Archives created in Asia and South Africa

3. Archives in India

fter the cession of the remaining Dutch establishments in India to the English authorities in 1825, parts of the archives of these establishments (Coromandel, Surat and Bengal) were sent to Batavia, from where it was shipped to the Netherlands in 1863. It now forms the collection of the voormalige Nederlandse Bezittingen in Voor-Indië (former Dutch Possessions in India) in the National Archives of the Netherlands (see the websitepage with section 4 about archives transferred from India to the Netherlands). The bulk of the Dutch archives which remained behind in India were taken over by the English administration. Many, if not most, records seem to have disappeared between that time and the present(6). Several remnants were finally concentrated in the State Archives in Madras (Chennai), while a few other holdings are still to be found elsewhere in India. The archives of the Dutch establishment at Cochin in Malabar were untouched by these operations and, since 1795, remained continuously in the hands of the English government in Madras, passing into the hands of the Indian government in 1947.

This means that by far the most Dutch archives in India are now housed in the State Archives of Tamil Nadu in Chennai. The biggest section is formed by the archives of the Dutch establishment at Cochin. These are the only archives of a Dutch establishment in India which has been preserved relatively intact. There is a press list, a chronological shelflist, with remarks concerning some of the documents which are considered important in the Dutch records in Chennai(7). This list is no more than a primitive instrument. Moreover, the original structure of the archives has been lost because of the regrouping according to chronology. Nonetheless, it is possible to get a reasonable idea of the original structure. (An voc inventory compiled before the regrouping according to chronology and issued in print in 1909 is of great help.) Most seventeenth century documents have been lost. The remaining archives consist mainly of letters to and from Batavia and the Dutch Republic, resoluties, annexes to the resoluties, correspondence exchanged with other Dutch establishments, and the diaries of diplomatic missions. There are only a very few fragments of the dagregisters of the establishment itself. Book-keeping and accounts for the later years are available but not as a complete series. There are also a number of documents from the Raad van Justitie and documents relating to the local Dutch establishment such as protocollen van civiele akten (protocols of civil deeds) and records from the local weeskamer.

Only a small portion of the archives of Bengal and Surat, which were transferred from Bombay and Calcutta in 1932, are present in Chennai (Madras). These consist mainly of protocollen van civiele akten. Before they were handed over in 1932 the archives were described by J. van Kan. It is not certain that the holdings in Calcutta which he described are the same as those that were transferred from Calcutta to Madras in 1932(8). The holding described by Van Kan is a miscellaneous collection of weeskamer archives, protocollen van civiele akten, a few church registers and fragments of administrative and judicial records. The list of the holdings transferred in 1932 does not seem to concur with Van Kan's list.



Document in Tamil language in the judicial records
(click image to enlarge)



The documents from Bengal and Surat are not without interest for prosopographic studies of voc personnel, but for any study of the Company administration one would be better advised to consult the papers available in the Netherlands. However, in Chennai there are some documents concerning the local Dutch establishments in Bengal, Surat and Coromandel, including church registers, and judicial and notarial documents.

Furthermore, in the archives of the registrar-general in Chennai (Madras) there are a few church registers from Pulicat on the Coromandel coast(9).

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