In Encounters of the Opposite Coast Markus Vink provides a narrative of the first half century of cross-cultural interaction between the Dutch East India Company (VOC), one of the great northern European chartered companies, and Madurai, one of the 'great southern Nayakas' and successor-states of the Vijayanagara empire, in southeast India (c. 1645-1690). A shared interest in trade and at times converging political objectives formed the unstable foundations for a complex relationship fraught with tensions, a mixture of conflict and coexistence typical of the 'age of contained conflict'.
Drawing extensively on archival materials, Markus Vink covers a topic neglected by both Company historians and their Indian counterparts and sheds important light on a 'black hole in South Indian history'.

Abstract

This article is a comparative study of the relationship between church and state in seventeenth-century colonial Asia in general and South India in particular. In an era when political and religious loyalties were deemed interchangeable, the division of temporal and spiritual authority over the Parava community along the Madurai coast between the Dutch and the Portuguese, respectively, stands out as a unique arrangement. By the end of the seventeenth century, an informal understanding was reached according to which Portuguese Jesuits would exercise religious authority even in areas under immediate Dutch jurisdiction, while the Calvinist Dutch would claim wordly authority over the Roman Catholic Paravas. The arrangement on the Madurai Coast is compared with Dutch policy vis-à-vis similar Indo-Portuguese Catholic communities in other Asian "conquests" where they exercised territorial jurisdiction, such as Maluku (the Moluccas), Batavia (Jakarta), and Melaka (Malacca). The Luso-Dutch accommodation in southeast India is also examined in light of English religious policy at Fort St. George, Madras (Chennai), towards local Indo-Portuguese groups. The understanding between the Protestant English and French Capuchins differed markedly from the working arrangement between the Dutch and the Portuguese Jesuits. This dual comparative framework merely serves to emphasize the singularity of the "Madurai solution."

In: Journal of Early Modern History
In: Encounters on the Opposite Coast: The Dutch East India Company and the Nayaka State of Madurai in the Seventeenth Century