Principled Pragmatism; VOC Interaction with Makassar, 1637-68, and the Nature of Company Diplomacy
- C.F. Feddersen
- Thursday 29 September 2016
2311 GJ Leiden
- Prof. . J.L. Blussè van Oud Alblas
This thesis explores the nature of VOC diplomacy using the seventeenth century interaction between the Company and the sultanate of Makassar on the western coast of South Sulawesi as its case. There has been a noticeable trend in the historiography of the Company’s diplomacy to consider its diplomatic practice as based on dogmatic assumptions either of a legalist or cultural-Eurocentric nature. Implicit in such propositions is that the diplomatic interaction between the Company and its Asian counterparts was a miscommunication as the meeting of the two represented a clash of cultures. Against these propositions I argue that both the Director’s concerns and the determining factor in policy decisions in Batavia were predominantly based on contextual considerations and that by its very nature such an approach begged for precise and accurate information about local conditions and affairs. Working top down the argument is supported by close readings of Company sources covering the Directors’ reflections on diplomacy in the Republic, internal discussions on policy in Batavia as well as reports on and records of treaty making on site in the Charter area. Overall the documentation corroborate that the Company’s reflections and decisions on diplomacy at all these levels were flexible and pragmatic rather than dogmatic.
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