Page 186 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
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After the treatise on the transport of personnel it will be no surprise to read that the annual range of shipping movements between the Republic and Asia during the seven- teenth and eighteenth centuries was continually subject to change. This is equally true of the varieties and quantities of goods shipped on outward and homeward voyages, and of their value.
This penultimate chapter assesses the extent of these shipping movements, both from the Netherlands and from the great ports of departure in Asia. Attention is also given to the average tonnage of the ships. Next the commodities on board are broadly dealt with, and their value on embarkation. This is not the place for a detailed discussion of the commodities themselves and their purchase and sale, varieties and quantities. This publi- cation is concerned with the volume of seaborne traffic and the monetary value of the cargoes.
Volumes and average tonnages on the outward voyage
The numbers of ships sailing for Asia each year were determined by a variety of factors, as already observed in chapter 2. Of paramount importance was the amount of cargo to be imported from the East, the return cargo being the mainspring in Europe for any Asiatic company. Yet there were two other factors which the directors had in mind when deciding on the annual equipages. The VOC's participation in a widespread intra-Asiatic commercial traffic required the availability of large numbers of ships, which therefore had to be withdrawn from the route between the Republic and Asia for longer or shorter periods, sometimes for years on end. Developments in this traffic required constant adap- tation. And finally the exercise of power overseas demanded ships. The Company acqui- red, frequently by armed combat, territorial powers at various points in Asia and at the Cape, and later had to defend these against others. Its own ships with their armament were for a long time sufficient for this purpose. Not until 1784 could the Company for the first time rely on the assistance of proper men-of-war of the navy.1 This territorial dominion also demanded the import of goods and transport of personnel for military and administrative purposes.
It is well to keep in mind that for the shipping volume of other European companies not all three of these factors have been important, but also that they did not influence the VOC's equipages all at the same time. Thus differences could arise between develop- ments in the outward and the homeward trade, in numbers of ships as well as their total volumes.
Table 35 shows per decade the volume of ships leaving the ports of the six chambers in the Republic, subdivided by destination in Asia, with separate mention of tonnage not reaching its destination in the East because of accident or force of war, or the voyage ending at the Cape. In the first decades there was the expected growth of a new enterprise, but in the mid-seventeenth century this levelled out somewhat, given an exception here and there. Strong growth in the volume of shipping did not recommence until the turn of the century. With the exception of the period 1740-1750 a volume was maintained throughout
1 De Jonge, Geschiedenis Nederlandsche zeewezen IV,684-752. See also Appendix V .

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