CEYLON AND THE MALABAR COAST

Competing for cinnamon Cinnamon was a principal reason for the VOC to focus on Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka. But the problem was that the Portuguese were the market leaders in the cinnamon trade. With the help of the local king of Kandy, the VOC succeeded in driving out the Portuguese. The Dutch immediately took the lead in the global trade

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104. An imposing palace for the governor

The buildings of this impressive governor’s palace exude power and prestige. They also tell us something about the ambitions Governor Van Goens harboured. His grand plans for Ceylon arouse the distrust of the VOC governors in Java. Was the position of Batavia as the VOC capital of Asia in danger? This apprehension seemed to be justified when the VOC also

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105. A new motherland

Ceylon might become a new motherland: in this hefty volume, Van Goens defended his plans for colonising the interior of Ceylon. Colombo was to be the new VOC capital of Asia, instead of Batavia. His fondness of Ceylon is genuine. He even named his daughter Esther Ceylonia van Goens. On this title page, it can be clearly seen how ink

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106. A new motherland, part two

Several copies were probably made of the document in which Rijcklof van goens put forward his ambitious plans for the island of Ceylon. This copy is from the private archive of the squire C.A. van Sypesteyn, a collection of all kinds of documents on the history of the Netherlands from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Van Goens defends his policies

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107. Struggling for power with the Portuguese

Before Rijcklof van Goens became governor, he was appointed by the VOC authorities as a kind of army officer. Together with the King of Kandy, who ruled over the interior, he went to war against the Portuguese and drove them out of Ceylon and Malabar. Van Goens did not hand over the fortifications to the King of Kandy, but kept

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Tombos in Sri Lanka

The tombo as a historical resource To improve the organisation of issuing land to the colonists under governor Van Goens, the VOC revived and modernised the Portuguese system of land registry. These tomboes are a significant source of the history of Sri Lanka. Even nowadays they are used as legal proof for claiming land property rights. Tombos in Sri Lanka

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108. Hansken’s tricks

Her life could have made a movie: she was the first elephant in the Netherlands that came from Ceylon. Her arrival was truly sensational. She was a present for Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik; she was sold later to Cornelis van Groeneveld, a former captain of the cavalry. Because he had so much experience with horses, it might have been only a

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109. Their own magazine

The Dutch Burghers published its own magazine for almost a hundred years. These are the descendants of Dutch people on Ceylon, mixed with Portuguese and the native population. This group formed the Dutch Burgher Union. There were still about 37,000 Burghers resident in Sri Lanka in 2011. Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union of Ceylon 1933-1942 Library

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VOC descendants in Sri Lanka

Dutch Burghers Forty women, descendants of VOC members on Ceylon, resident in ‘St Nicolas Home for Burgher Ladies’ in Colombo. It is only a small group now, but the Dutch Burghers are still very aware of their descendance. Fragment from Empire: Legacy, 2011 by Kel O’Neill and Eline Jongsma (Jongsma + O’Neill)

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110. Cinnamon plantations

The VOC laid out cinnamon tree plantations to increase production. This is a new activity; up to that time cinnamon trees grew only in the wild. The various stages of growth of a cinnamon plantation are shown on this map: before harvesting the cinnamon, after the harvest and planting the new cinnamon trees. Drawing of the planting of cinnamon trees

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111. Elephant enclosure

Isaac Rumpf, governor of the VOC on Ceylon, visited this elephant enclosure on his journey in 1717. He and his entourage also took part in an elephant hunt. The native population had caught the elephants and trained them in the corral, an enclosed space with tamed elephants into which they lured the wild animals. The hunters had caught the elephants

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112. Cinnamon peelers at work

Debarking or peeling cinnamon was a specialised job. Cinnamon peelers had to remove the bark from the cinnamon tree shoots in order to release the inner bark. The cinnamon tree loves the tropical climate and grows abundantly on the coast. Ceylon was the ideal location for cinnamon and that was why the VOC did all it could to get control

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113. Criticism on Abel Tasman

The VOC was not satisfied with the results of Abel Tasman’s expedition to Australia. He did not discover any new trading areas or new routes across the seas. As can be seen on this chart, Tasman almost completely left out the south and the east of Australia, after all the most fertile parts of the continent. These coastlines hardly have

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114. Tasmania

Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand and Tasmania by accident in 1642. He was actually en route to New Guinea and Australia for the VOC. He named the island Van Diemensland after his principal, governor-general Van Diemen. It is much later that the island was given its present name: Tasmania. Meeting the Maori people of New Zealand made a huge impression

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115. A stained reputation

His voyage to the Philippines and Thailand were no success. When Abel Tasman returned to Java, he was accused and charged. He was said to have hanged a man without giving him a trial. The Court of Justice found him guilty and sentenced him to a penalty of paying damages. It was quite a stain on the reputation of Tasman.

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116. Murderer’s Bay

Greetings or declaration of war? When Abel Tasman dropped anchor in a bay in New Zealand on 18 December 1642, he thought he was greeted with a fanfare by the Maoris. He responded to this sign of welcome with his own bugle signals. That was the wrong interpretation, as the next day showed. The Maoris attacked the small boat in

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117. The port of Galle

Galle was the leading port of Ceylon; ships were always arriving or departing. The busy shipping between the Republic, Ceylon and Asia required a shipyard and many warehouses. Their locations spread across the city can be seen on this map. Map of the fortress of Galle G.E. Schenk, 1790 Verzameling Buitenlandse Kaarten Leupe, inv. no. 1071

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118. From the secret VOC archives

Pieter van Dam, who was the advocate-general of the Heren Zeventien for over half a century, recorded the history of the VOC. He was vehemently opposed to the radical colonial politics of Van Goens and believed that the VOC should concentrate first and foremost on commerce. Pieter van Dam’s history of the VOC was never published. The book was only

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119. Family portrait of Rijcklof Volckertsz van Goens

We see the governor-general of the VOC and his spouse Jacobina Bartholomeus with two children and a Javanese servant. Reproduction of a family portrait of Rijcklof Volkertsz van Goens Johan Philip Koelman, 1858 (drawing after an original by Bartholomeus van der Helst) Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam

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120. Fortresses to protect trade

Cinnamon peelers removing the bark from a cinnamon tree with an elephant standing between them. Cinnamon and elephants were the principal merchandise from Ceylon. The fortresses along the coast were intended to protect the trading positions of the VOC. Map showing the Dutch fortifications on Ceylon Baltus Jacobsz van Lier, 1751 Kaarten en tekeningen ministerie van Koloniën, inv. no. W

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