Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters
The Development of the Dutch East India Company Shipping Network in Asia 1595-1660
Amsterdam University Press 2010
The Dutch broke the Portuguese commercial and colonizing monopoly in the East in 1595; the seal might have been said to have been set on this triumph when they took over the port of Melaka in 1641, effectively replacing the Portuguese as the masters of maritime Asia. The famed ‘Dutch spirit of commerce’ was, as Robert Parthesius’s fine book Dutch Ships in Tropical Waters: The Development of the Dutch East India Company Shipping Network in Asia 1595-1660 (Amsterdam UP, 2010) demonstrates, a very tangible and concrete network of ships and ports. Between Yedo and Galle and Bandar Abbas, the Dutch East India Company maintained a fleet of often purpose built, extraordinarily well-maintained, and staggeringly well-organised ships, boats, and divers other vessels, each performing a specific function that formed a link in the web of their Asian holdings and ports of call. While for other European powers with aspirations to Asian dominions the most important sea-route was that linking Europe to Asia, it was this focus on intra-Asian trade that made the Dutch masters of the East for much of the seventeenth century.
This is a highly technical work, and adds mightily to what we know about the Dutch merchant fleet in the East. Naval strength has always been considered to have been the main reason European colonial enterprises succeeded as well as they did; but studies of the specifics involved are very rare. Packed with maps, statistics, and charts, in addition to integrating the political and commercial exigencies driving the growth of Dutch shipping, and interspersed with biography and anecdote, this book will fascinate all those who seek a case study of how to establish an organization in new territories.