The V.O.C. and its Influence on South India

Seminar Paper 2006 15 Pages

Dutch (Literature, Culture and Language)


Table of Contents


The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie
The Boom

The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie
The Fall

The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie In India
The Past And The Present


Resources & Bibliography


The Netherlands have a long heritage in trading and were once a mighty colonial power due to its outstanding naval power. Symbol of this trading and sea power was the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (V.O.C.), “the most powerful multinational in the history of the world”1, which endured nearly two entire centuries.2 3

India, on the other hand, was the possibly most sought destination those days. Not only owing to its wealth of spices and raw materials, many European nations have sought their way to India and its riches. The Dutch conquered the southern parts of India, such as Malabar4 and Coromandel5 and affected the subcontinent in many terms, pursuing mainly trading purposes.6 7

The question arising from the relatively short presence of the Dutch and the V.O.C. on the Indian subcontinent aims at the extent to which that presence affected current India.

Which aspects were brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Dutch seafarers of the V.O.C.? Which effects did the presence of the Dutch have on South Indian history? In how far was this era decisive to both the V.O.C.’s and India’s destiny?

In order to understand the interrelations better, the V.O.C. and its history shall be introduced thoroughly in the beginning. Reasons for both the rapid increase in prosperity and for the decay of the global trading empire are to be explained as well as the extent of the sphere of the operations of the V.O.C.

Then, a close-up to the Dutch East India Company in India in ancient times will follow, concentrating on both political and economical issues, on the one hand, and on other ancillary aspects, on the other one. Derived from this part, an analysis of current legacy in India, hinting at the era of occupation by the Dutch, will be attached to the essay.

Finally, a completing point of view shall be taken in order to draw a conclusion regarding the Dutch influence on the Southern India of today.


The Boom

Initially, Dutch merchants sent “two fleets to East Indies”8and to find “Far Lands” in 1594. The promising success prospects lead finally to the amal-gamation of six small Dutch companies to the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie which was headquartered in Amsterdam on being founded on March 20th, 1602.9 The merger of the merchants was enforced by the government in the wake of the war with Spain and Portugal.10 The V.O.C. was also granted a 21-year-lasting monopoly (octrooi) on the trade with East India in the so-called “octrooigebied”11, in which the import of spices12 13 and other products14 were top of the agenda.15 16 Apart from trade purposes, the V.O.C. had to “fight the enemies of the Republic and prevent other European nations to enter the East India trade.”17

The financing of the whole undertaking represented considerable expenses. Therefore, the money from the historically first-time issue of shares was used for this purpose. The “participanten”18 received a dividend payment, interest payments and the full refunding of the mid-term bond, yet did not hold any further voice or influencing opportunity.19 The rapid capital influx to the V.O.C. led to both a quick boom of the company20 and the realization of the monopoly21, making it the “largest company of its kind”22 . The volume of trade turnover, the number of ships and crew members as well as the amount of men and goods transported grew exponentially over the first years and decades.23 24 From 5,000 men on 40 ships in Asia in 1608, the amount accumulated to 30,000 men on 200 ships.25 This large-scale boom mainly occurred in the 18th century, the time of its prosperity.26 But where big money is to be earned, big investments have to be made. The expenses increased swiftly as well, especially for ship-building and outfitting. 4,800 voyages have been made in the two centuries of the existence of the V.O.C., each of them taking eight months in average.

The financial strength also enabled the Dutch merchants in military opera-tions in order to virtually settle their monopoly.27

This vital combination led to big riches and great success and it suited perfectly the Golden Age of the Dutch.28 29 After their first conquest in the octrooigebied in 160530, Batavia31 was founded in 1619.32 Combats with the previous occupiers, the Portuguese, were the result, during which the Dutch forced them out of the East.33 From then onwards, the conquest of each of interesting areas followed.

