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The Dutch East India Company’s shipping between the Netherlands and Asia 1595-1795

Edited by J.R. Bruijn, F.S. Gaastra and I. Schöffer, with assistance from A.C.J. Vermeulen and E.S. van Eyck van Heslinga

Between 1595 and 1795 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and its predecessors before 1602 equipped more than 4,700 ships to sail from the shores of the Netherlands bound for Asia. More than 3,400 ships made the return voyage home. The reference work Dutch-Asiatic Shipping has classified these voyages on which Dutch trade between Europe and Asia was founded in a systematic survey.

The source material for this survey was pulled together from the logbooks kept at the VOC archive. Records were kept of the key aspects of every voyage: ship’s name; captain’s name; ship’s tonnage; year and shipyard in which the ship was built; the VOC chamber on behalf of which the ship was transporting merchandise; departure dates, any stopovers the ship made on the journey (on the Cape of Good Hope) and its arrival date; crew (divided into different categories); value of the return load and any unusual incidents that occurred during the voyage, such as a mutiny or shipwreck; and, the name of the commander of the homeward bound fleet.

These details can be found in Volumes II (Outward Voyages) and III (Homeward Voyages) of Dutch Asiatic Shipping. Volume I consists of a 200-page introduction that briefly analyses different aspects of the VOC’s shipping industry, such as the type of ships used and how they were built, the duration of the voyage and its inherent risks, and how the crew were recruited and their fate. This volume also contains a survey of sources and a bibliography.

Dutch Asiatic Shipping provides a good foundation for any systematic study into voyages made on behalf of the VOC. An electronic edition of Dutch-Asiatic Shipping is available on this website: it offers better search facilities than the printed edition and also features an English introduction.