nation with empirical designs. And while nutmeg remains important to the local economy, the Banda Islands are no longer the geopolitical grail they were in the past.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.