Dutch East India Company

1602–1799 Dutch trading company

The Dutch East India Company (Old Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), or VOC, started in 1602, when the Netherlands gave a group of small trading companies a 21-year monopoly to trade in Asia. It was the first multinational corporation in the world and the first company to issue stock.[2] The VOC had the power to start wars, make treaties, make its own money and start new colonies.[3]

United East India Company[a]
Native name
  • Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie
  • Generale Vereenichde Geoctrooieerde Compagnie (original name)
  • Verenigde Nederlandsche Geoctroyeerde Oostindische Compagnie (formal name)
Company type
Voorcompagnieën/Pre-companies (1594–1602)[b]
Founded20 March 1602; 422 years ago (1602-03-20),[1] by a government-directed consolidation of the voorcompagnieën/pre-companies
FounderJohan van Oldenbarnevelt and the States-General
Defunct31 December 1799 (1799-12-31)
FateDissolved and nationalised as Dutch East Indies
Area served
Key people
ProductsSpices, silk, porcelain, metals, livestock, tea, grain, rice, soybeans, sugarcane, wine, coffee
The "United East India Company", or "United East Indies Company" (also known by the abbreviation "VOC" in Dutch) was the brainchild of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the leading statesman of the Dutch Republic.
Amsterdam VOC headquarters

It was an important company for almost 200 years, but it became bankrupt in 1800.[4] The VOC's colonies became the Dutch East Indies, which later became Indonesia.

Founding: 1602-1620


In the 16th century, trade with Asia was mostly controlled by Portugal. The Dutch government wished to take a foothold in the spice market, as Portugal could not keep up with the demand and rising prices in Europe. With government funding, the VOC set up its first trading post in what is now Jakarta, which eventually became its main base of operations in the continent.

Expansion: 1620-1669


In 1620, the VOC created a trade agreement with their biggest rival in Asia, the English East India Company. This lasted until 1623, when the Amboyna Massacre forced the EEIC to move its trading posts from Indonesia to other areas in the continent.

In the 1620's, the VOC extended their reach to the remaining Indonesian Islands, and established plantations on the colonised islands to increase the volume of their exports. This expansion continued, until eventually the VOC was the richest company in the world.

In 1640, the VOC founded a trading post in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the last place where the Portuguese had a foothold. The VOC now had a total monopoly over trade between Europe and Southern Asia.

Exploration of Australia


Ships from the VOC were among the early explorers of Australia. The first Europeans to live in Australia were left behind after the mutiny on the VOC ship Batavia in 1629. Many of the sailors who took part in the mutiny were executed, but two, Wouter Loos, a soldier, and Jan Pelgrom de Bye, a cabin boy, were left at Wittecarra Gully, near the mouth of the Murchison River. They were never seen again.

  1. The direct translation of the Dutch name Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie is "United East-India Company". For the VOC's different English-language trade names, see articles: East India companies; Greater India; East India; East Indies; Dutch East Indies; Dutch India; Voorcompagnie; List of Dutch East India Company trading posts and settlements.
  2. The so-called voorcompagnieën (or pre-companies) include: Compagnie van Verre (Amsterdam, 1594–1598), Nieuwe Compagnie, Eerste Verenigde Compagnie op Oost-Indië (Amsterdam, 1598–1601), Oude Oost-Indische Compagnie (Amsterdam, 1598–1601), Verenigde Amsterdamse Compagnie, Nieuwe of Tweede Compagnie, Brabantsche Compagnie, Nieuwe Brabantsche Compagnie, Magelhaensche Compagnie/Rotterdamse Compagnie, Middelburgse Compagnie, Veerse Compagnie (Zeeland, 1597), Verenigde Zeeuwse Compagnie (Middelburg & Veere, 1600), Compagnie van De Moucheron (Zeeland, 1600), and Delftse Vennootschap. Niels Steensgaard (The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century, 1973) notes, "the voorcompagnieën were not incorporated, but were run by a number of bewindhebbers, who were joined together like partners in a simple company, i.e. traded on joint account".
  3. As the VOC's board of directors
  4. As the VOC's de facto chief executives


  1. "The Dutch East India Company (VOC)". Canon van Nederland. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  2. Mondo Visione web site: Chambers, Clem. "Who needs stock exchanges?" Archived 2009-02-07 at the Wayback Machine Exchanges Handbook. -- retrieved February 1, 2008.
  3. Ames, Glenn J. (2008). The Globe Encompassed: The Age of European Discovery, 1500-1700. p. 102-103. ISBN 9780131933880.
  4. Ricklefs, M.C. (1991). A History of Modern Indonesia Since c.1300, 2nd Edition. London: MacMillan. p. 110. ISBN 0-333-57689-6.

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