- Troubles in Siam: The Last Years of the Dutch East India Company’s Lodge in Ayutthaya, 1760–67
Documents associated with the Dutch East India Company (1602–1799), better known under its acronym VOC, and now kept in the National Archives of Indonesia and the Netherlands, provide a unique look at the very last years of the Dutch at Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam (Thailand). This article’s point of departure will be the contemporary news of the sad fate of the last Resident Nicolaas Bang and his family, as communicated from the Dutch lodge in Ayutthaya to the Dutch Company administrators in Batavia (Jakarta). By contextualizing the information sent from Siam, the article provides a broader understanding of the Dutch presence in Siam that ended with the closure of the lodge in 1765, when Burmese armies again invaded Siam and threatened its capital. Two years later, the last king of the Ban Phlu Luang dynasty had fled, and the once magnificent city was sacked, looted, and burned. A survey of the widespread activities of the Dutch East India Company and its homeland, the Dutch Republic of the Seven United Provinces, will help contextualize historically the narrative of the eventful 1760s.
The Dutch Republic and Its Trade, 1588–1795
Emperor Charles V (1500–58) in 1549 united the 17 Netherlandish provinces or Low Countries into one political entity, [End Page 291] detaching them from the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations. In several acts between 1554 and 1556, the emperor handed over these countries’ administrations to his son Philip before retreating to a monastery in Spain.1 Philip II not only reigned as king over Spain, but also over the Spanish possessions in Italy (the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily) and the overseas colonies in the Americas. A particularly valuable part of his inheritance was the Low Countries, but it was there especially that Philip had to counter the Reformation. At first, the fight against the heretics seemed successful, but it later proved to be one of the causes for the loss of the northern part of the Netherlandish provinces. An additional source of political troubles in the Netherlandish territories was his policy of administrative centralization and the search for new income through new taxation. Opposition came first from the nobility, but other social groups joined in due course.
In early 1579, the southern group of Netherlandish provinces decided to end the revolt and to reconcile with the king. One of the treaty articles stipulated that the Roman Catholic faith would be the only religion tolerated. The northern group could not accept this, which led to the Union of Utrecht (1579). Their struggle continued, and two years later in 1581, they renounced their allegiance to Philip II as their legal lord and king.2 In these years, William, Count of Nassau and [End Page 292] Prince of Orange, and former Stadholder of the King,3 had become the undisputed champion of the struggle against Spain. Since a sovereign was needed, the States-General offered the sovereignty to Henry III, king of France. Henry III refused, but agreed to have it offered to his younger brother Francis, Duke of Anjou. Bad relations between the Dutch States-General and the Duke of Anjou caused his return to France in 1583.
In the face of Spanish military advances and the murder of William of Orange (1584), the Dutch States-General asked Elizabeth of England to become their sovereign. She refused but was willing to send Robert Dudley, Count of Leicester, as commander of a military force in 1585. Based upon the treaty between England and the United Provinces, the Dutch United Provinces became a kind of protectorate, the Count of Leicester exercising political authority on the Queen’s behalf. During the Count’s absence in England in 1586, the States-General broke the contract and proclaimed their own sovereignty over the Dutch United Provinces in 1588. The Dutch Republic was born.
Maurice of Nassau (1567–1625), Prince of Orange, son and successor of William I of Orange, was a brilliant strategist and military leader; his policies insured safe frontiers and the Dutch Republic’s...