Date of Graduation

Fall 2019


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Eric Nelson


Dutch East India Company, Batavia, Indonesia, Chinese merchants, massacre, cooperation

Subject Categories

Asian History | Dutch Studies | European History | History


From its establishment in 1602, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was an extensive and powerful trading company that sought to gain a monopoly over the spice trade in Southeast Asia, often using coercion to do so. In 1619 the VOC established its central base of operations in Batavia on the Indonesian island of Java. From the start, the VOC pursued a relationship of cooperation with the Chinese merchants in Batavia, which eschewed the use of violence in favor of other means of control, such as taxation and requirements to register with the authorities. For one hundred and twenty-one years, the VOC opted to treat the Chinese community as useful conduits who offered the Dutch important access to labor and trading opportunities. The massacre of the Chinese residents in Dutch Batavia in 1740 overturned this century-long established approach to ruling the Chinese community. Unlike scholars who have argued that the massacre was part of a wider pattern of colonial violence, this thesis will argue that the 1740 massacre was an anomaly for the Dutch governance of the Chinese merchants in Batavia. Analyzing the longer time frame before the massacre distinguishes this thesis from those that also see it as an anomaly. By examining official VOC records, letters between VOC officials, and the memoirs of several admirals, it is quite evident that various conditions, such as an influx of poor Chinese laborers into Batavia’s surrounding area, an economic depression, and corruption among Chinese and Dutch officials, generated the 1740 massacre. The massacre was not an accepted policy of the VOC since the Governor in charge was arrested. Even when war broke out throughout Java after the massacre, some remnants of earlier cooperation between the VOC and the Batavian Chinese were still evident.


© Kimberly Wilhelmina Wells

Open Access