Shaping a Dutch East Indies

François Valentyn’s VOC Empire


In 1724-1726, the Dutch clergyman François Valentyn published a 5,000-page account of the Dutch East India Company’s empire. It was the first and, for a long time, the only survey of the Dutch establishments in Asia and South Africa. Shaping a Dutch East Indies analyses how Valentyn composed this work and how it largely determined the Dutch perspective on the colonies in Asia until the 1850s. It seeks to highlight both the great diversity of knowledge gathered in Valentyn’s book and its geographical spread, from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan, with a focus on the Indonesian archipelago. Huigen’s book is the first in-depth study of Valentyn’s work, which is a foundational text in the history of Dutch colonialism.

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Siegfried Huigen is professor of Dutch Literature at Wrocław University (Poland) and visiting professor of Dutch Literature and Cultural History at Stellenbosch University (South Africa). He has published extensively on the history of colonial knowledge in Asia, Southern Africa and East Central Europe. He recently published East Central Europe between the Colonial and the Postcolonial in the Twentieth Century (2023) with Palgrave as co-editor.
Preface and Acknowledgements

List of Figures and Tables



Part 1
1Describing Imperial Space
 1 Advertising Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën

 2 Chorographies of Imperial Space

 3 Text Formats
 3.1 Dagregister

 3.2 Chronicle

 3.3 List

 3.4 Anecdote

 4 Coherence through Authorial Voice

 5 Alternative Entries

2Lobbying for a Bible Translation in ‘Low’ Malay
 1 Varieties of Malay

 2 The Controversy over the Malay Bible Translation

 3 Lobbying

 4 The Question of the Malay Translation of the Bible in Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën

 5 Epilogue

3The Valentyn Case Scholarly Authorship at the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century
 1 The Location of Ophir as an Antiquarian Question

 2 Valentyn’s Use of Rumphius’s Kruid-boek

 3 A Stricter Scholarly Decorum

 4 Collaborators

 5 Valentyn’s Authorship

Part 2
4Natural History for liefhebbers in Valentyn’s Description of Animals from Amboina
 1 An Audience of Liefhebbers

 2 Images of Tropical Fish

 3 Shells

 4 A Rhetoric of Probability
 4.1 Birds of Paradise

 4.2 Sea-People

 5 Herpetological Knowledge and Indigenous Collaborators

 6 Repackaging East Indies Natural History

5‘Dutch Power in Those Territories’ Historical Representation in Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën
 1 Chronicles of Conquest

 2 Asian Histories
 2.1 Sinhalese Histories

 2.2 Malay Histories

 2.3 Mughal Histories

 3 Framing Dutch Hegemony
 3.1 Ancients and Moderns

 3.2 Martial Batavians

 3.3 Staging Jan Pieterszoon Coen as a Hero

 4 The Circulation of Valentyn’s Master Narrative

6Antiquarian Ambonese Valentyn’s Comparative Ethnography and Ethnology
 1 A Comparative Methodology

 2 ‘Foolish Thoughts’

 3 ‘Any That Pisseth against the Wall’

 4 Pelimao’s Defence

7‘This Business of Our Nation’ The Questionable Conduct of the Dutch in Japan
 1 Japan, Christianity and the Dutch

 2 Valentyn’s Representation of Japan

 3 New Information about Japan

 4 The Abject Behaviour of the Dutch in Japan

 5 Onno Zwier van Haren’s Recherches

8‘Waste Land’ into ‘Earthly Paradise’ The Geography of the Cape of Good Hope
 1 The Cape Colony around 1700

 2 Employing a Dutch Landscape Discourse

 3 Expeditions into the Interior

 4 Two Geographies of the Cape

Part 3
9A Paper Empire Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën as a Reference Work
 1 A Tool for voc Bewindhebbers in the Netherlands

 2 A Resource for voc Administrators in the East Indies

 3 The Restoration of Dutch Rule in 1816

 4 New Policies for Amboina

 5 ‘Valentyn’ Becomes ‘Valentijn’

 6 A New Edition of Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën

 7 A Paper Empire


Appendix The Text Organisation of Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën



Shaping a Dutch East Indies is relevant to anyone interested in the construction of colonial knowledge and the effects this had on the development of colonial governance in the period 1700-1850.

Subject areas: Colonial History, South East Asia; History of Science; History of Knowledge; Dutch East Indies; Travel Writing.
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