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Indonesia History - Sultanate of Tidore (1450-1904)

In the pre-colonial era, Tidore was a major regional political and economic power, and a fierce rival of nearby Ternate, just to the north. The sultans of Tidore ruled most of southern Halmahera, and, at times, controlled Buru, Ambon and many of the islands off the coast of Papua. Antonio d'Albreo was sent by d'Albuquerque to the Moluccas after the latter had subjugated Malacca in 1511. He found the Sultan of Ternate in the usual state of war with the Sultan of Tidore, and promptly took sides. Even at that time the Portuguese applied the principle in government so successfully followed by other colonizing powers, to-wit: "Divide that you may rule."

Tidore established a loose alliance with the Spanish in the sixteenth century, and Spain had several forts on the island. While there was much mutual distrust between the Tidorese and the Spaniards, for Tidore the Spanish presence was helpful in resisting incursions by their enemy Ternate, as well as the Dutch forces that had a base on that island.

In the 16th and 17th century the Sultanate of Tidore (allied with Portugal/Spain) rivalled with the Sultanate of Ternate (allied with the V.O.C.) over hegemony in the region. As Spanish strength in the region diminished before their eventual withdrawal from the region in 1663, Tidore became one of the most independent kingdoms in the region, resisting direct control by Dutch East India Company (VOC). Particularly under Sultan Saifuddin (1657-1689), the Tidore court was skilled at using Dutch payment for spices for gifts to strengthen traditional ties with Tidore's traditional periphery. As a result he was widely respected by many local populations, and had little need to call on the Dutch for military help in governing the kingdom, as Ternate frequently did.

Tidore remained an independent kingdom, albeit with frequent Dutch interference, until the late eighteenth century. Like Ternate, Tidore allowed the Dutch spice eradication program (extirpative) to proceed in its territories. This program, indeed to strengthen the Dutch spice monopoly by limiting production to a few places, impoverished Tidore and weakened its control over its periphery.

The sultanate was terminated by the Dutch East Indies in 1904. In 1949 her territories (except for those in New Guinea) became part of the Republic of Indonesia.

The beautiful island of Tidore is just a few minutes across the sea from Ternate by speedboat. Like Ternate, it is also an ancient spice-trading sultanate dominated by a towering volcano, Gunung Kiematubu. Its attractions are also similar: historic forts, beaches, and good hiking possibilities.

But unlike Ternate, which has retained its commercial and political importance as the main administrative and trading centre of North Maluku, Tidore has slipped into relative obscurity. For visitors, this is a blessing in disguise though: it means that while facilities are more limited, the traditional architecture, customs and historical sights have been spared from modern influences and over-restoration. Even the capital Soasio has the feeling of a sleepy village, and like most villages themselves, it has neat streets full of flowers and white-washed houses. Although it is easily visited as a day-trip from Ternate, Tidore rewards those prepared to spend a longer time exploring its attractions and soaking up its historic atmosphere thoroughly.




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