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From Self-Defense to an Instrument of War: Dutch Privateering Around the Malay Peninsula in the Early Seventeenth Century

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Abstract This article examines the transition of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) from a policy of self-defense into its full espousal of large-scale privateering and plundering. I argue that this shift was driven by both economic and political factors, and can be traced to the very formation of the Company as a unified trading venture. The taking of prizes became a cornerstone not only of the economic fortunes of the company, but the establishment of the Dutch colonial empire in Asia. Of particular interest is not only the instructions emanating from the company directors and the Dutch government in the metropolis, but especially the implementation and adaptation of these directives on the ground. It is this local context that adds a crucial dimension to interpretations of the eager espousal of maritime violence by the VOC and its agents in Asian waters.

Affiliations: 1: National University of Singapore


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