Archives created in The Netherlands
1. Resoluties (Proceedings)
atters which affected the general management of the Company were discussed and dealt with in meetings of the Heren XVII. With the exception of a series of minuut-resoluties (draft minutes of proceedings) for the years 1654-1796 (inv. nos. 24-98), three series of the resoluties taken during the meetings have been preserved: two series in the archives of the Amsterdam Chamber and the Heren XVII (inv. nos. 99-145 and 146-210) and a series in the archives of the Zeeland Chamber (inv. nos. 7343-7416). In the archives of the Zeeland Chamber the resoluties of the Heren XVII are to be found in the chapter ingekomen stukken uit Europa (incoming documents from Europe). The chapter which is headed resoluties only contains the proceedings of the chamber itself. Such a division ignores the fact that for two of the eight years the Heren XVII met in Middelburg and their resoluties were both recorded and copied there.
The resoluties were recorded in six fair copies, one for each chamber. The series which is described under inv. nos. 146-210 contains such fair copies, in view of the label originele resoluties (original proceedings) on the spines of the volumes, as well as the presence of the signatures of the delegates following each final meeting day. In the initial period the contents of letters and other documents, whether dispatched or received, was often inserted in the text. Later on such documents tend to be found increasingly frequently bound in as enclosures. After 1673 marginals are added containing a short summary of the resoluties, which greatly facilitates research. The resoluties only contain the results of the deliberations of the Heren XVII and the decisions which were subsequently taken on the basis of these. Little or nothing of the discussions and differences of opinion can be traced in the resoluties.
The series which comes before the series of fair copies in the inventory (inv. nos. 99-145) is a copy of the numbers 146-210. One advantage of this series of duplicate resoluties is that, right from the very beginning, a short summary of the resoluties has been added in the margin. The documents which have been inserted in the text of the fair copies are also included in the kopie-resoluties, but unfortunately this has not always been the case with the enclosures bound with them.
Above each of the sessions the names of the seventeen delegates who attended are noted in the resolutieboeken (records of proceedings), with the name of the Chamber to which they belonged. Then the items of agenda for the meeting are summarized. These are the pointen van beschryvinge. There is a reference to the date of the resolutie concerned in the margin of each of the pointen van beschryvinge. Furthermore, even if the reading of a report or of a statement is merely referred to, the date on which this took place is recorded. Conversely, in the resoluties or there is a reference in the margin to which of the pointen van beschryvinge is intended.
The pointen van beschryvinge had to be sent to the chambers a good while in advance so that they could add supplementary material and formulate their opinions. Important topics that were not entered on the agenda in good time and which cropped up during or just before a meeting could not be handled without due notice. Only if there was absolutely no question of postponement, could they be dealt with extraordinaris (out of order). The final item on the agenda provided for the discussion of 'ordinary business' that had not been entered in the agenda.
Sometimes a chamber would seek the advice of other chambers on a certain matter. If the resultant advice was unanimous this was considered tantamount to a decision taken by the Heren XVII. Should one of the chambers not concur in this opinion, the item then had to be entered upon the agenda of the Heren XVII and discussed at their meeting.
The resolutieboeken can also contain the resoluties of the smaller halve Zeventien (Half XVII). The composition of this board varied from between eight to eleven delegates. Its decisions were as binding as those taken by the full complement of the Heren XVII. From 10 August 1660 onwards, the meetings of the halve XVII were noted as meetings of the Heren XVII in the resolutieboeken. A head count of the number of delegates present gives the answer to whether or not it concerns a meeting of the smaller halve XVII.
The archives of the Amsterdam Chamber contain a four volume subject index of the resoluties present (inv. nos. 221-224). According to a note at the beginning of the index these include, first and foremost, the standing (= fixed, immutable) orders, instructions and regulations issued by the Heren XVII. Besides this, the index indicates many resoluties which were not standing orders but which serve 'on the one hand to indicate how many diverse matters and instances have been taken note of, discussed and dealt with, and, on the other hand, to be able to take cognizance of and (if necessary) to find with ease sundry affairs and instances which are of significance'. The entries run from Aannemen (engage) to Zijde (silk). Under each entry, all the resoluties concerned are mentioned chronologically with an indication of the contents.
The archives of the Zeeland Chamber contains an alphabetical repertory of the resoluties (inv. nos. 7417-7422). On 22nd January 1743 the first two volumes which covered the period up to 1742 were offered to the directors of the chamber by the liquidatie boekhouder (clearing accountant), Thomas Cunningham 't Hooft. He had compiled the repertory virtually single-handed, not on the orders of the directors, but probably for his personal use. Perhaps this had some connection with his additional function as archivist. In this repertory the resoluties are set out alphabetically according to the initial letter of each subject. The resoluties are listed chronologically under each letter. There is no lexicographic order beyond the first letter of the name of the subject.
