In the wake of the Portuguese
For long Gregorio de CÚspedes (1550-1611) was believed to be the first westerner to visit Korea, though he wrote no account of the country. He actually did visit Korea -- he arrived on December 27, 1593 in Korea, invited by the Christian 'daimyo' Konishi Yukinaga (alias Augustin Arimandono), one of the three leading generals of the Japanese invasion army. Céspedes was a Jesuit. (Gompertz, G.St.G.M. "Some Notes on the Earliest Western Contacts with Korea." Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 33 (1957): 41-54). He stayed until April 1594 in Korea.
It was reported by a letter of Father Luís Fróis (1532-1597) that around 300.000 Korean prisoners of war were brought as slaves to Nagasaki. In Francesco Carletti's 'Discourses' we find that Carletti in 1597 bought 5 of them, according to him, for ridiculously low prizes: "The country of Korea is said to be divided into nine provinces, the names of which Cioseien, which is the capital province and gives it's name to the city in which the King resides, Quienqui, Conguan, Honliay, Cioala, Hienfion, Tioneion, Hanquien, Pianchien. From these provinces, but particularly from those nearest to the coast, had been brought as slaves a large number of men and women of all ages, among them some quite pretty children. These were all being sold indifferently at a very cheap price, and I bought as many as five for a little more than twelve scudi."
One of Carletti's converted Korean pupils later went together with Carletti to Holland and later to Rome, Italy and lived there -- the first Korean to visit Europe -- his name was Antonio Correa (1578?-1626). In the 1610s the Vatican send him to Manchuria to reenter Korea as a missionary, but he wasn't successful.. He seemingly married an Italian girl! -- his grandgrandgrandgrand....daughter visited Korea in the late 1980s. At least that's what the people in Albi, Italy thought, however a chromosome test proved that they had no Korean blood. (Click here for the Korean article)
However, Céspedes wasn't the first westerner to enter Korea.
This was a man to which Korean sources refer to as "Pingni"
or "Mari," who landed together with some Chinese on Cheju-do
in spring of 1582. He was immediately deported to China. But Hamel
was the first to write about Korea from within.
The way to Korea was already shown by the Portuguese. It was the age of the great discoveries. This was due to the fact that the Turks conquered Constantinople and Europe was cut off from its trade routes to the far-east, which have always been passing through Constantinople. This made it for Europeans necessary to look for other ways to look for the supplies they needed. Both Spaniards and Portuguese were busily looking for traderoutes to the east and for the legendary gold islands (El Dorado). To avoid conflicts, the Portuguese made a treaty in 1493 with the Spaniards, in which the world was divided in a Spanish and a Portuguese zone. Spain would aim at the West while Portugal aimed at the East.
In 1498 the Portuguese Vasco Da Gama discovered the way to India
around Cape of Good Hope. He reached Calicut on May 20, 1498 on the
west coast of what is now India, from where he returned to his homeland
with a letter from the Zamorin stating that the Zamorin would trade
spices and gems if the Portuguese could get scarlet cloth, coral,
silver, and gold. When da Gama arrived again in Calicut on October
30, 1502, the Zamorin was willing to sign a treaty. Da Gama told him
that he would have to banish all of the Muslims. To demonstrate his
power, da Gama hung 38 fishermen; cut off their heads, feet, and hands;
and floated the dismembered corpses onto the shore. Later da Gama
bombarded the city with guns and forced his way into the trading system.
This led the way for other Portuguese conquests in the East Indies.
Still, king Manuel felt that sending trading and pirating expedition to the East would not be enough. Portugal should get a permanent presence in India, and try to control the trade of the region. For this purpose, a viceroy was appointed; the first such viceroy was Francisco de Almeida, from 1505 to 1508.
In 1508, Almeida was succeeded by Afonso D'Albequerque, who is considered
the most important and greatest of the Portuguese viceroys in India.
