Banda Islands, a cluster of ten small islands belonging to Holland, in the Molucca group of the Eastern archipelago, in the Banda sea, about 50 m. S. of Ceram, between lat. 3° 50' and 4° 30' S., and lon. 128° 30' and 130° E.; area, about 130 sq. m.; pop. about 6,000, including Papua negroes, Chinese, and Dutch. About 800 of the natives are Christians. Lontoar, or Great Banda, the largest of the group, is about 12 m. long and 2 1/2 m. wide. It is almost uninhabitable on account of unhealthiness. Neira, or Banda Neira, 120 m. E. S.E. of Amboyna, is the seat of the Dutch authorities, and contains the forts Nassau and Voorzigtigheid, and the old castle Belgica, a good harbor, and extensive stores. The Gonong Api or Fire mountains, N. of Banda Neira, derive their name from the volcanic cone Api (fire), about 2,000 ft. high, which constantly emits smoke and sometimes cinders and ashes. There have been many disastrous eruptions, and in 1852 an earthquake caused great loss of life and property, and obliged the inhabitants to seek refuge in Amboyna. The chief value of the islands is for the production of nutmegs.
The plantations, which cannot be divided or sold, were worked by slaves until the proclamation of emancipation, Jan. 1, 1800, since which time they have been cultivated partly by Java convicts. The number of persons employed exceeds 2,500, and the trade is virtually monopolized by the Dutch East India company. The annual average production is estimated at 700,000 lbs. of nutmegs and 180,000 lbs. of mace. Sago and cacao are also produced. - The islands were discovered in 1512 by Antonio Abreu, a Portuguese, whose countrymen seized them in 1524, but were expelled in 1600 by the Dutch. Shortly afterward the Dutch ordered the wholesale execution of the indigenous Malay settlers for the murder of Admiral Verhoeven and 45 naval officers. The English conquered them March 8, 1790, restored them to the Netherlands after the peace of Amiens in 1801, and reoccupied them from 1810 to 1814; but the final restoration to the Dutch authorities was delayed till 1817, owing to a difference respecting the partition of the expenditures which had accrued in the interval.