De eerste Nederlanders overzee, en wat zij daar haalden
The history of an infamous maritime nation, scouring the seas in search of trade and profit
The Dutchmen who sailed the seas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were exotic pioneers. They weren’t interested in conquest or establishing Dutch communities abroad: as far as they were concerned, colonisation was a waste of money. They were after trade and the wealth of other continents: ‘golden trade’. Drawing on travel journals and account books and using catchy seventeenth-century quotes, Wim Wennekes sketches the backgrounds and motives of these enterprising mariners. It is the story of a nation scouring the world, using violence when necessary, in search of anything that would turn a profit.
Wennekes believes that the Dutchmen’s superior knowledge of commodities was decisive for their success in a period of European expansion. They were shrewd traders who introduced hitherto unknown products to the West, which received them all the more enthusiastically. Wennekes sketches an impressive picture of the infinite range of uses for the various new products and describes the seamen who laid the foundations for the global trading empire of the Dutch Republic.
The Dutch dealt in everything because everything has its uses. Gouden handel is full of herbs, spices, dyes, gums, resins, metals, gems and many other products. According to Wennekes the merchants were most interested in herbs and spices. Besides flavouring food, these were also, and more importantly, incorporated in medicines. Pepper, by far the most important item of trade in the seventeenth century, was considered efficacious for gastric ailments, eye disease, dropsy, afflictions of the liver, flatulence and hiccoughs. Gouden handel includes an extensive and fascinating glossary of all these products and their manifold applications.