He conquered Malacca in 1511. Malacca was the most important port
on the route from India to Indonesia and China, and by taking it,
the Portuguese at once took control of a large part of the trade on
Because the world was round after all, the Spanish and Portuguese eventually got the conflicts which they tried to avoid in the treaty of 1492. In 1519 the Portuguese Fernão de Magelhães sailed with 5 ships under Spanish flag in Western direction to find a new route to the Indies. On the 21st of October he sailed with three ships through the strait which is since then named after him. In three months he crossed the Pacific, tormented by lack of food and water. In the spring of 1521 they reached the island group which is called later the Philippines.
Soon the Spanish also went on an expedition in the eastern direction to reach the Philippines via Cape of Good Hope. In the course of the 16th century the Spaniards from the Philippines and the Portuguese from the Moluccas went more and more up north. The Isle of Tai-oan (Taiwan) was discovered, which the Spaniards called Hermosa and the Portuguese Formosa. For the time being nor the Spanish nor the Portuguese succeeded in establishing a permanent settlement over there.
The first contact between Japan and Portugal began in 1542 when three Portuguese reached the southern tip of Japanese Archipelago after their boat was blown off course. The Portuguese got a permit from the Japanese government to establish a trade post on the island of Hirado. For almost a century the Portuguese traded from this enclave with the Japanese. But, because they also developed missionary activities and tried to preach Christianity in Japan, they were banished to the island of Deshima in 1636. In 1637 the Shimabara revolt broke out, most of the rebels were Christians and the Portuguese were accused by the Japanese authorities of instigating the rebellion. In 1639 the Japanese banished the Portuguese and cut all relations with them.
Initially the ships from the provinces of Holland and Zeeland imported spices and other oriental goods from Portugal. When Sebastian, King of Portugal, died in 1578. He left no clearly defined successor, King Philip II of Spain seized the opportunity to claim to the throne in Lisbon for himself, and thus, from 1580 to 1640, the two kingdoms were linked together under the Spanish crown.
From then on, due to the Dutch 80-year long independence war, the trade became impossible. Dutch ships harbored in Portuguese ports were repeatedly confiscated by the Spanish. The Dutch were forced to retrieve these products directly from the East. The problem was how to find the right route. Jan van Linschoten (1563-1611) from Haarlem went to Spain to learn more about the trade. The commercial ambitious van Linschoten sailed on a Portuguese vessel to the Indies and managed to get the confidence of the Bishop of Goa. He misused the trust given to him and meticulously he copied the secrets of the Portuguese.
Once returned to his domicile Enkhuizen, he wrote and published two books in which he revealed his findings: "Reisgheschrift van de Navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten" (1595) (Travel document of the navigations of the Portuguese to the Orient) and "Itinerario, voyage ofte schipvaert van J.H. van Linschoten naar Oost ofte Portugaels Indien"(1596) (Stories of the voyage by ship from J.H. van Linschoten to the East or the Portuguese Indies).
Around the same time the brothers Cornelis and Frederik Houtman went to Portugal to gather inquiries about the ships' routes and trade possibilities. In 1595 the two brothers sailed with four ships around Cape of Good Hope to the East Indies. After a journey of 15 months they reached Java. In Bantam they established the first Dutch factory. On July 3, Houtman makes a contract with the sovereign of Bantam "om sekerlijck te moghen handelen als alle andere Coopluyden" (surely to be able to trade as all the other merchants). After Java they reached Bali and after Bali they were homeward bound again with three of the four ships. In 1597 they were back in Amsterdam.
This first trip was all but a commercial success, but a second expedition, led by Jacob van Neck, returned with a rich cargo to the country. This success was soon to be followed and within a couple of years, in several cities of the provinces of Holland and Zeeland, companies of the far were erected, aiming to trade in spices and other Oriental products. This led of course to a fierce competition, a reason of loss of profits. On top of that, quite a few had to pay for their craving for adventure with their death. Many a ship wrecked along the coast of Africa or during the long trip from Cape of Good hope to the East Indies.
