vrijdag 2 november 2012

(9) The VOC period II

At the time, it was customary for a company to be set up only for the duration of a single voyage, and to be liquidated on the return of the fleet. Investment in these expeditions was a very high-risk venture, not only because of the usual dangers of piracy, disease and shipwreck, but also because the interplay of inelastic demand and relatively elastic supply of spices could make prices tumble at just the wrong moment, thereby ruining prospects of profitability. To manage such risk the forming of a cartel to control supply would seem logical. This first occurred to the English, who bundled their forces into a monopoly enterprise, the East India Company in 1600, thereby threatening their Dutch competitors with ruin.

In 1602, the Dutch government followed suit, sponsoring the creation of a single "United East Indies Company" that was also granted a monopoly over the Asian trade. The charter of the new company empowered it to build forts, maintain armies, and conclude treaties with Asian rulers. It provided for a venture that would continue for 21 years, with a financial accounting only at the end of each decade.

In 1603, the first permanent Dutch trading post in Indonesia was established in Banten, West Java and in 1611, another was established at Jayakarta (later 'Batavia' and then 'Jakarta'). In 1610, the VOC established the post of Governor General to enable firmer control of their affairs in Asia. To advise and control the risk of despotic Governors General, a Council of the Indies (Raad van Indiƫ) was created. The Governor General effectively became the main administrator of the VOC's activities in Asia, although the Heeren XVII, a body of 17 shareholders representing different chambers, continued to officially have overall control.

VOC headquarters were in Ambon for the tenures of the first three Governors General (1610–1619), but it was not a satisfactory location. Although it was at the centre of the spice production areas, it was far from the Asian trade routes and other VOC areas of activity ranging from Africa to Japan. A location in the west of the archipelago was thus sought; the Straits of Malacca were strategic, but had become dangerous following the Portuguese conquest and the first permanent VOC settlement in Banten was controlled by a powerful local ruler and subject to stiff competition from Chinese and English traders.
In 1619, Jan Pieterzoon Coen was appointed Governor-General of the VOC. He saw the possibility of the VOC becoming an Asian power, both political and economic. On 30 May 1619, Coen, backed by a force of nineteen ships, stormed Jayakarta driving out the Banten forces; and from the ashes established Batavia as the VOC headquarters. In the 1620s almost the entire native population of the Banda Islands was driven away, starved to death, or killed in an attempt to replace them with Dutch plantations. These plantations were used to grow cloves and nutmeg for export. Coen hoped to settle large numbers of Dutch colonists in the East Indies, but this part of his policies never materialized, mainly because very few Dutch were willing to immigrate to Asia. 
Another of Coen's ventures was more successful. A major problem in the European trade with Asia at the time was that the Europeans could offer few goods that Asian consumers wanted, except silver and gold. European traders therefore had to pay for spices with the precious metals, and this was in short supply in Europe, except for Spain and Portugal. The Dutch and English had to obtain it by creating a trade surplus with other European countries. Coen discovered the obvious solution for the problem: to start an intra-Asiatic trade system, whose profits could be used to finance the spice trade with Europe. In the long run this obviated the need for exports of precious metals from Europe, though at first it required the formation of a large trading-capital fund in the Indies. The VOC reinvested a large share of its profits to this end in the period up to 1630.  

The VOC traded throughout Asia. Ships coming into Batavia from the Netherlands carried supplies for VOC settlements in Asia. Silver and copper from Japan were used to trade with India and China for silk, cotton, porcelain, and textiles. These products were either traded within Asia for the coveted spices or brought back to Europe. The VOC was also instrumental in introducing European ideas and technology to Asia. The Company supported Christian missionaries and traded modern technology with China and Japan. A more peaceful VOC trade post on Dejima an artificial island off coast of Nagasaki, was for more than two hundred years the only place where Europeans were permitted to trade with Japan. 
In 1640, the VOC obtained the port of Galle, Ceylon, from the Portuguese and broke the latter's monopoly of the cinnamon trade. In 1658, Gerard Pietersz Hulft laid siege to Colombo, which was captured with the help of King Rajasinghe II of Kandy. By 1659, the Portuguese had been expelled from the coastal regions, which were then occupied by the VOC, securing for it the monopoly over cinnamon. To prevent the Portuguese or the English from ever recapturing Sri Lanka, the VOC went on to conquer the entire Malabar Coast from the Portuguese, almost entirely driving them from the west coast of India. When news of a peace agreement between Portugal and the Netherlands reached Asia in 1663, Goa was the only remaining Portuguese city on the west coast.

