Between 23 May and 7 June 1667, Cornelis Speelman, Superintendant and Admiral of the "Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie" (VOC), paid a visit to the Province of Amboina. Speelman was the leader of the Dutch expedition against Makassar, whose ruler, Sultan Hasanuddin, was then challenging Dutch control over the eastern archipelago where the rich spice-producing areas were located.
On 4 June 1667, Speelman formally ordered a count of the population in the Province of Amboina. The motives he adduced for such a decision were fairly unspecified: "in view of the current administration", including the administration of justice.
After Speelman's departure from Amboina, the local government of the VOC proved that it did more than just pay lip-service to the Superintendant's objectives.
Hitu -0.3 0.2 Larike 1.2 -1.1 Southeast Hitu 1.5 -1.5 Leitimor 0.2 1.3 Haruku 0.8 -2.6 Saparua 1.9 -1.4 Nusalaut 1.6 -0.7 Ambelau 1.1 8.8 Buru -0.1 2.3 Buano 2.8 - Manipa 0.8 3.2 Seram Hitu 1.5 -0.6 Seram Haruku 2.5 9.4 Seram Saparua 1.2 - Ambon Island 0.4 1.2 Lease Islands 1.5 -1.5 West Ambonese Islands 0.8 2.9 Southwest Seram 1.6 0.3 Province of Amboina 1.0 1.0 At the regional level the greatest increase was recorded by Buano, Seram Haruku and Saparua.
As indicated in Table 3, the population density per square kilometre in the Province of Amboina tended to grow from about 20 in 1673 to 25 in 1692.
The better performance of nineteenth century Java is also illustrated by the higher proportion of the people who had not yet reached puberty, i.e., 44 per cent against 39 per cent for seventeenth century Amboina. Of course, improved health care, for instance vaccination against small-pox, and better transport, can explain such a difference.
However, one important question remains to be asked, namely was the growth-rate for the population of the Province of Amboina limited to the decades under consideration or did it also apply to other periods in the early modern age of the area?
The zielsbeschrijvingen drawn up by seventeenth century colonial administrators for the Province of Amboina, the central part of present-day Central Maluku, are an important source for the study of an indigenous population in Southeast Asia during the early modern period.