• Kristof Glamann


Considering that the Dutch East India Company through a number of years undoubtedly was the greatest trading company of the world, it is surprising that its commercial history has never been written. Its activities have been considered from many different angles: political, organisatory, financial, naval, military, colonial, religious, as well as from the point of view of the history of science. The economic, let alone the business economic aspect, has only been commented on in passing, — and still commerce was the basis of the Company. Its founders were merchants, and the commercial character never passed off, the dividends were the final aim of its activities.1 The studies submitted here are intended to shed some light on this extensive terra incognita. The investigations have been made on the general assumption that at the appraisal of a commercial concern it must be considered as a whole and from a central point of view.2 As starting-point of the description the Company’s office in the Netherlands has been chosen, which was the seat of the Court of Directors, the so-called Heeren XVII. If one concentrates upon the records of the Heeren XVII, it is evident that the general view is realistic and therefore necessary when attempting an account of the commercial policy of the management.


Dutch Company East India Company Governor General Danish Company English East India Company 
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  1. 1.
    H. Terpstra, “Enige opmerkingen over het bedrijf der Oostindische Compagnie“, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 57. jaargang (Groningen, 1942), p. 1.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    W. M. F. Mansvelt, Rechtsvorm en geldelilk beheer bij de Oost-Indische Compagnie (Amsterdam, 1922) pp. 1 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-East Asia (London, 1955), p. 251.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Economic History Review, vol. IV (London, 1933), p. 344.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A short and able discussion of the Dutch Company’s organization is found in C. de Heer, Bijdrage tot de financiëele geschiedenis der Oost-Indische Compagnie (’s-Gravenhage, 1929). The standard work on the subject is G. C. Klerk de Reus, Geschichtlicher Ueberblick der administrativen, rechtlichen und finanziellen Entwicklung der niederländisch-ostindischen Compagnie (Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, deel XLVII, Batavia-Solo’s Hage, 1894).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    de Heer has adduced a few exceptions which confirm this rule, viz. an attempt at having effected that only persons not entrusted with a public charge should be elected bewindhebbers because of the great commercial burden resting on these; de Heer, op cit. p. 7, Note 5. In his otherwise reliable account of the history of the Company Charles de Lannoy states that in his opinion the Company about the middle of the 17th century changed its character — from at first being directed by merchants to being directed by “des hommes exercant de fonctions publiques” — thus identifying the opposition of the shareholders in the 1620’s with the commercial aspect, which is hardly correct; Charles de Lannoy & Herman van der Linden, Histoire de l’Expansion Coloniale des Peuples Européens (Bruxelles, p. 172 et seq.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Herbert Heaton, Economic History of Europe (New York, 1948), p. 362.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Violet Barbour, Capitalism in Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Series LXVII, No. I, Baltimore, 1950), passim.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Kristof Glamann, “Hollandske Indberetninger om Altona-projektet 1728–1729”, Danske Magazin, 7th ser., vol. V (København, 1953), pp. 263 ff; by the same, “En ostindisk Rejse eller Thomas Thomsen på Galejen”, Sjöhistorisk Årsbok 1953–1954 (Stockholm, 1954), p. 19 et seq.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    The monopolistic interpretation e. g. by G. Gonggrijp, Schets eener economische geschiedenis van Nederlandsch-Indië (Haarlem, 1928), p. 29 [“Een schrijver over de Compagnie heeft gezegd dat dit handelslichaam geen geschiedenis heeft. Dit is in economischen zin waar. De uitspraak karakteriseert treffend het feit, dat de bestuurders der O. I. C. den ganschen duur van haar bestaan op een en dezelfde manier hebben gestreefd naar de bereiking van het doel, het maken van handelswinst, nl. door angstvallig vast te houden aan het monopolie”].Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    H. Terpstra, “Enige opmerkingen”, p. 1; B. Vlekke, Geschiedenis van den Indischen Archipel (1947), pp. 177 fr.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    I. J. Brugmans, “De Oost-Indische Compagnie en de weelvaart in de Republiek”, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 61. jaargang (Groningen, 1948), p. 231.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, Lange Voorhout 9, Den Haag 1981

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  • Kristof Glamann

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