BATAVIA AND THE EAST INDIES

Organisation of commerce It started on Ambon and in the Moluccas: the first trading contacts the VOC made in the East Indies. That is where the most interesting and precious spices were to be found: nutmeg, mace and pepper. A lucrative business demanded an efficient organisation. So the VOC established its Asian headquarters in the town of Bantam, appointing a

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121. Colijn and Coen

The Dutch Prime Minister Hendrik Colijn lays a wreath at the foot of the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen in Hoorn to commemorate his 350th birthday. Just before this he gave a speech titled after Coen’s famous words: ‘Do not dispair’. Dutch Prime Minister Hendrik Colijn laying a wreath at the statue of J.P. Coen in Hoorn Anonymous photographer, 1

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122. On stage at last

It was not until 1986 – 55 years after its publication – that the first performance of Slauerhoff’s stage play took place. Up until then performances of the play were either prohibited or advised against by most of the municipal mayors. The broadcasting organisation VPRO nevertheless aired ‘Jan Pietersz Coen’ in 1969, in an adaptation of Slauerhoff’s play by Jan

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123. A ruthless Coen

A tough and unscrupulous man is how the Dutch poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoff depicted the character of Jan Pieterszoon Coen in this stage play. Slauerhoff’s play is set in 1629. Sara Specx and Cornelis Cortenhoeff, both illegitimate children of Dutchmen with indigenous women are caught in the bedroom of Coen. Specx is one of the servants of the wife of Coen

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Coen remembrance (in the left drawer beneath the showcase)

350 years of Coen The cinema news showed pictures of the Coen commemoration in 1937. Prime Minister Hendrik Colijn, a great admirer of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, gave an address entitled ‘Do not despair’. Fragment from the Polygoon cinema news: Commemoration day of Jan Pieterszoon Coen’s 350th birthday 1 February 1937 On loan from the Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum

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Coen in court (in the left drawer beneath the showcase)

The Coen Case The statue of Coen in Hoorn evokes a lot of emotion and discussion. The West Frisian Museum responded to this with the exhibition ‘The Coen Case’. The form of a court case for the exhibition with the general public as the jury was designed stimulate public debate. Maarten van Rossum is acting in the role of the

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124. New perspective

In 2012, the Hoorn municipality removed this text from the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. This was a response to the critics of Coen. The new text also mentions his violent policies of conquest, including the actions on the Banda Islands. Former text on plaque for the statue of J.P. Coen Approximately 1980 On loan from the Westfries Museum, Hoorn

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125. A new text for Coen

More than 100 years after the unveiling of the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a protest movement was born. Not Coen, but an untainted 17th century Dutchman should take his place on The Roode Steen square in Hoorn. The Municipal Council of Hoorn debated the matter in great detail. After a long time of weighing up the matter, they decided

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126. Controversial play

Immediately upon publication, Slauerhoff’s play about Coen attracts a lot of criticism. Critics believe that the national hero is portrayed as a tyrant. It therefore took a long time therefore before a performance was staged. The performance planned for the National Week of the Book in 1948 was cancelled at the very last moment. The Indonesian War of Independence was

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127. Bantam

Before Coen conquered the fortress of Jayakarta in 1619 and founded the city of Batavia in its place, Bantam was the most significant centre of the VOC in Asia. However, the company did not succeed in concluding a treaty with the local rulers. So Bantam kept being a thorn in the flesh for the VOC, even after 1619. Around 1680,

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128. Gruesome conquest

An enormous military force, a burning village and violent fighting. The south of Celebes (now the Island of Sulawesi) is being conquered here. It was a strategic point on the trading route for nutmeg and cloves. Governor-general Cornelis Speelman was in charge of the expedition. He burned down more than thirty villages and imprisoned thousands of people who were sold

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129. Business plan

As early as 1614, Jan Pieterszoon Coen put his vision of a VOC empire in Asia on paper. He wanted to extort monopolies by means of violence, create colonies and intervene more in the commerce between Asiatic countries. At that time Coen was still the accountant general in Bantam and Jayakarta but dispatched his business plan directly to the Heren

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130. Women for the East

In 1662, the Heren Zeventien (Gentlemen Seventeen) send a large group of young women to Batavia with the ship Leyden. This letter names them all, with their places of residence and ages. In Indonesia, the VOC was to financially support these girls until they got married. When they did get married with permission of the governor-general, they would receive the

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131. Batavia

Jan Pieterszoon Coen converted the existing VOC warehouse near Jayakarta into a fortress in 1618. Following an attack by the local ruler, Coen destroyed the original Jayakarta and created a port after the Dutch model. If it had been up to Coen, the new VOC capital would have been known as Nieuw Hoorn (new Horn), after his place of birth.

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Nova Zembla – fragment (behind the curtain)

The overwintering of Willem Barentsz and his crew in the Saved House on Nova Zembla is one of the most famous narratives in Dutch history. Fragment from the film ‘Nova Zembla’ 2011 Director: Reinout Oerlemans Courtesy of Kaap Holland Film

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132. Looking for women

“Who does not know that the human species cannot exist without women?” laments governor-general Coen in this letter to the Heren Zeventien. To turn the East Indies into a success, Dutch women were dearly needed. The first girls to marry a European man and start a family sailed to the East Indies in 1610. Governor-general Both and his successor Coen

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133. A waterside castle

Batavia Castle was the headquarters of the VOC. Within its protective walls were the offices, the workshops, warehouses and even a prison. There were at least 1,200 people living there in 1650: VOC clerks, part of the army and the governor-general himself of course. View of the roads and castle of Batavia Johan Nessel, 1650 Verzameling Buitenlandse Kaarten Leupe, inv.

