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Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Meeting [Kindle Edition]

Mike Dash
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the bestselling author of Tulipomania comes Batavia’s Graveyard, the spellbinding true story of mutiny, shipwreck, murder, and survival.

It was the autumn of 1628, and the Batavia, the Dutch East India Company’s flagship, was loaded with a king’s ransom in gold, silver, and gems for her maiden voyage to Java. The Batavia was the pride of the Company’s fleet, a tangible symbol of the world’s richest and most powerful commercial monopoly. She set sail with great fanfare, but the Batavia and her gold would never reach Java, for the Company had also sent along a new employee, Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a bankrupt and disgraced man who possessed disarming charisma and dangerously heretical ideas.

With the help of a few disgruntled sailors, Jeronimus soon sparked a mutiny that seemed certain to succeed—but for one unplanned event: In the dark morning hours of June 3, the Batavia smashed through a coral reef and ran aground on a small chain of islands near Australia. The commander of the ship and the skipper evaded the mutineers by escaping in a tiny lifeboat and setting a course for Java—some 1,800 miles north—to summon help. Nearly all of the passengers survived the wreck and found themselves trapped on a bleak coral island without water, food, or shelter. Leaderless, unarmed, and unaware of Jeronimus’s treachery, they were at the mercy of the mutineers.

Jeronimus took control almost immediately, preaching his own twisted version of heresy he’d learned in Holland’s secret Anabaptist societies. More than 100 people died at his command in the months that followed. Before long, an all-out war erupted between the mutineers and a small group of soldiers led by Wiebbe Hayes, the one man brave enough to challenge Jeronimus’s band of butchers.

Unluckily for the mutineers, the Batavia’s commander had raised the alarm in Java, and at the height of the violence the Company’s gunboats sailed over the horizon. Jeronimus and his mutineers would meet an end almost as gruesome as that of the innocents whose blood had run on the small island they called Batavia’s Graveyard.

Impeccably researched and beautifully written, Batavia’s Graveyard is the next classic of narrative nonfiction, the book that secures Mike Dash’s place as one of the finest writers of the genre.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

In 1629, the Dutch merchantman Batavia grounded on a desolate atoll near Western Australia. Of the 200 survivors, 115 were subsequently murdered, in coldest blood, by a group of the ship's sailors and their psychopathic leader, Jeronimus Corneliszoon. Batavia's Graveyard is Mike Dash's unnerving, measured account of the incident. The victims included children, babies, and pregnant women; the crimes took place over a period of several months. Though the killings make a substantial, chilling tale in themselves, Dash adroitly places the shocking spree in larger context with illuminating discussions of 17th century medical practices, religious heresy, global politics, and shipboard sociology and daily life. Additionally, he draws dozens of portraits of the participants in this ghastly drama, most fascinatingly that of Corneliszoon, who emerges as a grotesquely charismatic predecessor of the likes of Charles Manson and Ted Bundy. Batavia's Graveyard, a skillful melding of accessible scholarship and evenhanded narrative and of overview and telling detail, is a welcome achievement. --H. O'Billovitch

