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Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters

Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters: The Development of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) Shipping Network in Asia 1595-1660

Robert Parthesius
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters
    Book Description:

    The end of the 16th century saw Dutch expansion in Asia, as The Dutch East India Company (the VOC) was fast becoming an Asian power, both political and economic. By 1669, the VOC was the richest private company the world had ever seen. This landmark study looks at perhaps the most important tool in the Company' trading - its ships. In order to reconstruct the complete shipping activities of the VOC, the author created a unique database of the ships' movements, including frigates and other, hitherto ingored, smaller vessels. Parthesius's research into the routes and the types of ships in the service of the VOC proves that it was precisely the wide range of types and sizes of vessels that gave the Company the ability to sail - and continue its profitable trade - the year round. Furthermore, it appears that the VOC commanded at least twice the number of ships than earlier historians have ascertained. Combining the best of maritime and social history, this book will change our understanding of the commercial dynamics of the most successful economic organization of the period.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0123-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 9-10)

    ‘How to create a monster and how to get it back in its cage’ seems to be an appropriate motto for this research project of mine. Not because the research and the work itself turned out to be monstrous but because my own ambitions and the ensuing consequences went out of hand. What started with the idea of reconstructing the shipping history of some VOC ships in the 17th century gradually evolved into a systematic study on the whole VOC fleet and their shipping activities in Asia until 1660. I had initially hoped for my research to just shed light...

  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 11-14)

    From the 16th century European ships sailed to Asian markets on a regular basis. Their main goal was the purchase of the highly sought after spices from the East Indies and exotica from China. Traditional trade and shipping relations between the west and east existed long before European ships arrived in the Indian Ocean region. Before the Portuguese discovered the seaway around the Cape of Good Hope to Asia at the end of the 15th century, spices reached Europe over land. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to play an active role in trading directly with Asia by sea. From...

  5. 2 The database and methodology
    (pp. 15-28)

    The database was necessary in order to provide the systematic mechanism through which to fulfil the purposes of this study, and to bring into sharper focus the hitherto obscured story of Dutch shipping in Asia.

    As previously explained, the vehicles of the Dutch expansion and their organisation are the central theme of this study. Little systematic research has been carried out on VOC shipping in Asia during the first half of the 17th century. This study will be a contribution towards closing this lacuna in our knowledge of the period 1595-1660. That systematic work on intra-Asian shipping has not been...

  6. Part 1 Development of the VOC shipping network in Asia

    • 3 The Dutch expansion in Asia up to 1660
      (pp. 31-50)

      The framework for this study is the establishment of Dutch intra-Asian trade and shipping. To understand the development of Dutch shipping in Asia to its peak in the second half of the 17th century, it is necessary to outline the initial development of Dutch-Asiatic trade (Gaastra 2003). The Dutch expansion, and the associated growth of the VOC’s Asian shipping networks to 1660, is segmented into two periods: the establishment of the organisation up to 1630, and the expansion and consolidation of the VOC network in Asia between 1630 and 1660. Within these periods various stages can be recognised.

      In the...

    • 4 Connecting the Asian regions: The trading and shipping network in operation after 1620
      (pp. 51-64)

      After the period of ‘round trading tours’, a network of regular shipping gradually developed in the various regions in Asia. In 1619, Batavia in Java became the centre for shipping. It was the traffic control centre for most shipping in Asia and the main connection between the European management and the Asian branch of the VOC. Shipping was dependent on the seasons of the monsoon. The following sections describe the development of the Asian shipping network as the various shipping configurations were adjusted to the requirements of the weather and other conditions. It was sometimes very difficult for the VOC...

    • 5 The development of the VOC fleet
      (pp. 65-94)

      The main aim of this study is to investigate the role of the VOC fleet and the organisation of shipping in the development of the VOC in Asia during the 17th century. As described in Chapter 2, the inconsistent terminology used to describe the various vessel types can create confusion about the characteristics of specific vessels. To understand the role of these vessels, a number of categories were developed covering features that contributed to the organisation of the VOC in Asia. In this chapter the rationale for these categories is explained.

      Eleven categories were identified, comprising of ten rates and...

    • 6 The shipping and logistics in operation
      (pp. 95-112)

      The composition of the VOC fleet, including the specific features of vessels tailored for operation in the Asia regions, is an important aspect of how VOC shipping functioned in Asia. Knowledge of the logistical aspects of the VOC’s operation is of equal importance for a thorough understanding of this complex organisation.

      In this chapter the strengths and weaknesses of the VOC system in Asia are examined. The methods the VOC used to solve bottlenecks and maximise their advantages is the focus in this chapter. The VOC’s central focus must have been the efficient use of their fleet. Some of the...

    • 7 Knitting all the threads together: The logistics of the network
      (pp. 113-122)

      West Java and Sunda Strait had been, since the commencement of regular Dutch voyages to the Asiatic region, an important place of call, but it was certainly not self-evident that this location would become the headquarters of the VOC from which all activities would be coordinated. Even in 1619, when Jayakarta was captured as an outcome of the skirmishes with the English, it was not clear if the VOC directors would reach the consensus that central rendezvous was necessary. The focal point of the Dutch activities in Asia for the early period was the Spice Islands. There was a monopoly...

  7. Part 2 The shipping and ships in numbers

    • 8 An analysis of the development of VOC shipping in Asia until 1660
      (pp. 125-144)

      The general development of VOC shipping is described in chapters 3 and 4. This chapter presents and interprets the data collated relating to the development of the VOC network in Asia. As explained in chapter 2, the database contains, for the period examined, a total of 11.700 voyages between 520 destinations in 35 Asian areas; these have been extracted from the total of more then 30.000 voyages held in the database. All the records of local voyages and of the waiting time of a vessel are excluded for the analysis of the development of Dutch shipping in Asian waters until...

    • 9 Fleets per region
      (pp. 145-162)

      The complex activities of the VOC in Asia are reflected in the composition of the fleet in Asia. In order to further examine the logistical development of the VOC and to assess how successful they were in their attempts to maximise their organisation we have to look more closely into where the VOC fleet was employed in Asia. In Chapter 5.9 the composition of the total VOC fleet up to 1660 is described. Based on the classification of the vessels into the ten rates, a general description of the features of the vessels was given.

      The following specific rates have...

  8. 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 163-172)

    This study focussed on the logistical and technical accomplishments that made Dutch development of trade and shipping in Asia possible. Pivotal area of this research was the shipping in Asia. It aims in that sense to be an extension and in some respects a counter point to the prevalent view of VOC shipping that is based on the monumental volume, Dutch-Asiatic Shipping by Bruijn, Gaastra and Schöffer (1979-1987). Whose research focused mainly on one aspect of the shipping network: the route between Europe and Asia, the so-calledRetourvaart(homeward bound shipping). By analysing the development of VOC ships in service...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 173-178)
  10. References
    (pp. 179-188)
  11. List of vessels in service during the period 1596-1660
    (pp. 189-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-217)