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134. Excessive violence

It was quite clear as far as Coen was concerned: the VOC could only continue to exist if it had the trading monopoly for nutmeg, which grew exclusively on the Banda Islands. But the foothold of the VOC in that area was not strong. The VOC believed that the Bandanese were unreliable business partners and they suffered from English interference.

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135. Batavia under siege

A large army led by the King of Mataram, the Javanese kingdom that rules middle and eastern Java, lays siege to Batavia. When Jan Pieterszoon Coen managed to destroy the supplies of the enemy, his men were able to survive the siege. He did not live to see the victory. Coen suddenly died of dysentery on 21 September 1629. Siege

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136. Do not despair

‘Do not despair, do not spare your enemies, there is nothing in the world that will stand in our way … something monumental can be achieved in the Indies!’ The end of this letter to the Heren Zeventien give the words that became the motto of Coen. Resolute words from governor-general Coen 29 September 1618 Archief VOC, inv. no. 1068

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ON EXPEDITION

Always in search The VOC was always looking for new trading areas. The company played a major role in expeditions to unexplored regions. For instance, sailors employed by the VOC discovered a vast country south east of Java which we now know as Australia. They often made elaborate charts of these new areas. Henry Hudson, Abel Tasman and Willem de

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137. Chart atlas of Barentsz

Willem Barentsz was not only an excellent navigator, he was also a talented mapmaker. It is likely that this chart atlas was made by him together with the famous cartographer Petrus Plancius. It is an extremely rare specimen; very few charts and maps by Barentsz have been preserved. Nieuwe beschryvinghe ende Caertboeck Vande Midlantsche Zee (‘New Description and Chart Book

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138. Wintering on Nova Zembla

The Dutch made several attempts at the end of the 16th century to find a navigable route to Asia via the northern polar areas. If they had such a route, they would be able to leave the Portuguese standing. But their plan was a failure and the expedition led by Willem Barentsz in 1596 ran into a woeful disaster. His

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139. Leather shoes

‘The leather of our shoes stuck frozen to our feet, it became as hard as horn and formed a white mould on the inside. We were no longer able to wear them and made wide clogs with the uppers made from sheepskin, in which we could wear three or four pairs of socks over each other’. Gerrit de Veer wrote

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140. Manhattan

In 1609, the Amsterdam Chamber of the VOC commissioned Henry Hudson to find a new route to Asia. He did not succeed, but he did discover the island named ‘Manahatta’, the modern-day Manhattan. He earned 800 guilders with this voyage, roughly ten months’ worth of pay. He received an advance payment of 150 guilders from the Amsterdam VOC Chamber on

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141. The purchase of Manhattan

‘We have purchased the island Manhattes from the savages for the price of 60 guilders’. Pieter Schagen was deputised by the States-General to the meeting of the board of the West-Indian Company, the Heren Negentien (the Gentlemen Nineteen). He wrote a letter to the States-General to inform them of this remarkable news on 5 November 1626. Schagen also mentioned the

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142. New Amsterdam

From 1609 onwards, a buoyant trade in fur developed on the newly discovered island of ‘Manahatta’. The Dutch founded their own settlement on the island and called it New Amsterdam. In 1667 the Dutch ceded the colony to the English in exchange for their colony of the Surinam. New Amsterdam was given the name of New York. View of New

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143. New York (behind the curtain)

Captain of the Halve Maen, Henry Hudson, set foot ashore on Manhattan island in 1609. With this act he founded the basis of the Dutch settlement New Amsterdam, the present-day New York. VOC ship the Halve Maen Anonymous, not dated On loan from the MBSOV, Den Helder

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144. A fast fortune?

Make a fortune within a few years and return to the Netherlands a rich man. That was no doubt a dream that many VOC employees harboured when they arrived in Batavia. But very few actually made this dream come true. Most of them stayed on in Asia and found their last resting place there. View of Batavia Johannes Vingboons, approximately

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145. Exotic animals depicted

In the second part of Beschrijving van Oost-Indische gewassen (‘Description of East Indian Flora’), a few animals are depicted, such as the armadillo and the hornbill. VOC ships brought some of these animals to the Netherlands where they attracted much curiosity. East Indian Fauna Approximately 1710 Aanwinsten Eerste Afdeling Algemeen Rijksarchief, inv. no. 150B

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146. Treasures depicted

Cloves, cinnamon, tea and pepper: this was the most significant and precious merchandise of the VOC. In the first part of this Beschrijving van Oost-Indische gewassen (‘Description of East Indian Flora’), these treasures are described in great detail with beautiful illustrations in colour. Here we see a drawing of the clove plant. East Indian Flora Approximately 1710 Aanwinsten Eerste Afdeling

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147. Nutmeg and mace

Adjacent to the Fortress Nassau on the island of Banda Neira, the nutmeg trees grew in abundance. The fruits produce nutmeg and mace. In the eyes of the VOC, the Banda Islands were therefore economically vital at the beginning of the 17th century; at that time this was the only production area of these spices in the world. View of

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