From Publishers Weekly

Dash's sociology of the paranormal (Borderlands) and of obsession in Holland (Tulipomania) prepared him nicely for this telling of a 17th-century ship loaded with Dutchmen, treasure and fanaticism. In 1629 the Batavia, a 160-foot merchant ship launched by the Dutch East India Company, was carrying silver to East India when it ran upon coral atolls northwest of Australia and coughed up its passengers. In Dash's account, the survivors 300 passengers and about 50 sociopathic crewmen settled on the tiny island, soon to be called Batavia's Graveyard, and quickly became madhouse models of Dutch social classes. Officers set out in life boats to Java for help, leaving Jeronimus Corneliszoon, a failed apothecary and heretic, in charge; he began terrorizing his own crewmen, then the other marooned passengers. Within two months, 115 of the survivors (including 30 women and children) had murdered each other with swords, pikes, daggers and by drowning (Corneliszoon poisoned an infant that kept him awake). In a narrative reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, Dash describes the creeping sadism that sprang from Holland's religious conflicts, which were channeled through the Jim Jones-like charisma of Corneliszoon. The book is driven by Dash's research (a quarter of the book is notes and appendices, including material from newly discovered records in Holland), but the same attention to detail (e.g., the narrative lists and the psychobiography of Corneliszoon) interrupts the pace. The story of the Batavia incident is already well recorded, and even though Dash has taken it to a new level of grotesque accuracy, his nautical drama never truly comes to life.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 908 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0609807161
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (March 5, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1GTC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,331 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even the footnotes are fascinating! February 12, 2002
By A Customer
I've read many seafaring/adventure/historical non-fiction narratives (as well as novels) and Batavia's Graveyard does them all one better. Like most Americans, I had never heard of the Batavia incident, so I was in suspense during this entire reading experience. The author, Mike Dash, gives a engrossing account of the survivors' ordeal, but, more importantly, he does an excellent job of placing the Batavia's story within the context of the 1600s and the Dutch sea trade. I was fascinated by the description of life in the Netherlands by the history of the Dutch East India Company--a corporation so heartless and corrupt that it makes Enron look warm and fuzzy.
Like In the Heart of the Sea, this is a book that places one sensational, disturbing event within a much larger, and richer history. Mike Dash's stylish, compelling writing are to be commended, as well. Even the nearly 100 pages of endnotes themselves (which detail Mr. Dash's outstanding research) add a lot to the appreciation of this book.
Take it from a history--and reading--addict: this is one of the best historical narratives to be written in years.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts From a Godless Island February 2, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The setting for this book is an obscure chain of coral reefs in the 1620s. I would've never thought that incidents from so long ago and far away could inspire nightmares. But this book is every bit as chilling as "In Cold Blood" or "Helter Skelter." We'll never understand how people can commit barbarities against innocent women and children, as Jeronimus Cornelisz and his sycophants did. But eyewitness accounts and archaeological evidence, which were utilized by Mike Dash for this book, offer a testament to the grim reality of such atrocities.

The story of the "Batavia" has been related before: in the year 1628, the flagship vessel of a fleet of Dutch East Indian traders smashed into a previously unknown group of jagged coral islands off the west coast of Australia in the dead of night. While the captain and over-merchant sailed to Indonesia for help, the charismatic under-merchant set himself up as caretaker/dictator of the desperate survivors of the wreck. He turned out to be a 17th-century version of Charles Manson. He not only convinced enough naïve, under-educated, and cowardly sailors to follow him into mutinying against the East India Company, but he managed to order them into gleefully murdering over 100 of their fellow castaways.

