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Australians might speak Dutch if not for strong emotions

How did Australia, the mysterious southern continent that had captured European imaginations since ancient times, slip from the grasp of the Dutch? Four hundred years ago, the Dutch East India Company…

Unrealistic expectations raised early explorers' hopes beyond all possibility. Larry W. Lo

How did Australia, the mysterious southern continent that had captured European imaginations since ancient times, slip from the grasp of the Dutch?

Four hundred years ago, the Dutch East India Company – the most powerful business in the world – was trading all across the Indian Ocean and had its Asian headquarters in Java. And yet the most hard-headed businessmen of the age saw little value in pursuing trade and settlement in Australia.

The Dutch East India Company (often called the VOC, the initials of its name in Dutch) was set up in 1602 to help Dutch traders and explorers work together to find and supply spices across the world. Historians see the VOC as the world’s first multinational.

The company had trading posts in Africa and Asia and employed more than 30,000 people – at a time when there were only about 2 million Dutch altogether.

So why didn’t they set up in Australia too?

Seeking riches in the great ‘Southland’

The Dutch were looking for anything that could make them a profit, not just back home but also between ports in Asia. They also needed bases where they could refresh their supplies and workforce from Europe, across the Indian Ocean, to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta).

The Dutch knew for sure about a southern land from the time of the Duyfken, a ship that encountered Australia in 1606, and they set to work investigating what the new land had to offer.

The 17th-century mariner Dirk Hartog made a claim in 1616 but the VOC never made a settlement here. Why?

In short, unrealistic expectations raised hopes beyond all possibility. The great “Southland” had long been fabled to be overflowing with gold and peopled with giants – and, for all their practicality, the directors of the VOC hoped such tales might be true.

A Dutch East India Company merchant ship. Wikimedia commons.

When Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh landed close to what would later become Perth on his 1696-7 mission in the Geelvinck, his crew brought news of a little hut and 18-inch footsteps they had found.

But when in the morning the group retraced their steps to the hut, they found “the 18 inch footsteps changed into ordinary ones".

As to gold, VOC instructions required crews to look out for riches:

Certain parts of this South-land are likely to yield gold, a point into which you will enquire as carefully as possible.

They were also to get to know the local inhabitants. What might they have, what might they want, and what would they be willing to trade for it?

Instructions from the Governor-General and Council to the ships sent to search for the shipwrecked Vergulde Draeck, lost in 1656 near the mouth of the Moore River, were told to observe Indigenous people’s “ornaments”, taking particular note:

of what such objects are composed, whether they use any gold, silver or other metal, to see what they may be able and willing to exchange for these which could yield profit for the Company.

But most returned to Batavia profoundly disappointed by the unfamiliar and seemingly barren landscape of the Western Australian coastline.

The shock of a new coastline

Vlamingh, in his detailed 1696-7 voyage along the coast, was scarcely more hopeful. His men had brought back Zamia Palm nuts which had made them all violently ill.

The council in Batavia sent samples of flora along with their conclusions to the managers in the Amsterdam Chamber at the end of Vlamingh’s travels:

[all of it] of little value and decidedly inferior to what elsewhere in India may be found of the same description … they have found little beyond an arid, barren and wild land, both near the shore and so far as they have been inland, without meeting with any human beings, though now and then they have seen fires from afar, some of the men fancying that two or three times they have seen a number of naked blacks, whom however they have never been able to come near to, or to come to parley with; nor have they found there any peculiar animals or bird.

The dock of the Dutch East India Company at Amsterdam. Wikimedia Commons

Even when contemporaries argued that the south-west of Australia offered huge potential as a stepping stone to Asia, and would also be perfect for wine-making, VOC officials refused to contemplate it.

In 1718, Swiss civil servant and entrepreneur Jean-Pierre Purry went as far as to warn the VOC governors not to let their emotions hinder what was a logical place to settle:

It is only one third as far as from here to our Cape. It would be much better to make our cellar and our attic here than elsewhere. If there are any insurmountable objections, I confess I have not seen them.