In 1652, Jan Van Riebeeck established an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope (the southwestern tip of Africa, currently in South Africa) to re-supply VOC ships on their journey to East Asia. This post later became a full-fledged colony, the Cape Colony, when more Dutch and other Europeans started to settle there.
VOC trading posts were also established in Persia (now Iran), Bengal (now Bangladesh, but then part of India), Malacca (Melaka, now in Malaysia), Siam (now Thailand), mainland China (Canton), Formosa (now Taiwan) and the Malabar Coast and Coromandel Coast in India. In 1662, however, Koxinga expelled the Dutch from Taiwan.

By 1669, the VOC was the richest private company the world had ever seen, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, a private army of 10,000 soldiers, and a dividend payment of 40% on the original investment.
Many of the VOC employees inter-mixed with the indigenous peoples and expanded the Mestizo population of Indos in pre-colonial history.

Around 1670, two events caused the growth of VOC trade to stall. In the first place, the highly profitable trade with Japan started to decline. The loss of the outpost on Formosa to Koxinga and related internal turmoil in China (where the Ming dynasty was being replaced with the Qing dynasty) brought an end to the silk trade after 1666. Though the VOC substituted Bengali for Chinese silk other forces affected the supply of Japanese silver and gold. The shaogunate enacted a number of measures to limit the export of these precious metals, in the process limiting VOC opportunities for trade, and severely worsening the terms of trade. Therefore, Japan ceased to function as the lynchpin of the intra-Asiatic trade of the VOC by 1685.

Even more importantly, the Third Anglo-Dutch War temporarily interrupted VOC trade with Europe. This caused a spike in the price of pepper, which enticed the English East India Company (EIC) to aggressively enter this market in the years after 1672. Previously, one of the tenets of the VOC pricing policy was to slightly over-supply the pepper market, so as to depress prices below the level where interlopers were encouraged to enter the market (instead of striving for short-term profit maximization). The wisdom of such a policy was illustrated when a fierce price war with the EIC ensued, as that company flooded the market with new supplies from India. In this struggle for market share, the VOC (which had much larger financial resources) could wait out the EIC. Indeed by 1683, the latter came close to bankruptcy; its share price plummeted from 600 to 250; and its president Josiah Child was temporarily forced from office.

However, the writing was on the wall. Other companies, like the French East India Company and the Danish East India Company also started to make inroads on the Dutch system. The VOC therefore closed the heretofore flourishing open pepper emporium of Bantam by a treaty of 1684 with the Sultan. Also, on the Coromandel Coast, it moved its chief stronghold from Pulicat to Negapatnam, so as to secure a monopoly on the pepper trade at the detriment of the French and the Danes. However, the importance of these traditional commodities in the Asian-European trade was diminishing rapidly at the time. The military outlays that the VOC needed to make to enhance its monopoly were not justified by the increased profits of this declining trade.



Nevertheless, this lesson was slow to sink in and at first the VOC made the strategic decision to improve its military position on the Malabar Coast (hoping thereby to curtail English influence in the area, and end the drain on its resources from the cost of the Malabar garrisons) by using force to compel the Zamorin of Calicut to submit to Dutch domination. In 1710, the Zamorin was made to sign a treaty with the VOC undertaking to trade exclusively with the VOC and expel other European traders. For a brief time, this appeared to improve the Company's prospects. However, in 1715, with EIC encouragement, the Zamorin renounced the treaty. Though a Dutch army managed to suppress this insurrection temporarily, the Zamorin continued to trade with the English and the French, which led to an appreciable upsurge in English and French traffic. The VOC decided in 1721 that it was no longer worth the trouble to try to dominate the Malabar pepper and spice trade. A strategic decision was taken to scale down the Dutch military presence and in effect yield the area to EIC influence.

