The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to introduce The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website, an interactive teaching resource focused on one of the most famous legal cases of the early modern period.
The Amboyna trial took place on a remote island in Southeast Asia where Dutch authorities accused a group of English merchants and Japanese mercenaries of plotting to seize control of a Dutch East India Company fort. The trial, which culminated in a mass execution in the public square in front of Amboyna castle, poisoned relations between two emerging European superpowers, the Dutch Republic and England, and changed the course of the spice race in Asia. The site explores the events on Amboyna, the race for spices, and the politics of torture and waterboarding.
The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is the product of a long-term collaboration between Dr. Adam Clulow (Monash University, Australia) and RRCHNM. It was funded by the Research Accelerator Program at Monash University.
There are several ways to navigate The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial. Exhibits offer a curated path through the case, key participants, controversy over torture, and the long aftermath of the trial. A timeline allows visitors to explore how the trial played out day by day. The Archive provides access to relevant primary sources, including official documents, legal sources, and images. Teaching presents strategies for using Amboyna in the classroom, modeling ways to build on student fascination with trials and forensic investigation to explore the past.
The heart of the site is Your Verdict, an interactive trial engine that places students in the role of juror. For close to four hundred years, the debate over what actually happened on Amboyna in 1623 has continued. English scholars have insisted that there was no plot and that the trial constituted nothing more than the judicial murder of innocents, while Dutch historians argue that a conspiracy existed and hence that the legal proceedings were justified. Your Verdict draws website visitors into the heart of the case, offering evidence and the responsibility of weighing that evidence to determine guilt or innocence. Watch students who pilot tested the site discuss their deliberations.