All I have been able to learn is that there is little hope that treasures may be found in this vast land and that some have experienced the ferocity of its people. This is why these coasts have not been settled … these reasons are not good ones.

Purry insisted: “The country is neither worse nor more evil for that and this should not dissuade us”. In essence: don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers just because it didn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations.

Defeated by the landscape and people

So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks. Was it really good business sense or actually greed and excitement turned to disappointment, dashed hopes, and resentment towards the continent’s land and peoples that governed their decision?

Analysing those emotions is key to our nation’s story.

Join the conversation

76 Comments sorted by

  1. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    Fortunately for modern indigenous people, Australia was settled by the English, and not the Dutch.

    Or Chinese or Japanese.

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  2. Jim KABLE

    teacher

    Unfortunately for the Indigenous people of the time and now - the Australian continent (including TSI and Tasmania) was "settled" - or in correct parlance - invaded - nonetheless - and what happened elsewhere around the world to the locals invaded by the (various) Europeans was massacre/border wars/dispossession/ the introduction of diseases/theft/removal of children/loss of languages and dignity - against which - in spite of all the odds - the Indigenous spirit remains and renewed strength and vigour asserts itself. (Not just here in Australia either, by the way.) This myth that the lucky ones in the equation in the invasion of Australia by the English as opposed to the French or the Spanish or the Portuguese - or the Chinese or the Japanese (where does this come from?) needs to be put to bed. No invasion and control of any place by the invading other is good in any sense for the Indigenous people. Whether English or Dutch. History shows us that!

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    1. In reply to Jim KABLE

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Roger Lane

      Roger indeed. THE most bizarre invading force in history. Two-thirds of its soldiers arrived already shackled as prisoners!

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  3. Rowena Lennox

    Person

    Thanks for an informative article. It's interesting to see the link made between emtions such as 'disappointment, dashed hopes, and resentment' and the settlement of Australia. The 'Mapping Our World' exhibition, which is showing now at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, features Dutch maps of western and northern Australia and seeing them made me rethink about what I had learned in primary school history during the 1970s on the east coast of Australia. We did learn about the Dutch 'bumping into' the west coast of Australia and even getting blown to Tasmania by the Roaring Forties, but the person who really 'discovered' and charted Australia was Captain Cook. What do primary school students learn these days?

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    1. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Rowena Lennox

      It's an interesting question, Rowena. I believe there's a component in about Year 4 History devoted to pre-British settlement interactions of all kinds, so perhaps there is the potential for some discussion of it there? The VOC mapped, surveyed, sailed around and/or interacted with peoples around quite a lot of the continent, including what is now Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. There are also a fair number of place names related to these voyages, not to mention artefacts from the wrecks on display in our museums. For better or worse, they may not have decided to settle but their activities did leave a legacy for modern Australia.

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    2. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks. Was it really good business sense or actually greed and excitement turned to disappointment, dashed hopes, and resentment towards the continent’s land and peoples that governed their decision?"

      Ever heard of Rangaku? If not, you might want to look it up, they were seriously determined traders and rational businessmen

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    3. Rowena Lennox

      Person

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Thanks, Susan. I've read some of the Dutch accounts of sightings of dingoes in the seventeenth century. I love how history gets more complex and more interesting the more one finds out.

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    4. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks"

      It's no secret, they were determined traders and rational businessmen, which goes back to your article about the times of the VOC

      They were the only western nation which had a presence within Japan for around two centuries.

      Your article is about the Dutch not being interested in Australia and hence make the conclusion that they were not the traders and businessmen…

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    5. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Thanks Rene. Rangaku, as I understood it, is what the Japanese knew about the Dutch through their contact during this period.

      Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that the Dutch were not businessmen and traders, not at all, nor that their experiences with Australia show this. I'm also not referring to VOC claims about its identity - the claims I'm talking about are made by textbooks and previous studies.

      What I am suggesting is that the decisions of the VOC regarding Australia were not made only in economic or resource terms, but that emotions also played a role - one that has not been a focus in the scholarly literature about the VOC and Australia thus far. Hope this makes some sense now?