The 1741 Battle of Colachel by Nairs of Travancore under Raja Marthanda Varma  was therefore a rearguard action. The Dutch commander Captain Eustachius De Lannoy was captured. Marthanda Varma agreed to spare the Dutch captain's life on condition that he joined his army and trained his soldiers on modern lines. This defeat in the Travancore Dutch War is considered the earliest example of an organized Asian power overcoming European military technology and tactics; and it signaled the decline of Dutch power in India.
The attempt to continue as before as a low volume-high profit business enterprise with its core business in the spice trade had therefore failed. The Company had however already (reluctantly) followed the example of its European competitors in diversifying into other Asian commodities, like tea, coffee, cotton, textiles, and sugar. These commodities provided a lower profit margin and therefore required a larger sales volume to generate the same amount of revenue. This structural change in the commodity composition of the VOC's trade started in the early 1680s, after the temporary collapse of the EIC around 1683 offered an excellent opportunity to enter these markets. The actual cause for the change lies, however, in two structural features of this new era.

In the first place, there was a revolutionary change in the tastes affecting European demand for Asian textiles, and coffee and tea, around the turn of the 18th century. Secondly, a new era of an abundant supply of capital at low interest rates suddenly opened around this time. The second factor enabled the Company to easily finance its expansion in the new areas of commerce. Between the 1680s and 1720s, the VOC was therefore able to equip and man an appreciable expansion of its fleet, and acquire a large amount of precious metals to finance the purchase of large amounts of Asian commodities, for shipment to Europe. The overall effect was to approximately double the size of the company.

The tonnage of the returning ships rose by 125 percent in this period. However, the Company's revenues from the sale of goods landed in Europe rose by only 78 percent. This reflects the basic change in the VOC's circumstances that had occurred: it now operated in new markets for goods with an elastic demand, in which it had to compete on an equal footing with other suppliers. This made for low profit margins. Unfortunately, the business information systems of the time made this difficult to discern for the managers of the company, which may partly explain the mistakes they made from hindsight. This lack of information might have been counteracted (as in earlier times in the VOC's history) by the business acumen of the directors. Unfortunately by this time these were almost exclusively recruited from the political regent class, which had long since lost its close relationship with merchant circles.

Low profit margins in themselves don't explain the deterioration of revenues. To a large extent the costs of the operation of the VOC had a "fixed" character (military establishments; maintenance of the fleet and such). Profit levels might therefore have been maintained if the increase in the scale of trading operations that in fact took place, had resulted in economies of scale. However, though larger ships transported the growing volume of goods, labor productivity did not go up sufficiently to realize these. In general the Company's overhead rose in step with the growth in trade volume; declining gross margins translated directly into a decline in profitability of the invested capital. The era of expansion was one of "profitless growth".

Concretely: The long-term average annual profit in the VOC's 1630-70 'Golden Age' was 2.1 million guilders, of which just under half was distributed as dividends and the remainder reinvested. The long-term average annual profit in the 'Expansion Age' (1680–1730) was 2.0 million guilders, of which three-quarters was distributed as dividend and one-quarter reinvested. In the earlier period, profits averaged 18 percent of total revenues; in the latter period, 10 percent. The annual return of invested capital in the earlier period stood at approximately 6 percent; in the latter period, 3.4 percent."
Nevertheless, in the eyes of investors the VOC did not do too badly. The share price hovered consistently around the 400 mark from the mid-1680s (excepting a hiccup around the Glorious Revolution in 1688), and they reached an all-time high of around 642 in the 1720s. VOC shares then yielded a return of 3.5 percent, only slightly less than the yield on Dutch government bonds.
However, from there on the fortunes of the VOC started to decline. Five major problems, not all of equal weight, can be adduced to explain its decline in the next fifty years to 1780.  

