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Dutch East India Company

This article is about the trading company. For the record label, see Dutch East India Trading.

The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch, literally "United East Indies Company") was established on March 20, 1602, when the States General granted it a monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It is considered one of the first companies that issued stocks and bonds.

The VOC consisted of 6 Chambers (Kamers) in Amsterdam, Middelburg (for Zeeland), Enkhuizen, Delft, Hoorn and Rotterdam. Delegates of these chambers convened as the Heeren XVII (the Lords Seventeen). The Kamers contributed delegates to the seventeen in proportion to the capital that they had subscribed; Amsterdam's delegates numbered eight.

The company established its headquarters in Batavia on Java (now Jakarta, Indonesia). Other colonial outposts were also established in the East Indies what later became Indonesia, such as on the Spice Islands (Moluccas), which include the Banda Islands where the VOC forcibly maintained a monopoly over nutmeg and mace. Methods used to maintain the monopoly included the violent suppression of the native population, not stopping short of extortion and mass murder.

A more peaceful VOC trade post on Deshima, an artificial island off the coast of Nagasaki, was for a long time the only place where Europeans could trade with Japan.

In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope (south end of Africa, currently in South Africa) to re-supply VOC ships on their journey to East Asia. This post later became a fully-fledged colony when more Dutch and other Europeans started to settle there. VOC outposts were also established in Persia (now Iran), Bengal (now Bangladesh and part of India), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malacca (Melaka, now in Malaysia), Siam (now Thailand), mainland China (Canton), Formosa (now Taiwan) and southern India. In 1662, Koxinga expelled the Dutch from Taiwan (see History of Taiwan).

By 1669, the VOC was the richest private company the world had ever seen, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, a private army of 10,000 soldiers, and a dividend payment of 40%.

The company was in almost constant conflict with the English; relations were particularly embittered after the Amboyna Massacre in 1623. During the 18th century, its possessions were increasingly focused on the East Indies. After the fourth war between the United Provinces and England (1780-1784), the VOC got into financial trouble, and in 1799, the company was dissolved, four years after the end of the States General. The East Indies were awarded to The Kingdom of the Netherlands by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

VOC ships

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Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46