The Dutch East India Company (VOC) symbol it's still at the entrance gate of the Castle of Good Hope (Kasteel de Goede Hoop), Cape Town, South Africa. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) symbol it's still at the entrance gate of the Castle of Good Hope (Kasteel de Goede Hoop), Cape Town, South Africa. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

The Dutch East India Company: VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie)

Written by Marco Ramerini. English text revision by Dietrich Köster.

In March 1594 some Dutch merchants founded a “Company of Far Lands” at Amsterdam. Their objective was to send two fleets to the East Indies. The first fleet of four ships reached Bantam and returned to the Netherlands in August 1597. Only three ships with a small cargo of pepper returned, but it covered than the costs of the expedition. The next step to this first enterprise was the founding of five different companies (voorcompagniën). In 1598 twenty-two ships left Dutch ports for the East Indies. In 1601 sixty-five ships were bound for the East Indies.

As early as 1598 the Staten Generaal suggested that various companies should amalgamate. On March 20, 1602 finally from a fusion of six small Dutch companies the VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was born. The unification into one company did not happen spontaneously, but was enforced by the Dutch government. The charter (octrooi) was valid for 21 years. The Staten Generaal granted a monopoly on the trade in the East Indies to the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC). The area of trade granted to the company was called the octrooigebied (trade zone). Its purpose was not only trade; the Compagnie also had to fight the enemies of the Republic and prevent other European nations to enter the East India trade. During its history of 200 years, the VOC became the largest company of its kind, trading spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper mainly) and other products (tea, silk and chinese porcelain). The VOC was virtually a state within a state.

The capture of Cochin and victory of the Dutch VOC over the Portuguese in 1656. Atlas van der Hagen. No Copyright

The capture of Cochin and victory of the Dutch VOC over the Portuguese in 1656. Atlas van der Hagen

The new company was divided into six regional boards (kamer), which were established on the former seats of the pioneer companies: Amsterdam, Middelburg, Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Each of the regional chambers of the VOC had a board of directors. The Heeren XVII, the government body of the company, was a court of seventeen directors, they were chosen from among the regional directors. Eight of the Heeren XVII represented the Amsterdam chamber, four the Middelburg and one representative from each of the other chambers (Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen). The seventeenth director was provided on a rotation basis by the chambers except Amsterdam.

The company was from the beginning very successful. In 1605 the VOC captured Ambon and Tidore and drove the Portuguese from the Moluccas and in 1619 Batavia was founded. During the following years the Portuguese power in the East was destroyed: the Dutch estabilished factories in Coromandel, Bengal, Iran, Gujarat, Formosa (Taiwan), founded Cape Town as naval base along the route to the East, conquered Portuguese Malacca (1641), Ceylon (1656-1658) and the Malabar coast (1661-1663). The company extended its trade network from Africa, Arabia, Persian Gulf, India, East Indies to China and Japan in the Far East.

Dutch Malacca (1750), Malaysia. Histoire générale des voyages, Paris, Didot, 1750

Dutch Malacca (1750), Malaysia. Histoire générale des voyages, Paris, Didot, 1750

The total figures for the two centuries of the Company’s operations for trade turnover, shipping and personnel are impressive. The business was on a much larger scale in the eighteenth century than it had been in the seventeenth. In 1608 the Dutch had 40 ships manned by 5,000 men in Asia, 20 ships with 400 men off the coast of Guinea and 100 ships with 1.800 men in the West Indies. In 1644 the VOC alone had 150 ships and 15,000 men and in the last quarter of the 17th century it had in the East Indies over 200 ships and 30,000 men. For instance in total the VOC fitted out some 4,700 ships, nearly 1,700 in the seventeenth century and some 3,000 in the eighteenth. Between 1602 and 1700 317,000 people sailed from Europe on these ships, while between 1700 and 1795 the total reached 655,000. Trade figures confirm the growth of the business after 1700. The expenditure on equipage, that is to say shipbuilding and outfitting as well as the money and goods that were sent to Asia, reached the sum of 370 million Dutch guilders (fl.) between 1640 and 1700, and fl. 1,608 million in the years 1700-1795. In these periods the purchase prices of the return goods shipped home from Asia reached fl. 205 million and fl. 667 million respectively; the sales prices of these return goods were fl. 577 million in the first period and fl. 1,633 million in the second.

The VOC was formally dissolved on 31 December 1795 and its debts and possessions taken over by the Batavian Republic.

