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Mutiny and narrative: Francisco Pelsaert's journals and the wreck of the Batavia

Sturma, M. (2002) Mutiny and narrative: Francisco Pelsaert's journals and the wreck of the Batavia. The Great Circle: Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History, 24 (1). pp. 14-24.


The Dutch ship Batavia sank off the western coast of Australia in June 1629. Arguably Australia's most famous shipwreck, the story has inspired scholarly books, novels, poetry, an opera and most recently plans for a feature film. Although the Batavia story has been told many times, it is a narrative fraught with ambiguities and unanswered questions. Most of what we know about the wreck of Batavia and its aftermath comes from a single source-the journals of Francisco Pelsaert. While Pelsaert was far from an unbiased observer, there has been little attempt to question his account. The gaps in his narrative are typically papered over with assumptions rather than cross-examined. In the following discussion, I want to focus in particular on Pelsaert's claim that, before the Batavia wrecked, there were plans to seize the ship by mutiny. This approach casts some doubt on Pelsaert's credibility and opens up broader questions about the narrative as it is usually told.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Australian Association for Maritime History
Copyright: 2002 Australian Association for Maritime History
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