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Rowena Lennox

      Rowena, a generation later, my Year 6 class studied William Janz' voyage to QLD in 1606, followed by Dirk Hartog's voyage to the West Coast. The date 1606 has been burned on my brain ever since; as has Janz' mistaken map.

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    7. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Rangaku, is much more than that, it created an entire different way of thinking for the Japanese, especially in dealing with Western countries and they have been highly successful in it.

      But I can assure you, there wasn't a lot of emotion involved with the VOC, they made Gordon Gecko look like an amateur

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    8. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      "So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks"
      Oh no, they were the real deal alright. The Dutch invented modern finance, and capitalism itself.

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    9. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I don't dispute that they were business-minded, but they weren't - always - only governed by economics, I am suggesting. We haven't broached this as yet in the comments, but religious beliefs were also pretty central to the way they conducted themselves around the world.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      "The Dutch invented modern finance, and capitalism itself."

      The Netherlands is where Ikea is registered, after all :-)

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    11. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Think you have to separate religion from the VOC, at the beginning of the VOC, Holland was the centre of religious freedom those day, I say Holland, because we literally only speak about 2 provinces of what is known as The Netherlands ( lots of times referred to as Holland)

      The likes of Spinoza was allowed to say things, that would have cost him his life anywhere else. Before that there was Erasmus and both of these had and still have an enormous influence of what is referred to these day as the…

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    12. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Yeah, they can actually lay claim to that one, plus of course total football :)

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    13. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      I can't of course comment upon the documents that you are reading to form this view, but in the Company archives that I've been studying, religion cannot be neatly separated from the other ideologies at work. Almost every text begins and/or ends with reference to God and the Calvinist principles that inform the Company's activities and decision-making. The religious notion of 'Dutch righteousness' about interactions with other lands and peoples at this period has been well studied by scholars. Their particular confessional stance certainly influenced dealings with Catholic missions and settlements around the globe.

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    14. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      I'm not reading any documents, basic Dutch high school stuff you get in history.

      And almost every text those days in basically every country made reference to God those days, doesn't mean to say the VOC started in the name of God or anything like.

      They didn't attack Catholic Portuguese settlements because of religious reasons, it was for business reasons

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    15. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Good to know you can read Old Dutch, Most Dutch can't make a lot of sense out of it :)

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    16. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Hi Susan, well of course nobody is *always* business-minded/whatever. Nevertheless, I am curious that the archives reveal the Dutch VOC trading officer would spent too much time NOT being business-minded. These men actively pursue young women [and I do hope you have evidence of juicy off-piste trysts with some of the islander ladies, and no doubt boys], get married, have children, bury their parents, go to war (often many times). While some amass great wealth, rather more achieve genteel comfort…

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    17. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I don't know that business-minded and emotions have to be in opposition, do they? Surely emotions drive, or at least shape, economic decisions - there are a fair few stock market bubbles and the GFC are examples of their relationship, aren't they? There's also tulipomania, of course! Allowing emotions to be part of the historical narrative and to see what role they play in decision-making, why and how, is what I'd interested in finding out through my research.

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    18. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks"
      Susan could suggest the names of one or two for background reading?

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    19. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      A great overall account of the Company is Femme Gaastra‬‬‬‬'s The Dutch East India Company‬: expansion and decline (2003).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ On VOC and Australia specifically, Sigmond and Zuiderbaan's 1979 book, Dutch Discoveries of Australia: Shipwrecks, Treasures and Early Voyages off the West Coast, has a lot of nice detail, and there are also good, recent summary analyses of the same in chapters of The Dutch Down Under, 1606-2006, co-ordinating author Nonja Peters (2006). Hope this helps.

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  4. Chris O'Neill

    Retired Way Before 70

    "But most returned to Batavia profoundly disappointed by the unfamiliar and seemingly barren landscape of the Western Australian coastline."

