The Society Annual Lecture 1962: The Dutch East-Indiamen: their Sailors, their Navigators, and Life on Board, 1602–1795

By C. R. Boxer, published May 1963


In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Dutch led the world in trade with the East-Indies. The Dutch East-India Company (VOC) was divided into six chambers, Amsterdam, Middleburg, Rotterdam, Delft, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, with a central board, the Heeren XVII, or ‘Gentlemen Seventeen’. Its main trading vessels, retour-schepen or ‘return-ships’, were used for the long voyages between Texel and Batavia. Smaller vessels were used for country trade in the east. Until 1697 there was little uniformity in the type of vessels built, with the ensuing inefficiencies. From 1697 three rates of vessel were specified, although in practice there was still some variation. This article considers the names used for vessels, the ships’ complements and their rations, health, discipline and high mortality rates. It also considers the trading patterns and routes used, and the stagnation of navigational theory and practice by over-regulation.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Early Modern) | Other (Eighteenth C) | Health at Sea | Indian Ocean | East India Company
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Science & Exploration | Shipbuilding & Design

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