Diaries J.C. van Aalst
C.J.K. van Aalst (1866-1939) was one of the best-known Dutch businessmen of the first half of the twentieth century. From 1913, he was President of the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (Netherlands Trading Society, NHM), an institution that was active in cultivating trade in raw materials and goods from the East Indies, in part on behalf of the Dutch government. In 1914 he also became President of the Nederlandsche Overzee Trustmaatschappij (Netherlands Overseas Trust, NOT), that was meant to protect Dutch trade from the consequences of the economic struggle between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers.
His double positions as President of the NOT and president of one of the largest companies in the country made him one of the most powerful men in the Netherlands at the time of the First World War. The notes that he made in this period are now available digitally.
The special relationship between the Dutch government and the NHM meant that prior to the First World War, Van Aalst was already the permanent contact for the government in matters affecting Dutch trade in general and the East Indies in particular. For example, in 1913 he was consulted about plans for expanding the contingent of the Dutch fleet in the East Indies, and he offered to conduct a collection among the business community to raise funds for covering part of the costs. In addition to his work for the NHM and the NOT, Van Aalst was a member of many Boards of Commissioners, mainly of shipping companies and businesses active in colonial trade.
At the end of July 1914 when the First World War broke out, Van Aalst became involved in attempts to alleviate for the neutral Netherlands the most immediate consequences of the conflict (the collapse of the stock markets and the resultant credit crisis). With the close collaboration of the Minister Agriculture, Industry and Trade M.W.F. Treub, he was successful.
During the First World War, Van Aalst made regular notes that cover the entire spectrum of his business and political activities. As an adviser to the government, and President of the NHM and the NOT, he was in frequent contact with Dutch and foreign authorities, and he was involved in virtually all the economic negotiations between the Netherlands and the warring countries of Europe.
He does not mince words in his diaries. And for just this reason they constitute a very valuable source for both the political and economic history of the Netherlands during the First World War.
The collection of diaries consists of six consecutively numbered notebooks with entries totalling over 700 pages. They are currently in private hands. The typed transcript dating from the 1920s and 30s amounts to almost 600 pages. This transcript can now be accessed digitally. It has not been checked against the original diaries. Neither have the abbreviation used by Van Aalst been deciphered nor the names identified. The text can be searched according to date and by using random words. The aim is to edit the text further and make it better accessible.