Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Lobbying for Brazil and Taiwan – lobby groups to the Companies and the States General

How did free agents cooperate with the VOC and the WIC, through lobbying for private interests within the Companies as well as at the highest political levels?

2012 - 2016

This research project involves the loss of two colonies: Formosa (Taiwan) for the VOC and Brazil for the WIC. It particularly focuses on the role played in this process by individuals that were part of self-organized networks (partly) outside the Dutch chartered trading companies. How did they lobby for their own interest?

The VOC and WIC were often confronted with difficult decisions concerning the maintenance of specific territories which were strategically important. Two such examples were Taiwan (1624-1662) and Brazil (1624-1654). Even though the Companies and the States General decided to keep a Dutch presence in these territories, the Chinese and the Portuguese drove the Dutch out. In both cases, the archives of the Companies and the States General show a process of decisionmaking that was neither monolithic, nor straightforward concerning the maintenance or abandonment of the territories. In both cases, interest groups formed defending or contesting the maintenance of Dutch assets in Taiwan and Brazil. These interest groups soon became powerful lobby clusters represented by shareholders and contractors to the companies with private interests in these areas. These lobby clusters were populated by free agents (entrepreneurs operating outside the interests of the Companies) of different backgrounds, religions, and nationalities.

A two-fold approach will be employed, looking at both the formation of lobby clusters, and charting the process and possible costs of lobbying within the Dutch Republic, starting with the interest groups at the Companies’ Chambers and at the level of the States General. This approach will ultimately bring to light the dangerous liaisons between private agents with specific interests in certain areas, the men responsible for defending and safeguarding the monopolies and the processes by which political power was used by both parties to negotiate the ‘spaces’ and boundaries of encounter between the informal empire ruled by free agents and the formal empire ruled by the monopolies. The outcome of this negotiated ‘space’ will bring forward the mechanisms of cooperation that free agents and monopoly holders used to safeguard their interests.

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