Page 202 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 202

 Behind the figures of table 40 are hidden the commodities filling the ships' holds. And they were not always the same nor in similar proportions. Great changes occurred, partly parallel to a shift in ports of departure in Asia. In the following discussion of the commo- dities the classification introduced by K. Glamann in 1958 is used and results of the author's own research into the period after 1740 are incorporated.29
The commodities on board
It was mainly spices that the ships of the voorcompagnieën and the first VOC fleets went in search of. The preferred goal was a monopoly on their import into Europe. This was achieved for some of them, but not without a struggle. Cloves, nutmeg and mace were grown exclusively in the South Moluccas and Banda Islands and the Company succeeded in restricting access to this area more and more. The conquest of Makassar in 1668 put an end to the contraband trade. The Company determined production, trade and often price as well. The same happened with the fourth of the 'fine' spices, cinnamon. This crop only grew in Ceylon and after prolonged Portuguese resistance (1638-1658) the Company managed to acquire the production areas of the best types of cinnamon. Naturally it made full use of its monopoly on these four spices in the European markets, but even more so in the intra-Asiatic trade, in particular with Surat.
Pepper (black and white) is a coarse spice, cultivated in various tropical regions of Asia and sold in large quantities. The Company could never attain a monopoly on this, certainly not in the Asiatic markets. It was a much demanded product in Asia and Europe, easily obtainable: often it was poured loose into the holds to fill spaces between other goods. In the seventeenth century the Company laid hands on an important part of the pepper production through contracts and conquests (Sumatra, Malabar and Bantam). It could then meet the greater part of the European demand for pepper. Competition from other Asiatic companies began to increase late in the century, causing a permanent reduction in the VOC's share of the market.
The Indian sub-continent was the producer of many kinds of cotton materials, like the salempouris. Demand for these existed in Asia itself, but in Europe as well; coarser kinds found an outlet in Africa in the slave trade (Guinese lijwaat). The Company obtained these textiles from Surat, Bengal and Coromandel. Silk too was a popular product, initially bought mostly in Persia, after 1650 in Bengal (the armozijnen). In quantity and monetary value the Indian textiles became increasingly important: they contributed to the opening of a direct shipping link from India to the Republic.
Sugar in the form of brown and white powder- and crystallized sugar was also part of the homeward cargoes, though never a major one. From the beginning there was also a demand for specifically Asiatic perfumery, seasonings and dyestuffs, like ambergris, musk, camphor, gum, aloe, indigo, sapan- and sandalwood. The transport of these goods often fitted in conventiently with a main cargo like textiles. The different types of wood had an extra significance, namely in stowage. To the same end saltpetre and spiauter (pewter:
29 Glamann, Dutch-Asiatic trade, 12-23. During a series of seminars held at the State University of Leiden in 1978-79, as a supplement to Glamann the cargoes of homeward ships in the years 1738-40 and 1778-80 were researched. The results have been incorporated in what follows, in particular in table 41. Our thanks are due to mesdames G. Ε. M. Berkhout, Ν. Kolff, T. G. Kootte, Ν. Mooiman, J. C. M. van Schie and I. B. Toes-Sennefelt, and to messrs. H. Buisman, F. A. G. M. Erwich, R. W. A. Hessing, R. Kiela, F. M. Klinkenberg, J. H. P. Sikkema, K. van der Tempel, J. R. Verbeek, D. L. M. Weyers and H. B. M. Wijfjes.

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