Dutch Colombo (1775), Sri Lanka. Johannes Kip c. 1775

Dutch Colombo (1775), Sri Lanka. Johannes Kip c. 1775

MAP OF VOC SETTLEMENTS IN ASIA

Map of the main VOC settlements in the East (1660s.). Author Marco Ramerini

Map of the main VOC settlements in the East (1660s.). Author Marco Ramerini

LIST OF THE GOVERNORS-GENERALS OF THE DUTCH EAST INDIES

PIETER BOTH 1610-1614
GERARD REYNST 1614-1615
Dr. LAURENS REAEL 1616-1619
JAN PIETERSZOON COEN 1619-1623
PIETER DE CARPENTIER 1623-1627
JAN PIETERSZOON COEN 1627-1629
JACQUES SPECX 1629-1632
HENDRIK BROUWER 1632-1636
ANTONIO VAN DIEMEN 1636-1645
CORNELIS VAN DER LIJN 1645-1650
CAREL REYNIERSZ 1650-1653
JOAN MAETSUYKER 1653-1678
RIJCKLOF VAN GOENS 1678-1681
CORNELIS SPEELMAN 1681-1684
JOANNES CAMPHUYS 1684-1691
WILLEM VAN OUTHOORN, Creole 1691-1704
JOAN VAN HOORN 1704-1709
ABRAHAM VAN RIEBEECK, Creole 1709-1713
CHRISTOFFEL VAN SWOLL 1713-1718
HENRICUS ZWAARDECROON 1718-1725
MATTHEUS DE HAAN 1725-1729
DIEDERIK DURVEN 1729-1732
DIRK VAN CLOON, Eurasian 1732-1735
ABRAHAM PATRAS 1735-1737
ADRIAAN VALCKENIER 1737-1741
JOHANNES THEDENS 1741-1743
GUSTAAF WILLEM baron VAN IMHOFF 1743-1750
JACOB MOSSEL 1750-1761
PETRUS ALBERTUS VAN DER PARRA, born in
Ceylon
1761-1775
JEREMIAS VAN RIEMSDIJK 1775-1777
REYNIER DE KLERK 1777-1780
WILLEM ARNOLD ALTING 1780-1797
PIETER GERHARDUS VAN OVERSTRATEN 1797-1801
JOANNES SIBERG 1801-1805
ALBERTUS HENRICUS WIESE 1805-1808
HERMAN WILLEM DAENDELS 1808-1811
JAN WILLEM JANSSENS 1811
GODERT A. G. P. baron VAN DER CAPELLEN 1816-1826
LEONARD P. J. burggraaf DU BUS DE
GISIGNIES
1826-1830
JOHANNES VAN DEN BOSCH 1830-1833
JEAN-CHRETIEN BAUD 1833-1836
DOMINIQUE JACQUES DE EERENS 1836-1840
PIETER MERKUS 1841-1844
JAN JACOB ROCHUSSEN 1845-1851
ALBERTUS J. DUYMAER VAN TWIST 1851-1856
CHARLES  FERDINAND PAHUD 1856-1861
LUDOLF A. J. W. baron SLOET VAN DE BEELE 1861-1866
PIETER MIJER, Creole 1866-1872
JAMES LOUDON 1872-1875
JOHAN W. VAN LANSBERGE, born in S.
America
1875-1881
FREDERIK s’JACOB 1881-1884
OTTO VAN REES 1884-1888
CORNELIS PIJNACKER HORDIJK 1888-1893
Jkhr. CAREL H.A. VAN DER WIJCK, born in
Ambon
1893-1899
W. ROOSEBOOM 1899-1904
J. B. VAN HEUTSZ 1904-1909
A.W.F. IDENBURG 1909-1916
J.P. graaf VAN LIMBURG STIRUM 1916-1921
D. FOCK 1921-1926
Jkhr. Mr. A.C.D. DE GRAEFF 1926-1931
Jkhr. Mr. B.C. DE JONGE 1931-1936
Jkhr. Mr. A.W.L.  TJARDA VAN
STARKENBORGH STACHOUWER
1936-1941 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

– Boxer, CH. R. “The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 1600-1800” London, 1965

– Furber, Holden “Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600-1800” Minneapolis, 1976

– Gaastra, F. S. “VOC – ORGANIZATION” TANAP WEB Site

– Vinius, G. D. Vink, P. M. M. “The merchant-warrior pacified. The VOC and its changing political economy in India” Delhi, 1991

banner
Close
Stay informed about Colonial Voyage