Corporate Colonization: The Untold Truth

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1602 – VOC Chartered


Amsterdam Chamber VOC

311px-VOC_duitThe Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische CompagnieVOC, “United East India Company”) was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation in the world [2] and it was the first company to issue stock.[3] It was also arguably the first megacorporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts,[4] negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.

The VOC is said to have been founded with the English East Indian Company in mind. With the, until then, largest emission ever the Company obtained a solid financial basis, which allowed for more than one expedition. The capital invested in the company was provided by 1143 people among  which 446 were ordinary people (bakers, housewives etc.). The investors were given receipts that we now consider to have been the first bonds.

Among the early shareholders of the VOC, immigrants played an important role. Under the 1,143 tenderers were 39 Germans and no fewer than 301 from the Southern Netherlands (roughly present Belgium and Luxembourg, then under Habsburg rule), of whom Isaac le Maire was the largest subscriber with ƒ85,000. VOC’s total capitalization was ten times that of its British rival.

The logo of the VOC consisted of a large capital ‘V’ with an O on the left and a C on the right leg. It appeared on various corporate items, such as cannons and the coin illustrated above. The first letter of the hometown of the chamber conducting the operation was placed on top (see figure for example of the Amsterdam chamber logo). The flag of the company was orange, white, blue with the company logo embroidered on it.

In 1602, at the insistence of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, all Dutch trading companies merged into the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) (also known as the Dutch East India Company). Le Maire applied for shares for the sum of 85,000 guilders and he became the largest shareholder in the VOC. He got the high position of governor of the VOC. But he soon fell into conflict with the VOC and the consistory as a result of malpractice concerning the journey of Wijbrant van Warwijck in 1602. There were rumours that Le Maire intentionally did not submit receipts and other evidence of his share in the costs.

The partners of the VOC let him be sued by the sheriff, but Le Maire settled the matter for 7200 guilders. The details of the offence were held secret. Because of this matter le Maire was forced to leave the VOC in 1605, while he also had to waive acting as a competitor of the VOC. This event was the foundation of his resentment and opposition against the VOC for the rest of his life. After leaving the VOC, he threw himself upon the European coasting trade, especially in grain. However, the thought of the lucrative trade with the Indies haunted him.

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