The Company and the Shogun

The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan

Adam Clulow
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Company and the Shogun
    Book Description:

    The Dutch East India Company was a hybrid organization combining the characteristics of both corporation and state that attempted to thrust itself aggressively into an Asian political order in which it possessed no obvious place and was transformed in the process.

    This study focuses on the company's clashes with Tokugawa Japan over diplomacy, violence, and sovereignty. In each encounter the Dutch were forced to retreat, compelled to abandon their claims to sovereign powers, and to refashion themselves again and again -- from subjects of a fictive king to loyal vassals of the shogun, from aggressive pirates to meek merchants, and from insistent defenders of colonial sovereignty to legal subjects of the Tokugawa state. Within the confines of these conflicts, the terms of the relationship between the company and the shogun first took shape and were subsequently set into what would become their permanent form.

    The first book to treat the Dutch East India Company in Japan as something more than just a commercial organization,The Company and the Shogunpresents new perspective on one of the most important, long-lasting relationships to develop between an Asian state and a European overseas enterprise.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53573-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. [Maps]
    (pp. xii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-22)

    In October 1627 a grand embassy arrived in Edo, the Tokugawa government’s sprawling political capital. It had been sent by the Dutch East India Company, which was rapidly emerging as the most influential European enterprise in Asia. At the front of the procession borne high on the shoulders of six men in a special palanquin was Pieter Nuyts, recent graduate from Leiden University, extraordinary councilor of the Indies, and now special ambassador to the shogun of Japan. He was followed by an impressive retinue, almost three hundred strong, of Dutch soldiers, heavily armed samurai, liveried pages, translators, grooms, and dozens...

  7. 1 Diplomacy
      (pp. 25-58)

      In 1609 two ships belonging to the Dutch East India company arrived in Hirado in western Japan. After dropping anchor in the port’s narrow harbor, the leaders of the expedition prepared to dispatch a small group of representatives to seek an audience with Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of a military government then approaching the anniversary of its first decade in power. Some accounts of the Dutch in Japan reference a letter from Prince Maurits, a high-ranking Dutch aristocrat, but its purpose and why a delegation belonging to an independent mercantile company based in a republic would have transported such a...

      (pp. 59-94)

      On 1 January 1624, two ambassadors from China arrived in Batavia, the Dutch East India Company’s new Asian headquarters. This dramatic event, unprecedented in the short history of Dutch settlement there, provided the opening entry of the voluminous BataviaDagregister, the daily account of operations that forms a vital source for historians working on this period.¹ The pair had been dispatched by the governor of Fujian province to discuss recent developments on the Penghu Islands, a small chain in the Taiwan straits that Dutch forces had occupied two years earlier. Accompanied by four elephants hurriedly drafted in by local officials...

      (pp. 95-132)

      Two famous scenes serve to represent the Dutch position in Japan as it stabilized after the collapse of Nuyts’s embassy in 1627. The first, a familiar image reproduced in dozens of accounts, has at its center the opperhoofd, prostrate on the floor of Edo castle’s expansive audience chamber. Gifts stacked neatly to the side, he offers annual greetings from theOranda kapitan,or “Holland captain,” to an indifferent shogun sitting in shadows at the opposite end of the hall. The second, also a staple of accounts of the Dutch in Japan, took place hundreds of miles away from the Bakufu’s...

  8. 2 Violence
      (pp. 135-170)

      If diplomacy provided a difficult stage on which Europeans were compelled to engage with complex orders armed with inadequate tools, the ocean was surely the quintessential space for European dominance in the early modern world.¹ Unlike the labyrinthine capitals through which Nuyts and other ambassadors struggled to chart a course, the sea was reassuringly open and accessible to influence. It was also an arena over which Europeans held an unmistakable advantage. The overseas enterprises that began to push into Asian waters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were maritime organizations specifically geared toward seaborne warfare, and they brought with them...

      (pp. 171-202)

      In 1663 seven half-dead Chinese sailors washed up onto the Goto Islands, a small chain located near the coast of Kyushu. Their ship had departed Chaozhou in Guangdong province a few weeks earlier on its way to Japan but had run into a fierce storm that had swept away one of its masts. As the crew struggled to rig new sails, they sighted an unfamiliar Dutch ship on the horizon. It was not there to help, and, after refusing to submit to an inspection, the Chinese junk came under fire, heavy cannon shot from the Dutch ship ripping into their...

  9. 3 Sovereignty
      (pp. 205-228)

      In 1625 two Japanese vessels arrived in the bay of Tayouan on the west coast of the island of Taiwan.¹ The contours of the bay, sheltered from the ocean by the sweeping curve of a sandy peninsula, were a familiar sight to their captains and crew, who had been sailing to the island for a number of years to rendezvous with Chinese traders far from the prying eyes of Ming officials. But this year, peering out from the swaying deck of their ship, they confronted something new. Perched on the peninsula was a small fort facing out to the open...

      (pp. 229-254)

      By early 1632, Pieter Nuyts’s once ascendant star had fallen to new depths. Recalled from his position as governor of Tayouan for gross incompetence, he had languished for months in the company’s dank fortress in Batavia. While his career within the organization was clearly over, no charges had as yet been formally laid against him, and it was possible to believe that his superiors might elect simply to send him back to the republic without further punishment. In May, however, he was summoned to appear before the governor-general. To reopen relations with Japan, which had by this point remained suspended...

    (pp. 255-262)

    Perhaps the best way to sum up the nature of the Dutch experience in Japan is by briefly expanding the picture to consider how the company’s relationship with the shogun compared with the situation in other parts of Asia. In their important study of VOC activity, George Winius and Markus Vink divide the company’s development into three periods: an aggressive phase of expansion from 1600 to 1680, a competitive period from 1680 to 1748, and a period of “disengagement and decline” from 1748 to 1795.¹ During the first period, which has been the focus for this study, the VOC expanded...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 263-300)
    (pp. 301-324)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 325-336)