Dutch West India Company

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The West Indies House in Amsterdam, headquarters of the company from 1623 to 1647
Former warehouse of the company in Amsterdam
The warehouse in a depiction from 1655

The Dutch West India Company ( Dutch Geoctroyeerde West India Company , often short WIC ) was a Dutch trading company , by the on June 3, 1621 United Republic of the Seven Netherlands an exclusive trade patent ( monopoly ) to trade in West Africa and America was awarded . This charter should prevent any competition between the various trading venues.

Organization of the WIC, conquered territories

The WIC was organized on the model of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). It consisted of five chambers:

The company was led by Messrs. XIX (nineteen), a body that met alternately in Amsterdam and Middelburg .

The most notable achievement of the society was the establishment of the colony New Netherlands ( Nieuw Nederland ) in 1624 , including the city ​​of New Amsterdam ( Nieuw Amsterdam ), now New York, established in 1626 on the southern tip of Manna-hata . Other foundations are Breukelen, now Brooklyn , Hoboken , Connecticut , Delaware , New Jersey and Dutch Guiana on the north coast of South America . An attempt to snatch Brazil from the Portuguese failed after a 30-year war, see Dutch-Brazil . In West Africa, the company operated some fortified trade bases in what is now Ghana , for example Fort Batensteyn .

The colonization of New Netherlands did not get far. On the one hand because of the bitter rivalry with England , which conquered New Netherlands in 1664, and on the other hand because of difficulties in getting settlers enthusiastic about the colony. The company's policy was to guarantee the people who had brought settlers into the colony wide-ranging powers over them.

The founding treaty of the Dutch West Indian Society stipulated to work against a peace between the Netherlands and Spain. This was done for the business purpose of carrying out armed raids on Spanish silver fleets .

The "Second WIC" is founded

In 1671, the WIC's charter expired, but was provisionally renewed a few times. In 1674 the company was completely reorganized. The capital was brought back by a fifth of the original amount, to 1.2 million guilders, and Messrs. XIX were reduced to ten seats. The new charter ( Octrooi ) of 1674 was drastically changed. This only spoke of a trade monopoly on the coast of Africa and the possessions in Essequibo , Pomeroon (part of Dutch Guiana), Curaçao , Aruba and Bonaire . De facto the Tweede Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie mainly focused on the slave trade with Africa.

Slave trade

In the period from 1674 to 1740, 383 slave ships were on the move for the company. The organization of the slave journeys lay with various chambers of the WIC, which had designated special committees. The Atlantic triangular trade began in one of the Dutch ports with the African west coast as its first destination. Mainly the Dutch fortresses, Fort Elmina and Fort Accra were landing places here.

Precise demands were made on the quality of slaves . Slaves who were not blind or lame and who had no contagious diseases were considered acceptable and acceptable. It was also determined what age they had to be and what their market value was. Full-fledged slaves were 15–36 years old. If they were older than 36 years they were not considered profitable for transportation. Slaves 6 to 15 years old counted as three for the price of two - and two to 6 years old for the price of one. Under contract, two hundred guilders (roughly the annual wage of a worker) had to be paid for a slave. Sugar cane planters were given discounts. One third of the invoices had to be paid in sugar and should take place a fortnight after the purchased slaves were taken over. Of this, the sugar content was more important than the money, which could possibly also be paid later.

The largest slave ships were armed with fifteen to twenty cannons, had a crew of 45 to 60 people and transported around 500–600 slaves. The average travel time was 516 days (including stay in Africa, America and return to the republic). On the return voyage, the WIC ships took staple products such as sugar with them to the Netherlands, in order to then sail to West Africa, America and back again (hence also known as the "triangular voyage").

From 1668 onwards , Curaçao became the slave depot of the Caribbean through an Asiento of the WIC with the Portuguese middlemen Domingo Grillo and Ambrosio Lomelin . For religious reasons, Catholic Spain was not prepared to cooperate directly with the Dutch. When the WIC lost its trading monopoly in 1734, it had shipped around 220,000 slaves by then.

Prussia and the WIC

The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I sold his African possessions to the company, including the Groß Friedrichsburg founded by Kurbrandenburg , in treaties of 1717 and 1720.

The "Second WIC" is canceled

As a result of declining income and financial problems, the company was finally abolished in May 1791.

The WIC archives

The Dutch West India Company Archives contain original documents on the history of the WIC, as well as on the slave trade, warfare, diplomacy, plantation culture and everyday life in the regions where the WIC established colonies. In 2011, these archives for the countries of the Netherlands, Brazil, Ghana, the Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, Great Britain and the USA were added to the UNESCO list of World Document Heritage (Memory of the World) .


  • Henk den Heijer: De geschiedenis van de WIC. 2e gewijzigde druk. Walburg Pers, Zutphen 2002, ISBN 90-6011-912-6 .
  • Piet C. Emmer: De Nederlandse slavenhandel. 1500-1850. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam et al. 2000, ISBN 90-295-1509-0 .
  • Hermann Wellenreuther: decline and rise. History of North America from the beginning of settlement to the end of the 17th century (= history of North America in an Atlantic perspective from the beginning to the present. Vol. 1). Lit, Hamburg et al. 2000, ISBN 3-8258-4447-1 .
  • Norbert H. Schneeloch: Shareholders of the Westindische Compagnie from 1674. The amalgamation of the old groups of investors to a new stock company (= contributions to economic history. Vol. 12). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-12-912720-8 (At the same time: Bonn, University, dissertation, 1981: Capital and shareholders of the West India Company in the 17th century. ).
  • Pieter J. van Winter: The West Indian Compagnie ter Kamer Stad en Lande (= Vereeniging Het Nederlandsch Economisch-Historisch Archief. Works. 15). Nijhoff, 's-Gravenhage 1978, ISBN 90-247-2108-3 .
  • Franz Binder: The Zeeland conqueror 1654–1662. In: Het Koninklijk Zeeuwsch Genootschap der Wetenschappen. Archief. 1976, ISSN  0166-459X , pp. 40-94.
  • Norbert H. Schneeloch: The wind-lifters of the West India Company in the Amsterdam Chamber 1674-1700. In: Economisch- en Sociaal-Historisch Jaarboek. 36, 1973, pp. 1-52.
  • Norbert H. Schneeloch: The share and working capital of the second West Indian company. In: Economisch- en Sociaal-Historisch Jaarboek. 34, 1971, ZDB -ID 281930-2 , pp. 324-331.
  • Albert van Dantzig: Het Nederlandse aandeel in de slavenhandel (= Fibulareeks. 27, ZDB -ID 1438948-4 ). Fibula-van Dishoeck, Bussum 1968.
  • Eugene L. Armbruster: The West India Company. In: Eugene L. Armbruster: Bruijkleen Colonie (Borough of Brooklyn) 1638-1918. sn, New York 1918, p. 4 .

Web links

Commons : Dutch West India Company  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. One of the reasons for the end of the WIC's slave journey was the sinking of the Leusden in 1738.
  2. ^ Piet C. Emmer et al. (Hrsg.): Economy and trade of the colonial empires (= documents on the history of European expansion. Vol. 4). Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-30661-6 , pp. 88, 89 .
  3. ^ Jan de Vries : The Netherlands in the New World. In: Michael D. Bordo , Roberto Cortés-Conde: Transferring Wealth and Power from the Old to the New World. Monetary and Fiscal Institutions in the 17th through the 19th Centuries. Digitally printed 1st paperback version. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2006, ISBN 0-521-02727-6 , pp. 100-139, here p. 124 .
  4. Dutch West India Company (West Indian Compagnie) Archives | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved August 28, 2017 .