Dutch Jaffna and the Rise and Fall of the VOC – The World’s First Multinational Company

During the Dutch period in Asia, all Dutch colonial operations were overseen by the VOC, the “Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie” or the Dutch East India Company.

When the Estates-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia, the VOC, the first multinational corporation in the world and the first company to issue stocks entered its activities in Asia in 1602. The VOC employed not only Dutch nationals, but also enlisted men from Belgium, Friesland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.

Jaffna had been a busy trading town and the most important city in the North of the Island. Jaffna was the last remaining important stronghold of the Portuguese, when it was conquered by the VOC in 1658.

The VOC had eliminated all its competitors in the Island. The Dutch-Portuguese War prompted the VOC to establish its headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia with other colonial outposts in Asia and forcibly maintained a monopoly over nutmeg and mace by violent suppression of the native populations and mass murders.

In Dutch times Jaffna was a centre for the pearl fishery, textile industry and the trade in elephants with India. The VOC traded throughout Asia. Ships were coming from the Netherlands carrying silver from Spanish mines in Peru with copper from Japan, and trading with India and China for textiles. The VOC was also instrumental in introducing European ideas and technology to Asia.

The Company supported Christian missionaries and traded modern technology with China and Japan. In the surroundings the VOC tried to spread the protestant religion, but the difference between the protestant and Catholic religion was not quit clear to the local people.

The VOC was the richest private company the world had ever seen, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, a private army of 10,000 soldiers, and a dividend payment of 40%. Jaffna was a busy trading center and the most important commodities of Jaffna were cotton, ready made clothes, pearls and elephants in the Dutch era. Indian maharajas bought the elephants to use them in warfare. The animals were caught in a trap and afterwards were taken out one-by-one and tied up and sometimes even baptized! After being tied up for eight days the animals became tame and then the training could begin.

In Jaffna, the VOC had great power. This situation was quite unique in Jaffna for an organization to control the affairs as a de facto ruler. One of the consequences of this VOC rule was the collection of taxes, which were much higher than that of the Portuguese.

In 1676 the population revolted against the VOC, but the VOC broke the rebellion and the tax collection continued.

After the fourth war between the Netherlands, then as United Provinces and Great Britain in1780-1784, the VOC got into financial trouble, and in 1798, the company was dissolved and the legacy of the first multinational company which was an important trading concern for almost two centuries in Asia finally came to an end and was awarded finally to the Kingdom of the Netherlands by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

Source https://ezinearticles.com/?Dutch-Jaffna-and-the-Rise-and-Fall-of-the-VOC—The-Worlds-First-Multinational-Company&id=308040

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