Genesis and Nemesis of the First Dutch Colonial Empire in Asia and South Africa, 1596–1811


Based upon a sweeping command of Dutch East India Company (VOC) primary sources, Knaap’s manuscript offers a thought-provoking thematic examination and chronological survey of the Dutch Republic’s overseas and colonial expansion in Asia and South Africa, mainly through the VOC and its successors, the Batavian Republic, the Kingdom of Holland and Franco-Dutch Java, over a period of more than two centuries, 1596-1811. It elucidates and deals with several conceptual and theoretical issues that are intrinsically important and germane to a polity’s definition of and how it chooses to execute the process of expansion overseas in the early modern period. One of this work’s major arguments and contributions is its advocacy that the Dutch VOC’s expansion in Asia was an imperial project and must be seen as an act of empire, or, at the very minimum, the attempt to construct one via the innovative utilization of a highly organized and dynamic commercial institution with significant political and diplomatic power and naval and military resources.

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Gerrit Knaap, Ph.D. (1985) University of Utrecht, is Emeritus Professor at that University.
"Knaap has been among the few historians paying special attention to the military side of the [Dutch East India Company]. [...] [This book] will prove invaluable, especially for historians that do not read Dutch but who can profit from making comparisons to the [Dutch East India Company]." - Philipp Huber in Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis, 42 (2), 2023.
Expansion in History Series Editor’s Preface
List of Maps
List of Illustrations
Glossary and Abbreviations


1 Prelude to Empire
 1 A Young Nation Ready for Ocean-Going Expansion
 2 Proto-Companies on the Way to Asia
 3 Proto-Companies on the Road to Unity
 4 The VOC in a European Context
 5 Conclusion

2 Foundation of Empire
 1 The VOC’s Role in Asia According to the Instructions Issued to the Admirals
 2 The First Admirals: War, Success and Stagnation
 3 Governor-General Pieter Both, His Instruction and the Twelve Years’ Truce
 4 Coen’s First Term of Office: Batavia, the English, Banda, the Iberians
 5 Coen Back Home and His Second Term of Office in the Empire
 6 Conclusion

3 Expansion of Empire
 1 Van Diemen against Portugal: Blockades, Sieges, Conquests
 2 Gunboat Diplomacy, Special Theatres of War, Remote Places
 3 Endgame with Portugal: Ceylon, Malabar and Other Theatres of War
 4 Difficulties with the English and the French
 5 The Cloves Secured: Amboina
 6 The Cloves Secured: Maluku
 7 Formosa Won and Lost
 8 Finale in the Eastern Archipelago: Makassar
 9 Ceylon: Van Goens’ War against Kandy and Other Troubles
 10 Breaking out of Bridgehead Batavia: Intervention in Mataram
 11 Breaking out of Bridgehead Batavia: Intervention in Bantam
 12 Conclusion

4 Consolidation of Empire
 1 Consolidation versus Intervention
 2 The First Two Javanese Succession Wars
 3 In the Northern Arabian Sea: Slow Retreat from a Far Periphery
 4 The VOC in Malabar: From Strength to Weakness
 5 The Chinese Massacre in Batavia and the Chinese War in Mataram
 6 The High Government between Factionalism and Reform
 7 The Third Javanese War of Succession and the Division of Mataram
 8 Problems in the Eastern Archipelago: Wajo, Gowa, Timor and Tidore
 9 Problems at Java’s Western and Eastern Fringes
 10 Problems in the Malakka Straits and Expansion in Borneo
 11 Dutch Hegemony in Ceylon Secured: The War with Kandy
 12 European Confrontations: The French and the Ostendeners
 13 European Confrontations: The Seven Years’ War
 14 Conclusion

5 Demise of Empire
 1 The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
 2 Further Problems in Malabar, the Malakka Straits, Borneo and Tidore
 3 New Initiatives for a Better Defence
 4 Revolution in Europe
 5 The First British Assault
 6 The Peace of Amiens and the Resumption of Hostilities
 7 Marshall Daendels in Java
 8 The Second British Assault, the End of Dutch Empire
 9 Conclusion

6 The Empire’s Naval and Army Personnel
 1 Recruitment of Personnel in the Netherlands and Europe
 2 From the Netherlands to the East and Back
 3 Conditions of the Military Men and the Sailors after Arrival in the East
 4 Temporary Armed Forces: Civilian Militias, the Amboinese Hongi and Others
 5 Armed Personnel Recruited in the East
 6 Primary Labour Conditions of Military Men and Sailors
 7 Statistics of the Armed Personnel of the Empire
 8 Quality and Costs of Armed Forces’ Personnel
 9 Conclusion

7 The Empire’s Ships, Fortifications and Weapons
 1 Ships Built in the Netherlands
 2 Shipbuilding and Repairs in the East
 3 Dutch Naval Power in the East
 4 Fortifications: Necessity for the Empire
 5 Fortifications: Construction, Maintenance, Classification
 6 Heavy Fire-Arms: Artillery at Sea and Ashore
 7 Portable Weaponry: Proximity and Short Distance Weapons
 8 Projectiles, Gunpowder and Other Military Requirements
 9 Costs of Ships, Fortifications and Weaponry
 10 Conclusion

8 The Empire’s Voyages, Garrisons and Military Practices
 1 Outward- and Homeward-Bound Voyages
 2 In the Capital of Empire: Batavia
 3 In Other Garrison Towns
 4 In the Far Periphery
 5 Expeditions at Sea and on the Coast
 6 Expeditions on Land
 7 Landscapes of Foes and Friends of the Empire
 8 Genocidal Behaviour
 9 Imperial Decision Makers: A Proto-Civil Service
 10 Conclusion

9 The First Dutch Colonial Empire in the East: Empire among Empires
 1 European Colonial Powers Surrounding the Indian Ocean
 2 Characteristics of the First Dutch Colonial Empire in the East
 3 The Dutch Colonial Empire and the Great Asian Empires
 4 The Military Revolutions of the Early Modern Era
 5 Conclusion


 Table 1: Seamen and military men in the VOC empire, five year intervals
 Table 2: Seamen and military men in the VOC empire, 1760, according to rank
 Table 3: Seamen and military men in the VOC empire, 1760, according to province
 Table 4: The fleet of the VOC in its empire
 Table 5: Fortifications of the VOC per category, circa 1790, according to province
 Table 6: Weapons of the VOC according to category, circa 1790

Sources and Literature
 Nationaal Archief, Abbreviated NA , The Hague
 Printed Sources, Monographs and Articles

This book is of interest to academics, students and other readers in colonial and military history, in particular with regard to Asia and the Indian Ocean during the early modern period.
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