After the Dutch Republic declared its independence from Spain it was cut off from the lucrative spice trades which the Portuguese and Spanish controlled following their successful explorations of the East and West Indies and the Americas.
This episode looks at where the Dutch went and what they did when they got there,
After successful trading missions to the Spice Islands in what is today Indonesia the Dutch established the East India Company which was to grow into the world’s largest multi-national corporation in the 17th century.
The VOC, as it was called, soon developed a near monopoly of the Asian spice trade and its huge maritime fleet became the world’s most powerful and profitable shipping company.
The Dutch also became leading slavers transporting more than a million Africans across the Atlantic to their newly established plantations in the West Indies – in Asia they also enslaved indigenous people in their colonies in the East Indies, modern day Indonesia
For more than 200 years the Dutch were the only Europeans to gain access to Japan, trading and exchanging technology with the shoguns there from a small trading post on an island in Nagasaki Harbour.
Eventually the British were to emerge as their great trading and maritime rival and in the latter part of the 17th century defeated the Dutch in a series of wars which would lead to the decline of the Dutch Empire and the loss of many of its colonies including Sri Lanka, South Africa, and New York.
After a Japanese invasion and World War 2, the Dutch lost the jewel in their colonial crown – Indonesia.
Far from celebrating their so called “Golden Age” the Dutch today are actively debating their colonial legacy which involved the enslavement and exploitation of millions in both their former Asian and Caribbean colonies.