Some less adventurous Dutchmen saw more opportunities in publishing the original Portuguese charts. The Flanders-born theologist Petrus Plancius, whose original name was Pieter Platvoet (= Peter Flatfoot) Published in 1592 an atlas under the title: Nova et exacta terrarum tabula geographica and hydrographica (New and exact geographical and nautical maps) Plancius made himself a useful amateur. One of the first professional map makers was Willem Jansz. Blaeu. He studied mathematics and physics from the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and published in 1608 the first fine sea-atlas Licht der Zeevaart (Light of Seagoing), which was reprinted several times.
His son Joan Blaeu, born in 1596 in Amsterdam, lifted the handicraft of map-making to an art. After he finished his studies in Leyden, he made a big number of travels. After that he continued the company of his father and published in 1664/65 the Groten Atlas oft Wereltbeschrijving (the Big Atlas or description of the World). But because this atlas was published shortly before the end of the stay of the Dutchmen in Korea it's beyond the scope of this chapter.
In the meantime the number of companies was rising incredibly. In 1601 there were fourteen, with a total of sixty-five ships. These were not only fighting with Spanish and Portuguese ships which they encountered, but also each other. This was considered to be an undesirable situation and some were aiming at merging these companies. On the initiative of Johan van Oldebarneveldt "de Verenigde Nederlands Geoctrooieerde Oostindische Compagnie" (The United Dutch Patented East-Indien Company) was erected. This company, most of the times called the VOC (=Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), was granted a patent from the Staten-Generaal (=Dutch parliament or literally the General States), in which they were granted the only right to maintain trade in the areas East of Cape of Good Hope and west of the Strait of Magelhães. On top of that they also received sovereignty rights. Amongst others the right to maintain an army and war fleet, and the right to declare war and to make peace. In this way it became a state within the state and laid the base for capitalism. It became also the first multinational in the world.
The VOC was a public limited company. At the foundation the subscribed capital was six and a half million guilders (fl. 6.424.588). In the six cities, where the previous companies were located, chambers or offices were established. These were located in Amsterdam, Middelburg, Rotterdam, Delft, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. The main office was at Amsterdam. The chamber of this city owned half of the subscribed capital, Middelburg a quarter, and the other four chambers each a sixteenth part.
The delegations in the board, the so-called Heeren XIIV, were equally devided. There were 8 administrators from Amsterdam, 4 from Zeeland, and one from each of the smaller chambers. In this way Amsterdam didn't have a decive vote, but in practice Amsterdam often layd down what had to happen.
During the two centuries of it's exitence the VOC equiped 4.721 ships for Asia, and in total 3.356 times a return ship was sent back, the rest stayed in Asia and was used locally. The ships were equipped by the chambers. The numbers were proportional to the subscribed capital. The board consisted of 73, later 60 governors, from which the College of Executives was elected, the well-known Heeren XVII (=17 lordships). The management was under a board of supervision, share members which owned, like the governors, at least six thousand guilders of shares.
Because both the supervisors and the supervised were members of the main participants, this supervision was not really successful. The main participants belonged to a limited number of governor families from the six cities in which the chambers were seated. As a consequence one encounters the same names. Because of that, the power of the administrators was practically unlimited. And due to patronage, sometimes children occupied jobs which they couldn't possibly do.
The goal of the VOC was the transportation of, and the trade in tropical agricultural products, especially spices from Southeast Asia. Besides they traded also in tea, lacquer ware, silk, porcelain and cotton fabrics. In order to do so, a number of so-called factories were established. These were small settlements, consisting of offices, warehouses and dwellings for the employees. The manager of a factory was most of the time called the factor, but sometimes also the "opperhooft" (chief). He traded with the hinterland on his own behalf, but on the account of the governors.
