1. Resoluties (Proceedings)
2. Outgoing Documents
3. Incoming Documents from Asia
4. Archives of the Committees
5. Documents kept Separately, partly originally Miscellaneous Documents
6. Archives of the Departments
7. Private Papers
8. Collection Aanwinsten of the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands

B.J. Slot, M.C.J.C. van Hoof and F. Lequin  * 


o a large extent the structure of the VOC archives follows that of the organization of the Company itself in the Dutch Republic. The records of the six chambers of the VOC constitute the six main archives. From the point of view of content and bulk, the archives of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers are undeniably the most important. Most of the internal organization can be retraced in these two archives. This is much less true of the archives of the four remaining chambers, only a few larger or smaller fragments of which have escaped the hand of destruction.

The archival structure varies slightly from chamber to chamber. The reason for this lies in the differences in the internal organization of the chambers or in divergent methods of archive management during the VOC period. Besides this, it is impossible to reconstruct the original order on the basis of the fragmentary remnants - most notably in the smaller chambers. Naturally the most conspicuous difference is the presence of the records of the Heren XVII (the directors of the Company) in the archives of the Amsterdam Chamber.

Roughly speaking, the principal components of a Chamber archive follow a line which runs from the general to the particular, from the planning of policy to its implementation. This is most clearly observable in the arrangement of the archives of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers: in both chambers, following the charters which form the constitution of the Company, come the resoluties (proceedings), the outgoing documents, the incoming documents, documents pertaining to committees and what are termed 'documents kept separately, originally miscellaneous documents'; all these are followed by the documents of the executive departments of the chambers. The position of the committees' archives forms an important exception to the arrangement according to the line of policy making. The task of the committees was pre-eminently one of policy-planning, but in the archives their records are placed after the resoluties and the incoming and outgoing documents. The abridged table of contents of the inventory provides a useful survey of the contents of the archives. (See the general survey on the webpage with the VOC finding aids).

The main surviving categories of the archives are described in the notes which follow. Only very extensive categories of documents or those of outstanding importance are considered here. The descriptions treat the structure and content of the main series very briefly, provide instructions for their use and indicate specific finding aids. The archives of the Amsterdam Chamber are taken as the basis for the order in which the categories are discussed.

The first category is comprised of the resoluties of the Heren XVII and of the chambers. These are especially important for research into policy as this was formulated in the Dutch Republic. The next section covers the uitgaande brievenboeken (letter-books of outgoing documents) of the Heren XVII and of the chambers: instructions to the octrooigebied (the area under charter to the Company) as well as correspondence within the Dutch Republic about activities and events in the octrooigebied.

This section is followed by the most extensive part of the archives: the various groups of documents sent from the octrooigebied to the Dutch Republic. These include the kopie-resoluties (duplicate proceedings) of the Governor-General and Council, letters with enclosures sent directly to the Dutch Republic from the main establishments in the octrooigebied, and the various duplicate letters with enclosures sent to the Governor-General and Council from the subordinate establishments with enclosures (the so-called Batavia's ingekomen brievenboek or the Batavia letter-book of incoming documents). This section is vital to an understanding of policy, shipping and trade within the octrooigebied. It contains valuable data about local conditions and events in Asia.

Thereafter come, as far as they have survived, the archives of the committees of the Heren XVII and the chambers, which are extremely fragmentary. The description of this set of documents is followed by a section containing brief remarks about the files on various subjects which have been kept separately by the administration. This deal with a number of diverse. This concludes the central part of the description of the archives of the Heren XVII and the Chamber of Amsterdam and of the Zeeland Chamber. Finally the most important files of the archives of the departments (offices with specific assignments) and functionaries are dealt with. These include documents from the pay office which are very important for prosopographic research, as well as the accounts of the chambers which contain data about the economic activities of the Company in the Dutch Republic. After this survey of the VOC archives some information is added about VOC documents to be found in various collections of private papers of VOC officials and functionaries and in the collection Aanwinsten (acquisitions) of the National Archives of the Netherlands.

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