    It's not all like that of course. A fair bit of the south-west coastline gets more than a metre of rain annually and a fair bit more over 800 mm. I think "barrenness" was not the real reason. England may have been interested in resource extraction, but that wasn't sufficient on its own to make them set up Sydney when they did. I wonder how long it would have taken for European settlement of Australia if the USA had not become independent of England?

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    1. Russell Walton

      Retired

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      " I wonder how long it would have taken for European settlement of Australia if the USA had not become independent of England?"

      Yes, fascinating question, perhaps "Australie" rather than "Australia", or perhaps no European settlement and Australia became the Indonesian island of "South Irian". All catastrophic scenarios for the continent's indigenous people.

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    2. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Agree, hence "seemingly barren". It depended on which bits of the coastline the vessels saw, hit or passed by, and the time of year that they were here. Certainly the argument (or prediction) that Purry makes to the Company is that the south-west is indeed fertile.

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "I wonder how long it would have taken for European settlement of Australia if the USA had not become independent of England?"

      I guess that, like New South Wales later on, a dependent USA would eventually have not put up with any more convicts from England. But there were other places that England could have dumped convicts so perhaps the idea was to settle Australia by using convict labor and simply getting rid of convicts was not the main objective in bringing them to Australia.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "I wonder how long it would have taken for European settlement of Australia if the USA had not become independent of England?"
      The French would have nabbed it. Just a few months after the First Fleet raised the Union Jack, Jean-François de Galaup's ship landed in Botany Bay. He was the Comte de La Pérouse, which is where the Botany Bay suburb La Perouse gets its name.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Compared to those parts of the world VOC operated, the western Australian coastline might as well have been Mars. It WAS a primitive, useless barren landscape. The VOC was right to give it a wide berth.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Susan, Purry's ideas only had merit if colonisation was being considered. This was not the case for the Dutch. This explains why Purry was dismissed by the Dutch as a baboon, who dreamt of recreating a European agrarian feudalism; an experiment he had already led to spectacular failure in the American colonies. Some might not be too surprise that he subsequently employed by the French East India Company. I would commend the commercial perspicacity of the Dutch in having the emotional sophistication to spot such an unstable charlatan as Purry a mile away.

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  5. Russell Walton

    Retired

    Interesting article, however, in my opinion, the Dutch lost interest in Australia for sound business reasons, it's not on the way to anywhere and compared to the Americas, SE Asia and South Africa it's a rather poor piece of real estate.
    Given 17th century technology, Australia would have been a high risk investment for the East India Company, they had substantial investments in Asia and footholds in fabulously wealthy North and South America. Why divert resources?

    As to the world's "first multinational", the Templars probably have a much better claim as that organisation started in the 12th century.

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  6. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    While interesting, Susan, and a nice idea, I'm not so sure you have a strong argument on the failure of the early modern Dutch to settle Australia. Was it simply emotional, and according to the one promoter?

    Throughout the period, firstly it was mercantile interests who did the exploring albeit under crown license, not the crown, and who did not colonise in the same way we saw later. What they did was establish trading posts, and associated with them farms and gardens so they could provision both…

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    1. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Thanks Tom. I wouldn't suggest that the decision was purely emotional, but rather than emotions play in it a role that has not been a focus in the scholarly analyses to date. I was surprised in reading over the VOC archival documents, reports, letters, instructions and so on, how explicit feelings were in the way members of the Company expressed themselves, and also how individuals in the Company used different kinds of emotional language to achieve goals, to coerce others to a point of view, or to inspire action. I'd just say that political and commercial decisions, then and now, are often shaped by sentiments and these are worth looking at in our explanatory framework.

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Susan, I guess part of the confusion here is this binary of emotion versus business decision-making.

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    3. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Agreed, I don't see it as a binary (see comment earlier above). There's room for both. My argument is that we have emotions as well economics included in the narrative we make about the Company because I think feelings play an important role in human actions that we understood intuitively perhaps but don't always explore analytically.

