20.03.

1602: The Largest Company in World History had its own Army and Money

1602: The Largest Company in World History had its own Army and Money
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 20 March 1602
  • Indeed, it could wage wars, and had the right to arrest people, and even perform executions, on its territory. It is believed that around the year 1637, the total value of VOC was about 7.4 trillion dollars in today's currency.

The company that later grew into the world’s largest corporation was founded on this day in 1602.

Indeed, the “Dutch East India Company” was, according to some, the largest corporation in history. The name “Dutch East India Company,” i.e. “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie” is mostly known under the acronym VOC.

The term “East India” suggests that the company operated in what is now India and Southeast Asia territory. Namely, for a long time during history, the name “East India” was used for that area, while the Caribbean islands discovered by Christopher Columbus were called the “West Indies”.

AMH-5460-NA_Uniform_for_VOC_soldiers
Uniforms of VOC soldiers

 

It may seem strange to some that a joint stock company was created, so long ago, in the early 17th century. However, it was actually a rather common occurance even in that era of early capitalism, especially in Western Europe.

What made the VOC special compared to other traded companies was the fact that it managed to get a monopoly on the Dutch colonial activities in Asia. Namely, the European trade with Asia was of paramount importance at that time. Dutch ships transported millions of tons of goods, making enormous profits.

VOC coins
VOC coins

In addition, the VOC was able to get from the Dutch government such concessions that it became almost a “state within a state”. For example, it had its own army, was able to establish colonies, and forge its own money.

Indeed, the VOC could wage wars, and had the right to arrest people, and even perform executions, on its territory. From 1602 to 1796, the VOC sent about 1,000,000 Europeans to Asia, using its fleet of 4,785 ships.

It is believed that around the year 1637, the total value of VOC was about 7.4 trillion dollars in today’s currency.

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