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Rise and Fall of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.)

A fierce battle to take the control of the Spices Trade opposed the Portugese, the English and the Dutch. The Dutch through the VOC, a private company, ruled these trade for more than a century, making the marchants of Amsterdam the richest of Europe.

The start of V.O.C.

Wooden Spices Box

A group of Amsterdam merchants financed an expedition to the indies in 1595, the merchants brought back 245 bags of pepper and 45 tons of nutmegs, but started to compete among them by sending out several expeditions. In 1602, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Companie (United East India Company) was formed to put an end to the internal competition. Given sweeping powers including the right to carry on war in the Indies (financed by the Company) the VOC was the beginning og the Dutch colonial empire and also gave to the Dutch the monopoly of the spice trade.

The Spice Islands

Arab Merchants Spices

Soon the Dutch proved themselves superior to the Portuguese naval and military strength. Local rulers supported the Dutch to get ride of the Portuguese. Step by step the Dutch took over from Portuguese Ceylon, the Mollucas and Banda (called the Spice Islands) and they established their their main base at Batavia (Jakarta)on the island of Java. Today the Moluccas and Java are part Indonesia.
They tried to stop all other trade, preventing Chinese and other traders selling spices to Portuguese and English. To control the production the Dutch had mutmeg and clove trees uprooted and permitted plantings only on certain islands.

Pierre Poivre put an end to the Dutch monopoly.

Example image - aligned to the right

In 1770, Pierre Poivre a French botaniste, administrator of the Ile de France (Mauritius) smuggled cloves and mutmeg trees out of the Spice Islands and cultivitated them successfully . New plantings were made in other French colonies, the Seychelles, La Réunion and Cayenne. Poivre is now the name for the pepper in French language. In 1795 the English planted cloves trees in Penang and by the 19th century no European country had a monoploy on any spice and prices started to fall.

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