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    4. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      On this one matter of the role of emotion in history, and nothing to do with the Dutch or the VOC, it may not be widely known perhaps that all of the original magistrates in the Swan River Colony were Rifle Brigade Captains with the rank of Brevet Major on half pay following the defeat of Napoleon.

      On completion of their tour of duty all but one retired back to England. That one was John Molloy of the Vasse, who stayed on because his beloved wife Georgiana had died in childbirth and was buried here.

      See Hardwick, Gil. 'The Irish RM: Captain John Molloy of the Vasse', in R.H.W. Reece (ed.) The Irish in Western Australia, Studies in Western Australian History, Centre for Western Australian History, University of Western Australia, Vol. 20, April 2000.

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  7. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    Thanks for a fascinating and thought-provoking account. But I can’t agree with your conclusion: “So perhaps the Dutch weren’t always the determined traders and rational businessmen they are made out to be in the textbooks.”
    Certainly, from a present-day viewpoint, the Dutch missed out, but it was precisely their commonsense and industriousness that convinced them, after intensive and extensive coastal exploration, not to bother settling the great continent. They saw that it would be a costly if…

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    1. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Thanks Paul. I think it's useful to distinguish what the VOC was look for in different places. Spices and other tradable goods are certainly key, but they also needed places to replenish crew, stocks and so on around the Indian Ocean. I think the idea that Purry had in proposing the SW to the Company was something more akin, and additional, to the Cape Colony, a convenient basecamp en route to Batavia, where crops could be grown, and so on, based in part on his idea that their climates, and resources, would be similar.

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    2. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Thanks for getting back, Susan. I think another factor with the SW of Australia was its inhospitable coastline, especially at the time of the VOC, when determining longitude was a huge challenge. OK, the southern corner of WA might have been fine for replenishing water and maybe food, if farms could have been established, but it was well out of the way. Further north, quite a number of VOC ships were splattered along reefs and islands, until the company finally declared that part of the world totally out of bounds (I think that was around 1700). In 1977, I dived (with a WA Museum expedition) on the wreck of "Zeewijk", VOC flagship (on its maiden voyage) that hit the southern Abrolhos Islands in 1727, where it should not have been, according to strict and explicit VOC instructions. The crew survived, built a new boat, and sailed on to Batavia, where its captain got into big trouble for disobedience.

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    3. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Wow, that must have been a fabulous experience! The Zeewijk is another fascinating and, in parts, tragic part of the continent's history. I'm thinking in particular of what happened to PIeter Engelse and Adriaan Spoor, accused of a homosexual act ('the stupid sin'), and each marooned on a different island among what are now the Mangrove Islands...Very sad.

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    4. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Yes, so much rich history, and in such a beautiful part of the world. No doubt you've read "The Wreck on Half-Moon Reef" by Hugh Wotsisname, the journalist? While camping on Gun Island, as the expedition members sat around the fire at night after a hard day of excavating and diving, we'd read extracts from the ship's log, which survived! Even though in Dutch, we were able to work out its meaning. Those two marooned youngsters certainly were treated harshly - we actually visited the islands on…

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Paul, if the English had such a hard time with the Swan River colony, despite the input of the world's greatest colonial thinkers (Edward Gibbon Wakefield and co), the Dutch never had a hope in hell. The very commercial savvy VOC saw that very early on.

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    6. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      What does still need to be factored into this equation is the fact that until invention of the maritime chronometer and with it means finally for reliably and accurately calculating longitude, not achieved until the mid-18th century, the west coast of Australia was not only inhospitable but positively dangerous.

      "Splattered along reefs and islands" is an apt summary of the situation, and good reason for declaring the area out of bounds, though while perhaps safer to follow the Indian coast around much quicker for a skilled captain knowing the risk to cut across sometimes.

