The tiny island that the British traded for Manhattan

When we look at some of the seminal places in the world, and the events that have led us there, there is plenty of food for thought. We know that the Roman Empire spanned the entire globe, and helped shape the world, that East and West Germany finally became a united Germany, and that Athens was the birthplace of theology, philosophy, and many of our cultural values.
However, when we talk about history, the name Banda Run is probably a name you would instantly gloss over without thinking, and why would you? Sounds like the name of a Mesopotamian King or something, right? Not quite. We don’t blame you for overlooking this name or thinking it has any relevance. But, prepare for a shock, because you’re about to meet the tiny island that once changed the world.


In the early days of seafaring and exploration, Arabic sailors took to the Seven Seas and headed for the famed Spice Islands. This was a cluster of islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the Philippine Sea, famed for all manner of exotic spices. Back in the days of sail exploration, the Spice Islands were seen as a great prize, and many nations raced to be the first to reach them, and claim the riches there. These were legendary islands that contained all manner of riches lying in wait, as you might imagine, they were hot property. In fact, there were plenty of nations vying for supremacy in the waters of the world.

History meets legend

Setting sail on the Arafura Sea, and finally reaching the Savu Sea, the Banda Sea is so close you can feel the ocean spray on your skin. This small part of Indonesia has played a crucial role in the development of the Western world, but not in the way you might have thought. It was actually traded by the Brits, for Manhattan, which, as we know is one of the most powerful and prominent parts of the USA. So, how did this happen? Well, to address that, we have to go back to the beginning.

What happened?

Once upon a time, in the long ago of the world, the Dutch and the British duked it out for around 60 years, trying to win naval supremacy, and conquer islands of spice, fruit, and silk. In 1667 the Dutch and English agreed the Treaty of Breda. Part of the treaty stipulated that the Dutch were to receive the island of Run in trade for the island on Manhattan in New Amsterdam, which the Dutch had colonized, and renamed it New York.

This tiny island on the coast of Indonesia is a world away from the fast-paced lights and sounds of New York City. In fact, these days the island still exists, and the locals make a modest life off fishing and nutmeg. It’s an island that has just five hours of electricity per day, and is in more or less the same state as it was all those years ago. New York, on the other hand, has Times Square, Wall Street, and is considered to be the financial, technological, and cultural hub of the world.