Annual conference Werkgroep Zeventiende Eeuw: The cultural dimension of Dutch overseas expansion
“It is only money and not knowledge that our people are seeking [in the East Indies], which is to be lamented”, complained the Amsterdam mayor and VOC governor, Nicolaes Witsen, in 1712. The Dutch trading companies may have been associated with various qualities, but an interest in culture was not one of them. None of the VOC officials even noted the presence of the world’s biggest Buddhist temple, the Borobudur, on the island of Java, leaving its re-discovery to the British in 1814. No Dutch writer tried to emulate the epic celebration of the Portuguese maritime empire by Luís de Camões. Dutch expansion had an obvious impact on the sciences and medicine, as demonstrated in Harold Cook’s Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (2007). But what, if any, was its impact on culture and the humanities? This conference brings together historians of culture, art, books, and literature to arrive at a fuller picture of the cultural dimensions of Dutch overseas expansion.