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    7. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Yep, I can't recall the details, but the VOC in its instruction to mariners stipulated they sail east from the Cape of Good Hope for so many days, then take a sharp turn left until a certain latitude, and then keep heading eastwards. It meant leaving the westerly wind belt, which seriously slowed down the passage, but it was much safer than the Brouwer route. This direction, of course, was introduced way too late for the "Batavia", notoriously wrecked in the northern Abrolhos in 1629, but Jan Steyns, the skipper on the "Zeewijk" had fanciful notions of finding his missing friend, the captain of another ship, gone missing not long previously. It might have been "Zuytdorp", although that had been wrecked (on the WA mainland coast) in 1712. Steyns ignored explicit VOC rules to look for his mate and survivors and, more importantly, to retrieve the cargo which included gold, hoping to return to Amsterdam a hero. Sadly, it didn't work out according to his plans.

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  8. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    Well I am Dutch, so here you go.

    Those days Indonesia was the Jewel in the Crown and it was all about spices. Australia, simply wasn't of any interest, because there were no spices to be found on the scale that were in Indonesia. With other words, no profit to be made, so see you later.

    Nothing to do with emotion

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Not even the English saw any commercial prospects in Australia. They set up nothing more than a tinpot jail. When they arrived it was the most primitive place on earth. It wasn't until some canny entrepreneur - John Macarthur - picked up six merino rams and one ewe on his way back to Sydney from England. That was in 1804. Ten years later a new breed of entrepreneur told the state to get knotted, taking their merinos beyond the Great Dividing Range. Within a generation, NSW was the richest country in the world.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Surely the English had other choices for convict dumping-places after the USA was closed off.

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    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris, not really. They tried. There were all sorts of desperate ideas that lasted a day, or so, including Africa, except for that pesky mosquito problem.

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    4. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Why didn't they like Canada, India, South Africa (which they took 7 years later anyway)?

      As with South Africa, I suspect they didn't want the French to grab it.

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  9. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Gee you ask a lot of questions Susan Broomhall

    "" How did Australia, the mysterious southern continent that had captured European imaginations since ancient times, slip from the grasp of the Dutch?

    Traffick of Empire was one of the problems with New Holland - The natives knew nothing of it, and J Banks even used it as an argument when a Terra Nullius doctrine was employed by the British Empire to found their convict settlements. The Brits had reason to colonise the place (The colony of NSW…

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Indeed, every report written by a Dutchman, was not written happily or voluntarily. After finally escaping back to the metropolis nirvana of Batavia, then Holland, not one survivor had even a single good word to say about the place. It would have been the equivalent of Goldman Sachs Global Synthetics Swaps Managing Director waking up one day in the middle of Arkansas with no mobile phone, credit cards, or lipgloss. The only people he sees are rare members of the brothers in "Deliverance".

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    2. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Spare a thought for Abraham Leeman then. He has the distinction of being left twice on the west coast. First with the Vergulde Draeck in 1656, when he was one of a few sent back to Batavia to seek help. It took 41 days from them to get there. Then again in 1658 when he was part of the shore party that was separated from the Waekende Boei, looking for the survivors of the Draeck. This time they sailed the boat back up in 21 days. I think he had earned the right to be cranky at that point, poor man.

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    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      "The Dutch however, had no pressing need to colonise a new land."
      Garry this difference with the British situation is so little understood, but so crucial. By definition, a "colony" is a settlement explicitly chosen to be populated by emigres from the colonisng mother country. The Dutch did not do that - at least not in Asia - as they were traders, or as you say "trafick", rather than manufacturers. It’s also true that Britain also had mere trading ports dotted about its empire - mostly in Africa…

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    4. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hello Andy, you seem to have a pretty good handle on why New Holland was colonised. Though, having studied enough of the workings of Empire, it's all too evident that Australians today - don't.

      Especially about the convicts - where yes they were branded as convicts in the UK, but in reality, they were sent here as "exiles" with a chance for a new life. Indeed, many. if not most, rarely saw the inside of a prison in the new land - instead they were assigned as unpaid servants to squatters, and…

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    5. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      "VOC was a group of capitalists, even if one thoroughly approved by the Dutch government". Not surprising, and probably vice versa, given that VOC virtually WAS the Dutch government - it had its own judges, its own army, its own church, and I think its activities accounted for the vast bulk of the national economy. It was VOC officials who tried and executed the "Batavia" mutineers.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      Susan, I can't believe the number of accounts I have read of ships running aground, in some of the most areas - for example, right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, only to be rescued by some other passing ship two months later!

