Georgetown professor lectures on Amboyna Massacre


Students and faculty braved the fall wind and rain to attend this year’s Barstow Lecture.

Alison Games, the Dorothy M. Brown Distinguished Professor of History at Georgetown University, gave the lecture, which was titled “The Invention and Legacy of the Amboyna Massacre,” in Founders Hall on Monday, Oct. 30.

As part of the Visiting Scholars and Artists Series, Games was invited to SVSU by Isaac Stephens, a history professor at SVSU. Stephens introduced Games by describing her work on migration, cultural expression and global interaction.

“She illustrates that there are no limits to what you can do with a history degree,” Stephens said.

Games presented on a lesser-known historical event known as the “Amboyna Massacre” of 1623.

After hearing conspiracy theories claiming that Englishmen were planning to seize a Dutch castle, the Dutch arrested 10 English traders and 10 Japanese soldiers who they believed were co-conspirators. All 20 men were tortured and executed for treason.

Games stumbled across the event while working on a book about English and Dutch interactions around the world.

She decided to change her book’s focus to the Amboyna Massacre exclusively.

“I got really interested in why the story had this long memory and why people kept writing about it,” Games said.
“I realized there was a lot I wanted to say about it.”

Games focused on how the English linguistically transformed the conspiracy into a “massacre.”

The English referred to the Amboyna killings as a “massacre” so they could depict the English traders as martyrs.

Text and images portraying the event were used to remind the English of Dutch betrayal. Although the Amboyna Massacre could have been seen as a shameful event for the English, it continued to be a long-standing part of British history.

Kaleigh Kuhns, an international business junior, attended the event to learn more about global history and development.

She was particularly interested in the fact that many of the English documents of the Amboyna Massacre left out the Japanese soldiers.

“In the United States, we have this mentality now of recognizing minorities and recognizing people that are oppressed,” Kuhns said.

“Throughout history, that hasn’t always been the mindset of every world power.,” Kuhn said. “I think something that really defines a country as great is when they can look back and rewrite their history, recognizing everyone that played a role in it.”

Games hoped attendees learned that the words we use to describe events are in creating the events themselves.

“There’s all these assumptions that we bring and ideas we have about those people or those events, all those things which were created by somebody at some time,” Games said. “I hope (attendees) both learn about the particular incident that I was talking about, but also think more broadly about how we create events in the past and how that can live on for centuries into the present.”