Amitav Ghosh’s new book uses the trajectory of a spice to chart colonial violence against the planet

An excerpt from Amitav Ghosh’s The Nutmeg’s Curse in

To this day nobody knows exactly what transpired in Selamon on that April night, in the year 1621, except that a lamp fell to the floor in the building where Martijn Sonck, a Dutch official, was billeted.

Selamon is a village in the Banda archipelago, a tiny cluster of islands at the far southeastern end of the Indian Ocean. The settlement is located at the northern end of Lonthor, which is also sometimes referred to as Great Banda (Banda Besar) because it is the largest island in the cluster. “Great” is a somewhat extravagant epithet for an island that is only two and a half miles in length and half a mile in width – but then, that isn’t an insignificant size in an archipelago so minute that on most maps it is marked only by a sprinkling of dots.

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