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    7. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Garry, I never really learnt much about convict life until I started a Law degree. I cam out of that process thinking that those transported from London to Botany Bay, did not know it at the time, but they had just won mankind's most generous lottery! There is just so much in all this, but most of our citizens are like "oh, the inhumanity suffered by the convicts." Bull.

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    8. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hi Andy, these chapters are an interesting tapestry in the early history, however a raft of other explorers had been trawling the shoreline well before Cook arrived

      Lieutenant Cook did not need to look for New Holland. The Dutch maps made it quite clear where it was. Cook was under secret orders to search for Terra Australis Incognita, the unknown southern land, which was believed to extend possibly as far as the Antarctic. It was not realised that this was actually the same as New Holland…

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    9. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Actually, nobody - Dutch, British, Spanish, French, Portugese - ever, ever described Terra Australis Cognita, New Holland, New South Wales, or Australia as "Terra Nullius", as no such term had ever existed.

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    10. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hi Andy, the British did. Indeed, it began with Joseph Banks and his address to the house of commons before the first fleet sailed. The term itself goes back to the Romans, and yes it was never pushed as a primary tool by the British, but it was indeed employed by them. (sort of behind closed doors - rarely in print)

      Also- In 1835 Governor Bourke implemented the doctrine of terra nullius by proclaiming that Indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land, nor could an individual person…

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    11. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Hi Garry, presumably you are talking about Banks' testimony before the The Bunbury House of Commons Committee of Inquiry Into Transportation in 1779? Banks never mentions "terra nullius". And why would he? His purpose was to give a detailed account of the biophysical conditions of Botany Bay, and what would be required to establish a small penal settlement there.
      As someone who has studied Roman Law (in Latin), I have never encountered "terra nullius" in any of Justinian's Code, whether Digests…

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    12. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hi Andy .. yours are comments with some bones on them. Well done, if you ask me. I too have pondered the advent of terra nullius, and have more or less concluded it was an unsaid convention - with nothing ever put to paper by the British. The thing is, even then. some things were never to enter a public record - Indeed, much like Joe Hockey's real reasons for knocking back the ADM takeover of Graincorp the other day. My bet is one could search the Canberra archives in 20 years time and find…

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    13. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Hi Garry, I once pondered the advent of TN, and discovered it had nothing to do with Australian history, or any history whatsoever during the colonial period we are discussing. On what possible basis could you have “more or less concluded it was an unsaid convention - with nothing ever put to paper by the British”? There is no doubt nothing was ever put to paper by the British. What evidence could lead you to make conclusions about secret conversations, using a term that has absolutely no presence in thousands of years of extant evidence? WHY wouldn’t the British print the term, especially if they relied on it as an alleged international law? Are you saying that the rest of the international community printed the term? Well they didn’t. On what basis can you possibly associate this term with that period of history, when every shred of evidence – tonnes and tonnes of it, billions of pages, documents, images – has never said boo about the term?

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    14. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Justice Brennan (Chief Justice of Australia) ----- And Terra Nullius
      Justice Brennan summarised the international law in these words:

      'International law recognised conquest, cession and occupation of territory that was terra nullius as three of the effective ways of acquiring sovereignty. No other way is presently relevant. The great voyages of European discovery opened to European nations the prospect of occupying new and valuable territories that were already inhabited. As among themselves…

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    15. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Hi Garry, this is a bit confusing. First, you said Joseph Banks was the source of TN; then that it was only ever used behind closed doors. Are you now saying that Justice Brennan has evidence of what went on behind closed doors in 18 century England, that was never, ever put in print? He might, but I would be very surprised if a judge would base his judgment on 'parlour room whispers' from 200 years before he was born. If you are arguing there are 18th century sources I have never seen, I'd love to see them.