      · There was a steady erosion of intra-Asiatic trade by changes in the Asiatic political and economic environment that the VOC could do little about. These factors gradually squeezed the company out of Persia, Suratte, the Malabar Coast, and Bengal. The company had to confine its operations to the belt it physically controlled, from Ceylon through the Indonesian archipelago. The volume of this intra-Asiatic trade, and its profitability, therefore had to shrink.
      · The way the company was organized in Asia (centralized on its hub in Batavia) that initially had offered advantages in gathering market information, began to cause disadvantages in the 18th century, because of the inefficiency of first shipping everything to this central point. This disadvantage was most keenly felt in the tea trade, where competitors like the EIC and the Ostend Company shipped directly from China to Europe.
      · The "venality" of the VOC's personnel (in the sense of corruption and non-performance of duties), though a problem for all East-India Companies at the time, seems to have plagued the VOC on a larger scale than its competitors. To be sure, the company was not a "good employer". Salaries were low, and "private-account trading" was officially not allowed. Not surprisingly, it proliferated in the 18th century to the detriment of the company's performance. From about the 1790s onward, the phrase perished by corruption (also abbreviated VOC in Dutch) came to summarize the company's future.
      · A problem that the VOC shared with other companies was the high mortality and morbidity rates among its employees. This decimated the company's ranks and enervated many of the survivors.
      · A self-inflicted wound was the VOC's dividend policy. The dividends distributed by the company had exceeded the surplus it garnered in Europe in every decade but one (1710–1720) from 1690 to 1760. However, in the period up to 1730 the directors shipped resources to Asia to build up the trading capital there. Consolidated bookkeeping therefore probably would have shown that total profits exceeded dividends. In addition, between 1700 and 1740 the company retired 5.4 million guilders of long-term debt. The company therefore was still on a secure financial footing in these years. This changed after 1730. While profits plummeted the directors only slightly decreased dividends from the earlier level. Distributed dividends were therefore in excess of earnings in every decade but one (1760–1770). To accomplish this, the Asian capital stock had to be drawn down by 4 million guilders between 1730 and 1780, and the liquid capital available in Europe was reduced by 20 million guilders in the same period. The directors were therefore constrained to replenish the company's liquidity by resorting to short-term financing from anticipatory loans, backed by expected revenues from home-bound fleets.

Despite of all this, the VOC in 1780 remained an enormous operation. Its capital in the Republic, consisting of ships and goods in inventory, totaled 28 million guilders; its capital in Asia, consisting of the liquid trading fund and goods en route to Europe, totaled 46 million guilders. Total capital, net of outstanding debt, stood at 62 million guilders. The prospects of the company at this time therefore need not have been hopeless, had one of the many plans to reform it been taken successfully in hand. However, then the Fourth Anglo Dutch War intervened. British attacks in Europe and Asia reduced the VOC fleet by half; removed valuable cargo from its control; and devastated its remaining power in Asia. The direct losses of the VOC can be calculated at 43 million guilders. Loans to keep the company operating reduced its net assets to zero.

From 1720 on, the market for sugar from Indonesia declined as the competition from cheap sugar from Brazil increased. European markets became saturated. Dozens of Chinese sugar traders went bankrupt which led to massive unemployment, which in turn led to gangs of unemployed coolies. The Dutch government in Batavia did not adequately respond to these problems. In 1740, rumors of deportation of the gangs from the Batavia area led to widespread rioting. The Dutch military searched houses of Chinese in Batavia searching for weapons. When a house accidentally burnt down, military and impoverished citizens started slaughtering and pillaging the Chinese community. This massacre of the Chinese was deemed sufficiently serious for the board of the VOC to start an official investigation into the Government of the Dutch East Indies for the first time in its history.