Most of the factories were reinforced settlements. Most of the time they had walls and often there was also a fort which was called "Nassau" or "Hollandia." From some of these settlements the VOC conducted a veritable reign of terror in the surrounding area. Regularly punitive expeditions were undertaken, during which one was rather clumsy with the lives of the local population, who were called as a thumb of rule "savages".
Shortly after the establishment of the VOC the Spaniards and the Portuguese were slowly driven out of the East-Indian archipelago. In 1605 Ambon already accepted the rule of the Dutch. Only on the island of Timor the Portuguese could maintain themselves. On Ceylon (=Shri Lanka) the battle took longer. Just in 1658 they had to make place for the Dutch indefinitely.
On 19 April 1600 Jacob Quackernaeck reached Japan with his ship "De Liefde" (Charity), where as noted before, the Portuguese were already present since 1543. The Dutch settled a factory on the island of Hirado situated on the northwestern coast of the island Kyûshû in 1609 and stayed there until 1641.
To strengthen their power and to make ties stronger between the scattered settlements, the VOC centralized the rule under one governor. In 1610 Pieter Both was appointed as the first governor-general, with Banten or Bantam on West-Java as a royal seat (residency). Besides him was a central form of counselors (Raad), which consisted of five persons and was called the Council of the Indies. In administrative affairs the Governor-General was assisted by "ordinary and extraordinary councilors (=Raden =plural of Raad(=council and counselor)). Together they formed the "High Government". Furthermore there was a director-general, who was the highest appointed in business affairs. He was assisted by two Head-Merchants.
In 1614 Both passed his office to Geraard Reijnst. He decided to go back to Holland. On Christmas day, he set sail with a fleet of four vessels, full of goods. Unfortunately, it was the cyclonic season when he reached Mauritius in the beginning of March 1615. Pieter Both was caught in a terrific storm and was drowned in the shipwreck of the Banda. Geraard Reijnst was Governor-general from 1614 till 1618.
In that year he was succeeded by Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the true founder of the empire of the VOC in Southeast Asia. Coen was born in 1587 of a burgher family in the prosperous West Frisian seaport of Hoorn, Jan Pieterszoon Coen spent his teenage years between 1600 and 1606 in Rome learning Italian bookkeeping.In 1607 he left as an assistant merchant in service of the VOC to the Indies.
The fleet of 13 ships, he was on, under the command of Pieter Willemszoon Verhoeff, heavily armed to inflict as much damage as possible on the Spanish and Portuguese, was not particularly successful. Verhoeff was murdered during negotiations with Bandanese headmen almost under Coen's eyes.
He made a fast career: in 1614 he became director-general and, in 1618, governor-general. In 1619 Coen conquered Jacatra. On the ruins of the city he built a new city, in which he placed on May 30, the seat of the government. He called the new capital New-Hoorn after his place of birth. But the Heeren XVII changed the name into Batavia.
Jan Pieterszoon Coen was a skillful administrator and a skillful organizer. Due to his education he fought successfully the corruption within the VOC. He was not afraid of drastic actions. Notorious is his act against the Bandanese in 1621. They didn't follow their contracts, incited by the English who were hanging around in the meantime as well. Through these bloody actions Coen succeeded in laying the world trade of nutmegs and mace in the hands of the VOC against low costs. He also centralised the system of bookkeeping during this period.
In 1623 Coen asked for resignation. He returned to Holland where he made propositions about the complete reorganization of the structure of the VOC. These propositions were based on free trade and colonization. He pleaded for the settlement of plantations for the people and free, private owned oceangoing trade, while maintaining the monopoly for the VOC for the trade between the East and the motherland.
The administrators were abhorred by these propositions. They preferred strictly maintaining the total monopoly of the VOC, not only regarding the trade between the East-Indies and the motherland, but also in the archipelago itself. Allowing the trade to private people, they felt they lost control. That would be nothing but trouble. The idea of plantations for the people didn't appeal to them as well. They wanted to minimize the number of Europeans in the Indies as much as possible. Only a number of servants (servant is used in the sense of an employee) of the VOC were allowed to settle in the archipelago, and only in the factories.
