12 – VOC charter

In the VOC’s 1602 charter, the States General grant the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (literally ‘United East-Indian Company’, but known as the Dutch East India Company) a monopoly on all Dutch trade with Asia. Interestingly, the charter covers more ground than just trade. The VOC is allowed to conclude treaties with rulers and also to carry out armed interventions deemed necessary

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13 – Ledger of the chief bookkeeper

Each of the VOC’s six chambers (in Amsterdam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Delft, Rotterdam and Middelburg) had its own chief bookkeeper who recorded all of the company’s financial transactions in a so-called ledger (grootboek). Not only the large profits made on precious spices such as nutmeg, pepper, cloves and cinnamon can be found there, but also expenses for soldiers, ships and the

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34 – Glorified and vilified

The portrait of Jan Pieterszoon Coen confronts us with possibly the best known but certainly not the only high-ranking VOC official who applied violence on a large scale. In the company’s almost 200-year history, only a few years passed without hostilities. The VOC did not hesitate to use force to defeat its local and European adversaries. Examples abound. Arnold Vlaming

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38 – The Atlas Maior

Blaeu’s Grote Atlas or Atlas Maior is more than just a magnificent illustration of the skill and accuracy of the VOC map makers. Maps, charts and atlases are also instruments of power and dominance. By claiming areas as exclusive VOC territory and recording them as such on its maps, the VOC asserted its position as a colonial power.

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54 – A fortress at the Cape

In this report, Jan van Riebeeck gives an update on the construction of a fortress at the Cape. To the VOC, its main function was that of a victualling station for vessels en route to the Dutch East Indies. But the arrival of the company also marked the beginning of the colonization of the Cape. Because of this, the person

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55 – Krotoa, a Khoikhoi girl

In his diaries on daily events at the Cape (‘dagregisters’), Van Riebeeck regularly mentions Krotoa. Krotoa was a Khoikhoi girl Van Riebeeck took into his home to be a servant to his wife. The couple soon named her Eva. Just before Van Riebeeck left the Cape in 1662, Eva was baptized. The sources provide no clues as to whether Krotoa

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58 – Panorama of Stellenbosch

The town of Stellenbosch owes its name to VOC governor Simon van der Stel. The first colonists arrived here in 1679. Viniculture quickly became important. But who were the region’s original inhabitants? The rights of these Khoikhoi and San are barely mentioned. The Dutch on one side and the Khoikhoi and San on the other had diametrically opposite views on

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103 – Fabric as currency

The left page of this invoice records various goods; the right pages mentions several enslaved individuals. Goods with which the West-Indische Compagnie (WIC) purchased enslaved Africans included fabrics from Bengal, which lies within the territory covered by the VOC charter. Recent studies have revealed that in the period between 1625 and 1800 at least 660,000 enslaved individuals were transported and

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112 – Cinnamon peelers at work

Who were the people who in this picture are shown removing the bark of cinnamon trees on Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka)? Francois Valentijn, a clergyman, in his Oud- en Nieuw Oost-Indiën wrote that these cinnamon peelers or debarkers were among the lowest-ranking groups in society and may even have been enslaved persons. The VOC archives do not provide a straight

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116 – Murderers’ Bay

The violent clash between Abel Tasman’s crew and the Maori in what is today Golden Bay probably resulted from a misunderstanding. Knowledge of the habits and customs of the peoples the VOC came into contact with was therefore important to the company; we often encounter such information in ship’s logs and other written accounts. In addition, these reports give a

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119 – Family portrait of Rijcklof Volckertszoon van Goens

The portrait of the family of governor Rijcklof van Goens also shows a Javanese servant. Whether he was an enslaved person is unknown, as is his name. He shares that fate with many indigenous persons who appear on drawings and paintings, often in a position of service. If we look at these paintings and drawings with different eyes, that other

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120 – Fortresses to protect trade

Not only on Sri Lanka but everywhere in VOC territory, fortresses emphasized which regions mattered most to the VOC, whether as production areas of spices or other goods, or as part of a transit route. The VOC archives contain numerous plans of and extensive information on fortresses in Asia. These fortresses and their modern remains and ruins still give a

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125 – A new text for Coen

In the late 19th century, plans for a statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen in his home town of Hoorn materialized. When the statue was unveiled in 1893, it was almost unanimously accepted, although even then some critical voices were raised. The town was proud of its most famous son. Over the past few years this has drastically changed. Different angles

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128 – Gruesome conquest

Following the gruesome conquest of Makassar in 1667, Cornelis Speelman gave orders for thousands of people to be taken prisoner and sold into slavery. In doing so, he conformed to what was already a widespread custom in Asia before the VOC’s arrival. In the course of the VOC’s rule, hundreds of thousands of people were enslaved and sold. Not only

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130 – Women for the East

The women who sailed to the Dutch East Indies on board the ship Leyden in 1622 were part of a plan by Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who envisioned a Dutch colony in the Indies. That plan came to nothing. In the end, the Heren XVII (the central board of the VOC) decided no longer to engage itself in marriage or population

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131 – Batavia

Batavia, founded by Jan Pieterszoon Coen in 1618, developed into the VOC’s main commercial and administrative centre. Around 1740, Chinese individuals made up roughly half of Batavia’s population. They were mainly employed in the sugar industry. When from 1720 onwards the trade in Javanese sugar began to collapse, most of them became unemployed. In order to stay alive, some of

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134 – Excessive violence

Jan Pieterszoon Coen reported on the 1621 events on Banda in a letter to the Heren XVII (the central board of the VOC). Of the originally 15,000 inhabitants, only 1,000 remained. The rest had been killed, had fled, or had become enslaved and transported to Batavia. All this to secure the company’s monopoly on nutmeg. Next, the VOC established nutmeg

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141 – The purchase of Manhattan

The purchase of ‘Manahatta’ in 1626 is considered a fine illustration of Dutch mercantile savvy. Although Henry Hudson, who was employed by the VOC, was the first to visit the area in 1609, it was the West-Indische Compagnie (WIC), established in 1621, which administered it. Relations between the local population, the Lenape, and the Dutch started out well but deteriorated

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142 – New Amsterdam

The Dutch were the first to bring enslaved persons from Africa to New Amsterdam. Some of these individuals later managed to purchase their freedom, but most could not. Enslaved persons were also put to work outside the settlement, often on Dutch-owned farms. In 1667, New Amsterdam fell into English hands in conformity with the Treaty of Breda which ended the

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209 – The cabin boys of Bontekoe

When Johan Fabricius’ boys’ book De scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (‘The cabin boys of Bontekoe’) first appeared in 1924, the world of heroism and adventure it depicted was an instant success in the Netherlands. Over 150,000 copies were sold. The image of the VOC as a symbol of Dutch vigour as presented by Fabricius, as well as countless others, remains not

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