January 1, 1611 - The Rise and Fall of the Dutch Republic

By Brendan Reilly
In 1568 a Dutch Stadtholder named William the Orange had the radical thought of starting a revolution against Habsburg Spain in order to gain freedom for the Netherlands. This revolution was ultimately a failure yet it started something inside of the Dutch people. The independence effort continued until 1580 when they ran into a problem. The Dutch were a primarily seafaring people and gained most of their wealth from the seas. At this time they did not own many colonies and a means to access money and resources. Lisbon had been a long time trader with the Dutch and was one of the reasons they were still operating. Portugal had a large monopoly on almost all global trade, but in 1580 they were overthrown by the Spanish empire. The first thing the Spanish did with this new power was severing the trading tie between the Dutch and Lisbon. At this point the Dutch had been stripped of there main economic provider and only had one direction to look to, East.

The Dutch contracted many ships and sailors to travel on the treacherous journey eastward in order to establish new trading networks. These journey’s were often times unprofitable and out of the 65 ships that went only 9 out of the 10 returned. Upon their return some of the ships may be badly damaged or missing half the crew. However, due to the patronage of the prime minister of Holland the expedition ships united together to form the United East India Company or the VOC for short. This was the first corporation within a nation state and offered a new model of economic development and trade. The motives for this action were clear, the Dutch needed a stronger force to challenge the likes of the powerful Spanish empire. The VOC provided the aspiring Dutch Republic with the necessary funding in order to operate. The next step was setting up a trading house in the center of Amsterdam where a Dutch citizen could buy and sell shares of a company. This gave the VOC claims on its profits, this was the early works of the Stock Market. Investing in the VOC became popular and profitable and soon every rich man in the Netherlands had put even as little as one coin into this vastly expanding empire. This raised over 6 million guilders[1] which in today’s money would be over 12 million dollars, This is incredible considering that half of the dutch land is still partially controlled by the Spanish. The Dutch used this money in order to fund new business ventures eastward and gain new territory.

The first territory to be conquered by the newly formed United East India Company was modern day Jakarta in 1611. By slaughtering the locals and constructing a large spice plantation the VOC set up a new headquarters on the Island of Java as the dutch expanded eastwards. The VOC also constructed factories in India in order to sell silk to China and Japan for the precious and valuable silver. In 1648 the Netherlands gained its independence from Spain and no longer had to split some of their funds with their previous occupiers. They amassed enormous resources that were used for further expansion and colonization. The VOC’s power was continuing to expand, capturing Cape Town and eventually New Zealand. Yet this was short lived as in the late 18th century the Dutch faced some difficulties. In 1784 the Dutch lost an incredibly important war that being the 4th Anglo-Dutch war. Again in 1795 Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the Dutch and the surrounding Netherlands. This lead it to be sapped of its money and economic power, until the mighty United East India Company declared bankruptcy just before the turn of the century in 1799. The Dutch would not return to the world stage the same as it was in there golden age.

The United East India Company was the first Stock Market that the world had ever seen. It became the inspiration for Wall Street and the modern day US stock exchange. Without the model of economic trading of the VOC, the United States and would likely not have such a large economy. The Dutch set the precedent for how even an occupied country can still find new ways to innovate and survive. Without the Dutch the world and its trade would not be the same today.

Works Cited

Dyck, Jeremy. “When The Dutch Ruled The World: Rise and Fall of the Dutch East

India Company.” medium.com. Last modified October 7, 2019. Accessed May 18,

  1. https://medium.com/bc-digest/



This was a heavy provider of my research and help me timeline the series

of events that was the Dutch Golden Age. I was beginning to get lost in the

sea of information that other sites provided yet this one was very concise

and to the point on the information I needed. It was a strong and reliable

source that I used form my paper.


The Editors Of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Guilder.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Last

modified February 2019. Accessed May 18, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/


This provided me with a simple definition to a term that I did not



“Netherlands East India Company.” fotw.info. Last modified November 11, 2017.

Accessed May 18, 2020. https://fotw.info/flags/nl-indco.html.

This was the citation for the flag image.


[1] The Editors Of Encyclopedia Britannica, “Guilder,” Encyclopedia Britannica. A guilder is Dutch Currency.