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Was It Important for the Dutch to Colonise Mauritus?

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It was in the year 1595 that the first Dutch expedition to the Indies led by Keyser and Houtman and financed by Amsterdam merchants was carried out. It was the spice trade of the East Indies and its enormous potential for profit that attracted the Dutch in the Indian Ocean. It was at Bantam, on the island of Java, that contact was made with the natives. They have chosen the island of Java as the Portuguese rarely went there. From this trip, Houtman brought back a cargo whose profits though not considerable, encouraged other shipping ventures. The Dutch entered in war with the Portuguese in 1597.

The following year, that is; in 1598, due to the various trade activities the Dutch conducted in the Indian Ocean, that the Dutch Admiral Van Warwick had discovered Mauritius. He took possession of the island for the Dutch and named it Mauritius in the honor of Prince Maurice Van Nassau. During the first forty years, the Dutch never attempt to build a settlement in the island but mainly used it as a calling station, where ships can stop and search for fresh food.

Meanwhile, in 1602, the Dutch have been able to firmly establish themselves in Bantam. They have even sent official representatives in Ceylon and they have been able to chase the Portuguese from Colombo. It was also in the same year that the Dutch East India Company was formed. It was known as the 'Veereenigde Oostindische Companie' or the VOC.

In 1619, Pieterszoon Coen was appointed as the governor of the VOC. He was assigned to direct the operation in the Indian Ocean. Under his government, two main changes occurred. First of all, he moved the headquarters from Bantam to Jakarta and he renamed it Batavia and he laid the foundations for a European City there. Coen was described as "an Albuquerque with a strain of protestant rigidity" by Charliat (Toussaint, 1966).

However, according to Toussaint, this description would have suited the governor Van Diemen best as it was under his government that Batavia "really became an important stronghold" (Toussaint, 1966). It was also during his reign that the Dutch had captured Malacca and thus took the place of the Portuguese for good in 1641. Under the government of Diemen, the Dutch decided to build a first settlement in the island of Mauritius. The Dutch began to show concerned for the island only when they found that other Europeans powers were interested in the region. According to Hazareesingh, they settled in the island, as they wanted to protect their trading rights by establishing a strategic base. In fact, the Dutch was afraid that if they do settle in the island, the English or the French would do so.

Pieter de Gooyer was appointed as the first governor of the island. He was given a list of precise instructions of what must be done in the island. "He was to



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