Colonization would imply enormous investments. The argument of Coen "de cost gaet voor de baet uyt" (in order to make profit or gain, one has to invest first) didn't appeal to them. The administrators preferred the existing system in which contracts were made with the local authorities for the delivery of certain goods against fixed prices. Either these contracts were not meant fairly, or they were not implemented fairly. As a result there were a lot of abuses. For instance the so-called spilled trade: private trade by VOC servants conflicting with the monopoly rules of the VOC. Initially this trade existed by selling the spilled spices, which were swept from the floor. Later this merchandise consisted of goods which were annexed in several ways. Besides that, the VOC servants demanded great surpluses while implementing the contract. They used these for their own good as well. They also insisted on reductions up until 15% for shriveling up or loss of goods: the so-called spillage or lace.
The profits of the VOC were mainly made at the cost of their own employees, who were paid badly and reinforced these misfeasance, partly at the cost of the local population. Cloves, for which the local population paid three "stuivers " (1 stuiver = 1/20 of one guilder) per pound and what cost five "stuivers" because of transfer and transportation, could be sold for 75 "stuivers", thanks to the monopoly. No wonder that the VOC could pay a dividend of 18%, and in 1642 even 50%.
Nagasaki October 2, 1642. ".... About 5 to 6 years ago, the Governors of Nangasacqij recommended strongly that the Presidents Couckebacker and Caron take such, so that the praise would be received by the high government in Japan" (Missive Jan van Elseracq to Paulus Traudenius). ".... the reason why the Dutch have made so great efforts to capture Hermosa Island, going to attack it year after year, was that they had promised the Japanese that they would do so, and would expel the Spaniards from it" (The Philippine Islands, ed. Blair and Robertson, XXXV, page 150. Message from Macasar, March 1643).
In their own country the Japanese regents had persecuted and exterminated
the followers of the Catholic faith en masse. To prevent priests and
believers from sneaking into Japan from North-Taiwan, they wanted
to end the presence of the Spaniards on this island. If the Spaniards
were chased away by the Hollanders the suspicious Japanese government
would receive the proof from the side of the V.O.C. that the arrival
of catholic missionaries wouldn't have been facilitated. After all
the de Hollanders were also Christians and therefore suspect. For
the V.O.C. the strongest stimulus to chase away the Spaniards from
Taiwan and to keep them away would have been that there were probably
gold mines present in the northern part of the island. The government
in Batavia wrote already on May 23, 1637 to Governor Van den Burch:
After a grim battle at sea and on land the Spaniards were forced to retreat. In 1624 fort "Zeelandia" was build and in the same year a governor for the island was appointed. In the same year Coen's governorship was renewed. He left only to the Indies after a number of demands were granted: more money, more personnel and more jurisdiction.
Only in 1627 Coen arrived at Batavia. He made use of his greater power by practicing partly his plans for colonization. In places where the local population was exterminated by punitive expeditions (so-called Hongi-campaigns), he gave the abandoned spice gardens in use to ex-VOC servants. These could, with the help of slaves, practice the culture of cloves. The nuts and mace had to be delivered at a fixed price to the VOC.
In 1628 Batavia was laid upon siege in vain by a Mataram
army. A second siege, in 1629, was also in vain, but during this siege
Coen died, probably as a result of cholera. He left behind a tightly
organized VOC which flourished during the rest of the century very
well. The Dutch lost a stubborn leader, often a fighter who had understood
the limitations but left as his motto "ende desespereert
niet" (Never give up).
After almost a century the Portuguese were banned by the Japanese government. Three years later the Dutch were ordered to move from their factory on the island of Hirado to the artificial island of Deshima in the bay of Nagasaki, which was originally constructed for the Portuguese.