The Dutch Empire were the territories controlled by the the Netherlands starting in the 1600s and was based on a worldwide trade. They established the Dutch East India Company which sailed around Africa to the "East Indies.” This trade route included a trading post at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. They were the only Europeans to be permitted to trade with the Japanese. The Dutch East India Company maintained a large army and a powerful fleet of ships which helped them drive the English and Portuguese out of the Indies.
The Dutch West India Company sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. In 1624 the Dutch West India Company founded a Colony along the Hudson River called New Netherland. Their wealth grew because of the fur, timber, and other goods they exported from this colony. In 1664 English troops captured the city at the heart of the New Netherland, New Amsterdam, which they renamed New York.
The decline of the Dutch Empire began when they lost naval supremacy to England.
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 17th century became the largest business in the world. During the 200 years of its existence nearly a million Europeans left Holland on one of the VOC's ships. Its overseas bases employed about 25,000 workers. In 1687-88 the company's Ceylon and Batavia offices had over 2,500 employees each; it operated Japan's solitary window to the world at the port of Deshima, with 27 employees. Until 1688, when Japan banned the export of silver, it was the source of a plentiful and inexpensive supply of this precious metal. During the 17th century the profit on the annual trade with Japan was over 50%, making Deshima the VOC's richest trading post. The Dutch supplied the Japanese with Chinese silk, textiles from Europe, spices from the Dutch-controlled East Indies, hides from Thailand and Taiwan and ivory from Africa and South East Asia. The VOC's exports from Japan included silver, gold, copper, camphor, porcelain, lacquer-ware and grains. In the 18th century, however, the VOC lost speed. In Europe the Dutch Republic was losing its preeminent place as a trading power to Britain and France. London replaced Amsterdam as the world's financial center. In the early part of the century a series of disastrous shipwrecks in East Asia proved costly for the company. In 1743 the Deshima trade post in Japan made a loss for the first time. The intellectual impact on Japan was undiminished, however, as Japanese scholars threw themselves into the study of Western medicine, astronomy, mathematics, botany, physics, chemistry, pharmacy, geography and the military arts—all studied in Dutch language books.
Control over the Netherlands East Indies, restored from British to Dutch rule by the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, was strengthened. The colonies sent substantial profits to the Dutch economy and revenues to the Dutch government. However, criticism of exploitative methods of the Dutch East India Company brought a shift in the economic system from forced payments in crops to traditional taxation, and it took the Dutch 35 years to subdue the Achin (Atjeh) rebels in Sumatra.
From 1800 to 1950 Durch engineers created an infrastructure for the Dutch East Indies, including 67,000 kilometers of roads, 7,500 kilometers of railways, many large bridges, modern irrigation systems covering 1.4 million hectares of rice fields, several international harbors, and 140 public drinking water systems. With these public works, Dutch engineers constructed the material base of the colonial and postcolonial Indonesian state.
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