Page 156 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 156

 Chapter 9: T H E PEOPLE O N BOARD
On the more than 4,700 voyages from the Republic of the United Netherlands to Asia between 1595 and 1795 nearly one million persons took ship from Europe. During the same period over a third of a million people took ship in Asia on more than 3,300 voyages back to the Republic, the majority of whom reached Europe.
This is of course a very global and rough conclusion, quite apart from the rounding off to global figures. For the homeward voyage we do not know the numbers on board between the Cape and Europe and we can only assume that most of those coming from Asia did, after the Cape and with some mortality on the way, reach Europe. For the first decades of the seventeenth century in particular the data are incomplete and therefore uncertain, while for many outward and homeward voyages in later periods also the exact numbers of voyagers are lacking. Butin addition the global figures given above conceal a number of counting problems. In the first place not all travellers on the homeward voyages had first been conveyed from Europe to Asia: sometimes in Asia people embarked who, whether of (Indo-)European or native Asian descent, were born and bred in Asia and therefore on the homeward voyage sailed for the first time. Secondly, some persons have been counted twice (or more) who travelled back and forth between Europe and Asia more than once, which occurred quite often, especially with sailors. O n the other hand certain categories of travellers escape the counting because for special reasons they were not recorded: some stowaways not, or very late, discovered en route; slaves some- times carried clandestinely, especially between Asia and the Cape; foreigners taken on board for instance during acts of war (first Portuguese, later French) and not always included in the numbers on board and often put ashore again in some port of call (e.g. the Cape).Andlastlythereistheproblemofthedeserterswho,especiallyontheoutward voyagewhen(forinstance English)portswerecalledat,disembarkedthereanddisappea- red, but were sometimes not removed from the records, particularly when it was possible to engage others in the port concerned.
Of course the difference between the one third who returned on the one million who departed is not simply to be regarded as a survival figure for the one third, thus assuming that some 700,000 people lost their lives during the voyages. O n the contrary: the vast majority - estimates are given later in this chapter - of those not embarking on a return voyage had most certainly survived the voyage and stayed in Asia sooner or later to die there. The Europeans who survived three or five year contracts could even voluntarily prolong their stay in Asia, either by renewal of their contract with the Company or by opting for the so-called free-burghership. Nevertheless, from the European point of view this could be called a great demographic loss. With roughly one out of three who sailed on the outward voyage returning to Europe - and that mostly after at least three or five exhausting years in the tropics - the Republic in particular and certain parts of Germany as well suffered a serious loss of human resources. It was a very heavy bloodletting also because of the one-sided character of this emigration to Asia: m en in their prime left Europe for good or for a long period which had an effect on the sex-ratio in the countries and regions they left.1
1 Bruijn, 'Personeelsbehoefte', 213-248.

   154   155   156   157   158