A description of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) by Pieter van Dam 1693-1701

Edited by F.W. Stapel and C.W.Th. baron van Boetzelaer van Asperen en Dubbeldam

Pieter van Dam (1621-1706), lawyer to the United East India Company (VOC), was commissioned by the Gentlemen XVII in 1693 to compile a guide and reference work for the VOC that traced its progress from the very beginning right up to their own time. Van Dam managed to write an historical work in which the ins and outs of the VOC were described in great detail, backed up with references to many different sources.

He deals with the following issues in chronological order: the founding of the VOC, the management and the sale of oriental goods in Europe; the development of trade in Asia and the conquest and administration of different areas over there; the governing bodies, the administration of justice, the army and the navy in Asia; the growth of Dutch settlements and all kinds of abuses that followed; church issues. The fifth book, which no longer exists, described the quarrels with the English.

In 1902, the Netherlands Advisory Committee for National Historical Publications (RGP) nominated Van Dam as the most popular source publication specialising in the field of overseas history. Van Dam contains singular details that can no longer be found anywhere else. The work provides a useful starting point for research into the VOC in the 17th century. As it was originally intended to be used exclusively by the Gentlemen XVII, Van Dam did not feel that he had to brush certain issues under the carpet or present them in a favourable light.

To facilitate research in the VOC archives, an online general VOC glossary has been compiled based on separate glossaries (explanations of terms) that were published in the Dutch series Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën (RGP).