The first settlement of the V.O.C. on Indian soil34 was a factory35, which was to become very important for the V.O.C. due to the high profits gained there.36 The V.O.C. was the only trading East India company to gain profits out of the overseas trade between 1635 and 1690, in contrast to its European competitors from Great Britain, Portugal, France, Denmark, and Sweden.37 The monopoly over pepper trading in Bantam, for instance, played a major role in this development.38 Likewise, the growing of Javanese coffee and Chinese tea as well as the trading of Indian cloths/textiles added to the picture.39

The V.O.C. had developed from a purely commercial-oriented trading company towards a powerful, yet “so-called reluctant imperialist”40 with a clear “guidance by political and state interests”41 behind its policies. A good evidence for this is the regional structure in South India, for example, where Forts like the one in Cochin belonged to the political system of the area.42 Apart from that, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie also managed to raise profits from inner-Asian trade, mainly spices and regional products in exchange for silver.43

In addition, the Dutch merchants were also occupied with secondary money transactions, often in relation with silver as a means of payment.44


The Fall

The East Indian empire of the Dutch showed some signs of overextension when the downturn had become evident.45

The long distances from The Netherlands to Asia and within East India itself are said to have created some areas free of the rule of law.46 “The rigid policy against the East Indian population”47 resulted in revolts against the Dutch which again led to a downturn of the performance of the V.O.C. in those areas.

Furthermore, the invasion of the French under the rule of Napoleon was a further issue that led to the final decline of the biggest East India trading company ever.48 This was the reason for the Britons, who were former allies of Napoleon, to grant Stadholder William V refuge and to “protect the V.O.C.’s possessions against the French”49, as contracted. Without the invasion and contract with the British, “the Dutch [trading] empire might have endured [much] longer.”50 It was exactly this tough competition51 that led to the fall of the Dutch empire since the competitive structures on European markets forced prices for the imported goods to decrease and therefore not to cover the very high expenses anymore.


1 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

2 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

3 VOC History(http://www.duyfken.com/PastVoyages/voyagie/thevoyagie/voc-history.html;19-03-2006)

4 in the present federal state of Kerala

5 in the present federal state of Tamil Nadu

6 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

7 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

8 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

9 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

10 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

11 trade zone (situated between the Cape of Good Hope and the Magellan street)

12 mainly nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper

13 India– Shores without end(http://www.tanap.net/content/universities/india.cfm;15-02-2006)

14 e.g. tea, silk, Chinese porcelain

15 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

16 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

17 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

18 shareholders

19 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

20 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

21 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

22 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

23 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

24 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

25 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

26 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

27 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

28 The“GoudenEeuw” is said to roughly align withthe 17thcentury. (acc. tohttp://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldenes_ Zeitalter_%28 Niederlande%29)

29 GoldenesZeitalter (Niederlande)(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldenes_Zeitalter_%28Niederlande%29;02-04-2006)

30 In 1605 the VOC conquered Ambon andTidoreanddrove the Portuguese from the Moluccas

31 nowadays Jakarta, capital of Indonesia

32 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

33 Dutch Portuguese Colonial History(http://www.colonialvoyage.com/vocd.html;15-02-2006)

34 Timeline: V.O.C.(http://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/seasia/tlvoc.html;15-02-2006)

35 A factory built inPulicat at the Coromandelcoast in 1610.

36 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

37 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

38 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

39 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

40 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

41 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

42 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

43 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

44 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

45 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

46 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

47 Microsoft Encarta 2005 (CD): „OstindischeKompanie”

48 NiederländischeOstindien-Kompanie(http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niederl%C3%A4ndische_Ostindien-Kompanie;02-04-2006)

49 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

50 VOC(http://members.lycos.nl/krane/ceylon/ceylonvoc.htm;20-03-2006)

51 VOC History(http://www.duyfken.com/PastVoyages/voyagie/thevoyagie/voc-history.html;19-03-2006)


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
423 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam
South India Dutch Culture East India Company Ostinindienkompanie Niederländisch Holländisch Cochin Indien Kerala V.O.C. VOC Niederlande Handel Zakendoen Oostindische Compagnie




Title: The V.O.C. and its Influence on South India