Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period

The Project

How did free agents in the Dutch Republic react to the creation of colonial monopolies (VOC and WIC) by the States General? This project answers this question by looking at the role individuals played in the construction of an informal global empire parallel to the institutional empire devised by the States General and enabled by the chartered monopolies.

Free agents came into conflict with the Companies from the very beginning of the monopolies. Their defiance against the state-imposed monopolies – that is to say, the discrepancy between the goals and needs of the state-sponsored monopolies and the interests and objectives of the agents – drove the latter to work against, together with or in name of- the monopolies and, ultimately, the State. Even though the mechanisms of opposition, cooperation and appropriation/representation may be separately identified, they were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The informal empire that resulted from the individual choices of free agents and their networks as a reaction to the State imposed monopolies was, in our view, a borderless, self-organized, often cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluri-national and stateless world that can only be characterized as global.

Full Program Description


The Team

Project Leader and Supervisor:
Dr. Cátia Antunes (Section Economic and Social History, History Institute)


PhD 1:
K.J. (Kate) Ekama, MA
Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period: Suing the Monopolies – The Case of the VOC and the WIC

Research Question: How did free agents oppose the monopolies held by the VOC and the WIC when suing the Companies?

Full PhD 1 Description


PhD 2:
J.J.S (Joris) van den Tol, MA
Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period: Lobbying for Brazil and Taiwan – Lobby Groups to the Companies and the States General

Research Question: 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?

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PhD 3:
E.L.L. (Erik) Odegard, MA
Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period: Serving the East and the West – Strategies in Imperial Career Paths Within the VOC and the WIC

Research Question: How did free agents protect their interests by supporting or undermining the career path of employees of the VOC and the WIC? The case of Johan Maurits van Nassau (Governor of New Holland-Brazil, 1636-1644) and Rijckloff van Goens (Governor-General in Batavia, 1678-1681).

Full PhD 3 Description


Last Modified: 09-12-2015