The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (Columbia Studies in International and Global History)

The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (Columbia Studies in International and Global History)

Adam Clulow

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0231164297

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Dutch East India Company was a hybrid organization combining the characteristics of both corporation and state that attempted to thrust itself aggressively into an Asian political order in which it possessed no obvious place and was transformed in the process.

This study focuses on the company's clashes with Tokugawa Japan over diplomacy, violence, and sovereignty. In each encounter the Dutch were forced to retreat, compelled to abandon their claims to sovereign powers, and to refashion themselves again and again―from subjects of a fictive king to loyal vassals of the shogun, from aggressive pirates to meek merchants, and from insistent defenders of colonial sovereignty to legal subjects of the Tokugawa state. Within the confines of these conflicts, the terms of the relationship between the company and the shogun first took shape and were subsequently set into what would become their permanent form.

The first book to treat the Dutch East India Company in Japan as something more than just a commercial organization, The Company and the Shogun presents new perspective on one of the most important, long-lasting relationships to develop between an Asian state and a European overseas enterprise.

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our provinces are greatly inclined towards trade, and are ready to visit islands, provinces and people however remote and to conduct trade with them. And it seems good to encourage their natural desires and to have thereby occasion to make accords with the residents of those [distant] lands and to have mutual and firm friendship. . . . We pray and seek therefore that generally and especially in any lands, harbors and beaches that our admiral with his ships and goods anchors, you will not only

“king of Holland.” Eventually in 1639, after frequent inquiries about the prospect of future letters from the prince of Orange, the governor-general requested that the king of Siam correspond directly with him and abandon any attempt to communicate with the Stadhouder.44 The next year, Batavia procured a letter from Maurits’s successor, Frederik Hendrik, asking for a halt to their correspondence.45 By way of justification, the prince pointed to the great distances separating Siam and the

and abandoned any further talk of an embassy from Holland. The result was to confirm the conclusion that Specx had reached years earlier, that there was no acceptable route back into the embassy business for the Dutch in Japan. In the early 1630s, to return to the period under discussion, Bakufu officials displayed far more interest in securing a workable framework for interaction with the Dutch than in encouraging any thoughts of a new embassy. Because of this, they were quick to accept VOC

imported from a distant continent, into Japanese waters. Because of this, VOC representatives were fully prepared to defend the legality of the seizure, arguing that the incident should be seen as a properly sanctioned and lawfully pursued act of war—violence yes, but not violence that fell within the Japanese regime’s legal remit. In these ways the Santo Antonio incident looked markedly dissimilar from past episodes of maritime violence involving pirate groups or individual warlords, and there

this impression, the opperhoofd begged his superiors to fill a hundred empty crates with any available merchandise and send them on to Japan, regardless of whether or not the contents could be sold for a profit. This would, he explained, allow the Dutch to at least present the image of “respectable merchants” and combat the growing pirate stain.133 No goods were forthcoming, however, and by 1621 it was clear that the factory’s time had run out. The 1621 Edict On 14 September 1621 Jacques Specx,

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