In 1628, the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia was the largest ship built by the biggest company in the world, the Dutch East India Company [VOC]. Filled full of treasure, plots of mutiny fermented during the long voyage to Batavia, the main trading centre for the VOC in the East Indies. However, before a mutiny could be effected, the Batavia sank 60 km off the Western Australian coast. More than 200 survivors, including women and children, scrambled ashore a group of small desert islands. After the Commander and Captain took the only boat large enough to sail the 3,000 km voyage to Batavia (Jakarta), the leadership fell to Jeronimus Cornelisz, a master manipulator intent on murdering most of the survivors.
Two parallel plots, the story of the ship, Batavia, and story of Batavia, the city fortress under siege by 20,000 men, provide a unifying link. Through the characters and events, both plots intersect with the final action delivering a fascinating conclusion with a remarkable and unexpected twist.
In order to give the reader the best experience and understanding to the most amazing events, it has been written as a historical fiction. While every attempt has been made to create a story as historically accurate as possible, the author, Henry Van Zanden, has filled in the gaps as historical fiction.
1629 Mutiny on the Batavia was written with the aim of bringing the story to the cinemas. If it is expertly produced and directed, it will become one of the greatest movies ever made.
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works
Although the story by itself is enough to capture the reader’s imagination, it is also a story of absolute evil corrupting the good. If Satan did exist, he would have personified himself as Jeronimus Cornelisz,
It is a story of a struggle to retain our human dignity, our decency when the temptations of greed, lust, power and ultimately, a choice between a life as a murderer or death, are put to the test. Readers will ask themselves whether it is better to die an honourable death or live a dishonourable life as a murderer.
For the author it was a horrific journey: “I had to ‘live’ the evil that festered in the minds of maniacal men as well as ‘feel’ the terror of the helpless victims. I had to enter into a dark place, a place that I had never been before to engage in the most unspeakable evil and commit, in my mind, the most despicable and depraved acts of barbarism.” This is not a book for the very young or the faint hearted.
The book asks some uncomfortable questions, such as: How much evil would you be prepared to commit in order to stay alive? How many people would you kill before you stop?
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
Henry Van Zanden