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    16. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      No, I'm with you on this one, ...ie: Sir Francis Brennan was probably flying kite, (like lotsa them). However, who's to argue with the Chief Justice.

      As for Joseph Banks - well plenty of historians pin it on him with the Beauchamp Select Committee - however, I too would like to see the hard documents from these 1800's meetings. (That is, the primary evidence)

      The problem with discovery, all to often lies with historians - and their spin

      For instance ... MacMillan sources terra nullius…

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    17. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Garry, it's Gerard Brennan, not Francis, and he was not Chief Justice when he made those claims, and even if he were. I should hope every citizen would challenge him, loudly, and publicly, if he was wrong. Remember, he serves us, not the other way around. If you think that judges and historians are right on this, all you have to do is check the 18th century evidence they cite. One advantage, we have over Gerard Brennan is that in 1993, there was no internet like there is today. of course, nowhere near everything document and image on the planet is not online. But I will lay money that any evidence Brennan relied on in 1993, can be checked in a flash, by any of us, here and now.

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    18. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Yes you are right about Francis Gerard Brennan,(commonly known as Gerard) I just raced to find more of his background.

      On his TN determinations - I'm pretty sure they were borrowed from an historian, not legal sources - and maybe an American at that - A chap doing stuff at Cambridge

      Nonetheless - like Joe Hockey and ADM, he never left footprints

      Whatever, he handed down a political judgement -(cloaked in the guise of law)

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  10. Leo Braun

    Conscientious Objector

    "The VOC it self was started by a few businessmen, they were Catholic, Jews, Dutch protestant etc. They were never driven by religion, but by making money. To finance it all, they invented the concept of shareholders and profits would be shared, based on the number of shares they put in. Then next thing was the stock market, people could actually buy a stuk (stock - part of) the company. Religion came much later, but was never really part of the VOC. Religion came along once certain points were established…

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  11. Andy Cameron

    Care giver

    "The 17th-century mariner Dirk Hartog made a claim in 1616 but the VOC never made a settlement here. Why?"
    Susan I was not aware of any claims made by the Dutch at this time?

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    1. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Hi Andy,

      I’m not clear if you are querying what it was that Dirk Hartog did. If so, you can find out more about the pewter plate marking his landfall here: http://museum.wa.gov.au/research/research-areas/maritime-archaeology/batavia-cape-inscription/cape-inscription/hartog

      A series of charts thereafter labelled the area Hartog had reached as “Eendrachtsland” (after his ship, Eendracht).

      Whether Hartog's actions and plate count as a claim, as a memorial, or as a letter (in the tradition of…

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    2. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "Whether Hartog's actions and plate count as a claim, as a memorial, or as a letter (in the tradition of postal stones) is, of course, a matter of interpretation."
      Not really. There was never any suggestion that Eendrachtsland, let alone Terra Australia Incognita were ever Dutch possessions.
      "This can be seen from the instructions for the 1622 planned voyage of exploration to the Southland by the yachts Hasewint and Haringh:"
      And there is no doubt that every nation going wanted a piece of Terra…

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    3. Susan Broomhall

      Winthrop Professor of Early Modern History at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Tasman uses Nova Hollandia, that suggests some intent to claim the land we now call Australia. Dampier also referred to it as New Holland, as do many globes, maps and charts of the period, and early nineteenth-century documentation, even after the British settlement in NSW, sometimes meaning the whole continent and sometimes meaning the western part. Whether that interest is 'sincere' or not is perhaps another matter, but I think this terminology reflects an understanding among Europeans that the Dutch, via the VOC, had made some claim for these lands as possessions of the States-General.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Susan Broomhall

      "Tasman uses Nova Hollandia, that suggests some intent to claim the land we now call Australia."
      It suggests no intent whatsoever. Just a dude wanting to fill in some major blanks in maps. And I am not aware of even one conflict - commercial, diplomatic, military centred on competing claims to territory anywhere in Australia between the Dutch and British over the establishment of British settlements on Van Diemen's Land, he Swan River, or anywhere else.

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