Ledger and Sword: Cornelis Speelman and the Growth of Dutch Power in Indonesia, 1666-1684

C.R. Boxer describes how the Dutch East-India Company gave unity to the islands of Indonesia much as the English East-India Company laid the foundations of the British Raj—often unwittingly and by a series of gradual steps.

When Maria de’ Medici, the exiled Queen-Mother of France, visited the new and sumptuous East India House at Amsterdam in 1638, Joost van Vondel, the greatest of Dutch poets, celebrated the occasion with an ode rhapsodizing the commercial enterprise of his countrymen in the Orient, whose driving motive he thus expressed in his concluding lines:

Wherever profit leads us, to every sea and shore

For love of gain the wide world's harbours we explore.”

“Love of gain” was indeed the compelling reason that brought the Dutch traders to the East as it brought the Portuguese long before them, and the English very soon after them— and the original objective of all three nations was trade, not territory.

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