After the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, the VOC was a financial wreck, and after vain attempts by the provincial States of Holland and Zeeland to reorganize it, was nationalized on 1 March 1796 by the new Batavian Republic. Its charter was renewed several times, but allowed to expire on 31 December 1800. Most of the possessions of the former VOC were subsequently occupied by Great Britain during the Napoleonic wars, but after the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created by the Congress of Vienna, some of these were restored to this successor state of the old Dutch Republic by the Anglo Dutch Treaty of 1814.
The Wright family, owners of Voyager Estate in Margaret River Western Australia, acquired the VOC name and trademark in 1995.

(8) The VOC period

The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, "United East India Company") was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It was the second multinational corporation in the world (the British East India Company was founded two years earlier) and the first company to issue stock. It was also arguably the first mega corporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.  

Statistically, the VOC eclipsed all of its rivals in the Asia trade. Between 1602 and 1796 the VOC sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods. By contrast, the rest of Europe combined sent only 882,412 people from 1500 to 1795, and the fleet of the English (later British) East India Company,  the VOC’s nearest competitor, was a distant second to its total traffic with 2,690 ships and a mere one-fifth the tonnage of goods carried by the VOC. The VOC enjoyed huge profits from its spice monopoly through most of the 17th century.  

Having been set up in 1602, to profit from the Malukan spice trade, in 1619 the VOC established a capital in the port city of Batavia (now Jakarta). Over the next two centuries the Company acquired additional ports as trading bases and safeguarded their interests by taking over surrounding territory. It remained an important trading concern and paid an 18% annual dividend for almost 200 years. 

Weighed down by corruption in the late 18th century, the Company went bankrupt and was formally dissolved in 1800, its possessions and the debt being taken over by the government of the Dutch Batavian Republic. The VOC's territories became the Dutch East Indies and were expanded over the course of the 19th century to include the whole of the Indonesian archipelago, and in the 20th century would form Indonesia.

Map of Batavia (1620)



(7) Ship ‘t Huys ten Donck – 1745

Named after Huis ten Donk in Ridderkerk the Netherlands. Otto Groeninx, at that time owner of the estate was governor since 1740 of the Rotterdam chamber. The ship was built at a shipyard in Rotterdam and used by the VOC from 1745 to 1770. The ship had a load capacity of 875 tonnes and a lenght of 136 feet (appr. 42 mtrs). The ship was in 1763 part of an additional equipage of seven ships (Giesenburg, Lekkerland, Duinenburg, Huis Ten Donk, Gouveneur-Generaal,  Schagen and Stralen), along with the first set equipage of 26 vessels, of which 5 were destinated for Ceylon. These ships were to take as many soldiers because of the war with King of Kandy.

Ship Huys ten Donck departed June 15th, 1763. The place of departure was Goeree via Cape of Good Hope with destination Batavia. The name of the skipper was Frederik Wielard. The crew of Ship Huys ten Donck consisted of 231 to 304 soldiers.
VOC shipyard


donderdag 1 november 2012

(6) Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois 1737-1750-1783


Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois 1737-1750-1783


Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois the only child of 5 brothers and sisters that the fatal diseases at birth managed to overcome was born May 20th, 1712 moved from Hesdin to Dunkirk Fr. He married October 3rd, 1737 in Dunkirk Fr. Catherine Petronille van Torre(n).  Catherine Petronille was born in Dunkirk May 31st, 1708. Daughter of Jean van Torre(n) and Josifine Alfroet.


Jacques Bernadin signed on as a soldier in the 1763*. He was aboard the Ship ‘t Huys ten Donck. Sailing for the Chambers of Rotterdam (#276). This is also the period that the name Beaugeois was displayed as Bourgois or Bougois. Jacques carried back and forth Batavia, Makassar and Nagapattinam.


Per month he pays a fix amount of his wages to his wife Catherine (Catharijna) Petronille (Petronella) van Torre. This amount was paid anchored off in Rotterdam until she died. Jacques Bernadin was probably at that period not in the Netherlands. He died August 17th, 1783 in Batavia. Catherine Petronille died December 17th , 1783. Her death was reported by ship "de Vrijheid" to India. After she died his legacy was (minus already paid funeral expenses for his wife) paid to his daughter Marie Josepha Beaugeois (Beaugoij), on behalf of the joint children.

Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois and Catherine Petronille van Torre has given birth to 6 children.


*) As all their children were born in Dunkirk I assume 1760-1763 must have been the years the family “emigrated” to Dordrecht the Netherlands. He was said to have been the first Beaugeois who settled in Dordrecht the Netherlands. Jacques was not often in the Netherlands. In 1770 the Beaugeois family lived in the “Raamstraat” in Dordrecht. At her death in 1783 Catherine Petronille lived in “de kleine Spuitstraat” in Dordrecht the Netherlands.

Kleine Spuistraat Dordrecht The Netherlands


Raamstraat Dordrecht The Netherlands


zondag 28 oktober 2012

(5) Birth and death of six

The timeline starts with the year 1706

In the year 1706 was born the first member of the Beaugeois family Jacques Francois Beaugeois. Son of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. His birthplace was Hesdin. He died at age 5 in Hesdin on July 4th, 1711.
In the year 1709, June 20th was born Jacques Joseph Beaugeois. Son of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. His birthplace was Hesdin. He died at unknown date.
In the year 1710, September 19th was born Pierre Beaugeois. Son of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. His birthplace was Hesdin. He died 9 months after birth  and 3 days after the death of his brother Jacques Francois.
Jacques Francois Beaugeois died on July 4th  at the age of 5 and Pierre Beaugeois died on July 7th in Hesdin 9 months after birth.
A special year, the birth of twins………

In the year 1712, May 20th was born Marie Barbe Beaugeois. Daughter of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. Her birthplace was Hesdin. Marie Barbe Beaugeois died 9 months after birth March 8th , 1713. 

In the year 1712, May 20th was born Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois. Son of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. His birthplace was Hesdin. Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois  was  the only child who not prematurely passed away and was able to ensure descendants.
Marie Barbe Beaugeois died March 8th in Hesdin  9 months after birth.
In the year 1716,  June 6th  was born Marie Barbe Louise Jeanne Beaugeois. Daughter of Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure. Her birthplace was Hesdin. Marie Barbe Louise Jeanne died February 28th in Hesdin 8 months after birth.
Marie Barbe Louise Jeanne died February 28th in Hesdin 8 months after birth.

zondag 21 oktober 2012

(4) A harsh time

Jacques Beaugeois and Marie Francoise Rambure gave birth to six children.

It was a harsh time, fatal disease*, bacteria and the lack of reliable food source was quite prevalent, and infant mortality rates were extremely high. Young children were not expected to live very long. In the 18th Century France, for instance, between 20 and 50 percent of all infants died** within the first year after birth. 

*Smallpox was 'endemic' throughout Europe – meaning it was a constant presence. When the virus reached a dense population with low immunity, it became 'epidemic', and a major outbreak occurred. Epidemics were cyclical; with each passing generation, as immunity levels dropped, epidemics recurred. Four hundred thousand people died each year from smallpox in Europe during the 18th century.

**Nowadays the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 1,000 live births in the same year is 3,37 deaths.

Families of the 1600’s and 1700’s may have valued children for their role in inheritance,  but children clearly didn't elicit the same kind of sentiment that they elicit from adults today. People commonly believed, therefore, that if they wanted only a few children, they should have many more in order to "hedge their bets". Parents couldn't allow themselves to get too emotionally attached to something that was seen as a probable loss. 

Some even referred to their infant as "it" until the child reached an age at which survival was likely. At that time, the death of a baby was probably not the emotional tragedy that it is today. When an infant died he or she was likely to be buried almost anywhere on the premises, like a pet cat or dog. Even the dead children of the rich were sometimes treated as paupers, their bodies sewn into sacks and thrown into common graves.

Four of their six children died after birth within the first year. One child reached the age of 5. Only one child, Jacques Bernadin Beaugeois  born 1712 May 20th,  survived and played an important role in the inheritance and offspring.