Mike Dash's book is undoubtedly the most complete account of the "Batavia" incident written thus far. The bibliographical notes he provides comprise a book in itself. For the first time, he examines the culture and background that produced a monster like Cornelisz, digging into ancient town records in Friesland, Amsterdam, and Haarlem. It's riveting to think that Cornelisz may have been acquainted with the infamous bacchanalian painter Torrentius, who was a neighbor of his in Haarlem.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Harrowing History April 3, 2002
"Absolutely nothing in this book is invented." Mike Dash starts off his book _Batavia's Graveyard_ (Crown) with this declaration for a good reason. The story is quite literally incredible. Dash's previous book, the excellent _Tulipomania_, wittily described the improbable craze of speculating on tulip bulbs in Holland in the seventeenth century, but the tulip madness is relatively well known. Stories of the fate of the ship _Batavia_ in 1629 in the service of the Dutch East India Company, however, were wildly popular at the time, but have gradually been forgotten. The story was spectacular enough that there were memoirs, eyewitness accounts, pamphlets, books, and court testimony, all of which Dash has dug through with notable thoroughness. The bizarre tale of the _Batavia_ reads like a thriller.
The main character in the tale is Jeronimus Cornelisz, who had newly joined the Dutch East India Company to make his fortune. He was probably brought up as a member of the Anabaptists, a small protestant sect with a history of fanaticism and resistance to worldly governments, based largely on the belief that the Second Coming of Christ was just around the corner. He had also joined a social organization which had dangerous philosophies, and he came to antinomianism, the creed that one can exist in a state of perfection and thereby avoid following any moral law. "All I do, God gave the same into my heart," he explained. He planned a mutiny to take over the ship and become a pirate, but about a month before arriving at the destination Java, it crashed into a coral reef off Australia's western coast. Cornelisz, the highest ranking official left on the islands, took charge with real self assurance, eloquence, and charisma, and hell descended.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but Gruesome Story May 8, 2002
"Batavia's Graveyard" what a name for a book! I could not resist picking this book up as soon as I saw it and I am so happy that I did. It was one of the best historical tales I have read for some time. Being an Australian I knew something of the Batavia but not the full story. In fact I had examined in detail the re-constructed Batavia at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. I walked through the ship, checking out every nook and cranny on the upper and lower decks. However that was way before I read this book. I never knew of the murder and mayhem that took place off the Western Australian coastline.
This book not only gives you the full story of the voyage of the Batavia, its shipwreck, the fate of the survivors and the subsequent fate of the mutineers under Jeronimus Cornelisz. It also offers the reader a complete and compelling picture into the background to this disaster and at the same time it offers interesting stories on all the participants. By the time I was half way through the book I was furious that the mutineers had carried out their terrible deeds. The book had me caught up in the story so much it was like reading about a current disaster in the newspaper. I wanted Cornelisz and his followers to suffer untold pain and misery for their acts.
The story is well told and gripping and the author has done his research well. The author supplies the reader with numerous tidbits of information regarding this period and this never detracts from the story but adds to it. It would have been nice to have some photographs of the Islands concerned to help paint the picture of desolation and even some photos of the recently re-constructed Batavia. Regardless of these very minor criticisms this book is a great historical story and I am sure that anyone who enjoys a good history will love this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend it to anyone with an interest in history.
Real History, presented in story form. Hard-hitting, well-researched as it could be, and above all, readable.
Published 15 days ago by Gustav Lessing
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a read for the weak stomached. This is ...
Not a read for the weak stomached. This is the story of a depraved and vicious episode in history. Well researched and written, just rather nauseating.
Published 24 days ago by wheelhelmina
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but not a thrilling narrative.
Fascinating story but tends to drag during the second half. Other authors a more successful at stitching together a more exciting story line. This drags at points.
Published 1 month ago by D. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, A Must Read!
What a fantastic read! I was not able to put this book down easily. The amount of research and sheer work that went into this masterpiece is mind boggling. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Expressrune
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fascinating popular history that integrates a horrifying ...
This is a fascinating popular history that integrates a horrifying (and riveting) adventure tale with a well-researched account of the early history of the Dutch East India... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SKN
4.0 out of 5 stars modern horror films have nothing on this gruesome historical account
This book is fascinating account of a psychopathic killer: it brings history alive despite all the killing. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An unbelievable story, anyone with any interest in history or non-fiction in general should read this book.
Published 3 months ago by Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book. I learned a lot about the Dutch ...
Very good book. I learned a lot about the Dutch that is not taught in American high school or college for that matter.
Published 3 months ago by ACW
5.0 out of 5 stars This remains at the top of my list of favorite nonfiction along with...
Though not a quick read, this fascinating historical account blends religion, human strength and the human capacity for unspeakable horror in such an engaging way that you'll find... Read more
Published 3 months ago by pool reader
4.0 out of 5 stars too bad more time was not spent on the actual crimes ...
Well done, too bad more time was not spent on the actual crimes themselves. However it was woven properly with what is known about the main players. Overall a good read.
Published 3 months ago by devil8ball
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More About the Author

Mike Dash, the author of Tulipomania, Batavia's Graveyard, Thug, Satan's Circus and now The First Family, was born, in 1963, just outside London, and educated at Gatow School, Berlin, Wells Cathedral School, Somerset, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read history and ran the Cambridge student magazine. From there he moved on to King's College, London, where in 1990 he completed an unusually obscure PhD thesis describing British submarine policy between the Crimean and the First World Wars.

Dash's first job, for which he was thoroughly unqualified, was compiling about a quarter of the entries for Harrap's Dictionary of Business and Finance (1988), a volume that he researched via clandestine meetings in a London Spud-U-Like with a college friend who had gone into banking. From there, he began a six-year career in journalism book-ended by stints as a gossip columnist for Fashion Weekly and a section editor at UK Press Gazette, the journalists' newspaper.

While still at UKPG, Dash took a phone call from John Brown, the maverick publisher of Viz, who asked him to suggest the names of some possible magazine publishers with an editorial background and some knowledge of the newstrade, Unsurprisingly nominating himself, Dash found himself hired to take over the eccentric portfolio of Viz Comic and Gardens Illustrated.

Dash's first book, The Limit (1995), was published by BBC Books and his second, Borderlands (1997) by Heinemann. He has since written five works of historical non fiction, all of them acclaimed for combining detailed original research with a compelling narrative style.

Having written his first three books while still with John Brown Publishing, Dash has been a full-time writer since 2001. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

'History doesn't get much more readable.'
New York Daily News

'Dash writes with unabashedly cinematic flair, backed by meticulous research.'
New York Times

'Dash captures the reader with narrative based on dogged research, more richly evocative of character and place than any fiction, and so well written he is impossible to put down.'
The Australian

'An indefatigable researcher with a prodigious descriptive flair.'
Sunday Telegraph

'Dash writes the best kind of history: detailed, imaginative storytelling founded on vast knowledge.'
Minneapolis Star-Tribune


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