Mapping India: Heritage

An introduction to the shared past of India and the Netherlands.

A Shared History of India and the Netherlands

Dutch East India Company

Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611) was the first Dutchman in India. He worked as the secretary to a Portuguese Archbishop of Goa, which gave him access to secret Portuguese maps for spice routes.

Van Linschoten wrote down his experiences in Itinerario and, thanks to the routes he obtained, India was opened to the Dutch. From the early 17th century onwards, the Dutch traded with India through the Dutch East India Company, whose sailors voyaged to and from the Indonesian archipelago to gather spices for their trade. In India, the Dutch East India Company acquired a number of Portuguese assets, primarily forts, which enabled the Company to operate along the Coromandel Coast, where they traded textiles, raw silk and opium

Dutch Inspector-General Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein (1636-1691) controlled the trade in India. Van Rheede wrote the book Hortus Malabaricus about the flora of Kerala. The first Indian who travelled to the Dutch Republic might be Gerrit Mosopatam. He was the interpreter for preacher Phillipus Baldaeus, and the two men are portrayed together in painting kept at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Because most of the trade took place in the coastal areas, many SCH artefacts can be found there.

Migration
In 1863, after the abolition of the slave trade, the Dutch needed labour for the plantations in Suriname. The Dutch recruited contract labourers in India, and the first 399 Indians to sail to Suriname arrived on June 5, 1873. A total of 34,000 Indians sailed to Suriname, with many returning to India after their contracts expired. Other labourers stayed in Suriname or migrated to the Netherlands after Suriname gained its independence in 1975. The legacy of these travels still can be seen in India, Suriname and the Netherlands.