Besides these larger series, smaller series and separate documents have been preserved. A few such examples are: in the archives of the Amsterdam Chamber there are collected abstracts from the resoluties on ecclesiastical matters 1603-1671 (inv. no. 212), draft secret resoluties 1738-1794 (inv. nos. 216-218) and secret resoluties 1777-1794 (inv. nos. 219-220); in the archives of the Zeeland Chamber there are duplicate resoluties 1618-1623, 1657-1663 (inv. nos. 7425-7427), duplicate secret resoluties 1779-1795 (inv. no. 7429) and collected abstracts of resoluties referring to matters of importance for the different departments of the Zeeland Chamber 1699-1728 (inv. nos. 7432-7433); in the Hoorn Chamber there are duplicate secret resoluties 1790-1795 (inv. no. 14327).
The Amsterdam Chamber and the Zeeland Chamber
f the meetings of the boards of directors of the six Chambers of the VOC, only the resoluties of those of Amsterdam and Zeeland have survived. The Amsterdam resoluties begin with five volumes covering the period 1602-1629 (inv. nos. 225-229). These are followed by a series covering 1623 to 1796 (inv. nos. 230-304). Although the first four volumes are entitled Cladde vande dagelijcxse resolutien (rough drafts of the daily proceedings), they do, in fact, form part of a series. From 1707 onwards a short summary of every resolutie is recorded in the margin. The resoluties of the Zeeland Chamber cover the period 1601-1796 (inv. nos. 7241-7278), but the margin summaries are only noted from 1745 onwards.
Besides the series mentioned above, several smaller series and separate documents have been preserved. For the Amsterdam Chamber these are, for instance, drafts of secret resoluties for the years 1738-1794 (inv. nos. 216-218) and secret resoluties 1777-1794 (inv. nrs 219-220). For the Zeeland Chamber these include secret resoluties 1642-1787 (inv. no. 7279) and draft resoluties 1770-1776 (inv. no. 7240); and for the Hoorn Chamber secret resoluties 1691-1794 (inv. no. 14318).
The resoluties clearly reveal the working procedures of the Company. The chambers can be regarded as the executive arm of the Heren XVII. Besides this they had an important function in the planning of policy. In the executive operations of the chambers, the code of apportionment laid down in the charter was observed. In principle this was applied to all activities including the building and outfitting of ships, the dispatch of goods and ready money, and the reception and auctioning of merchandise. The chambers were bound to abide strictly by the decisions of the Heren XVII on such matters as outfitting and sales and could not digress from this on a single point.
The directors of the Chambers met as often as was necessary. Besides the ordinary meetings there were extraordinary sessions. During their meetings the directors discussed the various pointen van beschryvinge of the Heren XVII. The standing committees or departments of the chamber were directed to investigate the various points in conjunction with special committees appointed for this task and then to make a report to the plenary session.
The resoluties offer a glimpse of the large number of activities and responsibilities of the directors. A few examples will serve to demonstrate the diversity of these activities: they read the letters which had been sent from Asia; they appointed the personnel who entered the service of the chamber and compiled instructions relating to the various functions; they selected and appointed ministers of religion who were sent to Asia (in order to do so the directors of the warehouse listened to a sermon delivered by the aspiring candidate and then made their report to the plenary session of directors); they nominated delegates to the Haags Besogne (The Hague Committee which met in The Hague for a preparatory session in August); they dealt with the requests from Company officials who were leaving for Asia and wished to take somebody with them; and, finally, they made a decision about requests for subsidies from other chambers.
In the archives of the Amsterdam Chamber there is a subject index on the resoluties consisting of four volumes (inv. nos. 307-310). Just as in the case of the index on the resoluties of the Heren XVII, in the first place this index contains the standing orders, instructions and regulations of the Amsterdam Chamber. Furthermore, there are a great many references to decisions which are not strictly standing orders but which serve 'on the one hand to indicate how many diverse matters and instances have been taken note of, discussed and dealt with, and, on the other hand to be able to take cognizance of and (if necessary) to find with ease sundry affairs and instances which are of significance'. Furthermore the names of personnel appointed have also been entered in the index, with a note on their salary, emoluments, and other forms of income, as well as the rent for their houses. The first volume, the index covering 1602-1743, begins with a reference to the instructions given to and the oaths sworn by VOC officials as apothecaries, bookbinders, clerks, smiths and sailmakers. The entries contained in the four volumes run from Aalmoezenier (chaplain) to Zijdewormen (silkworms). All the appropriate resoluties are recorded chronologically under each entry.
In the archives of the Zeeland Chamber from 1736 onwards there are alphabetical indexes available in the resolutieboeken themselves. For the period 1783 to 1796 there is a separate alphabetical index for the resoluties (seven volumes; inv. nos. 7280-7286). Each volume refers to one volume of resoluties. The resoluties are not arranged chronologically under the letters A to Z, but are placed in the sequence of and with reference to the pages on which the resolutie in question is to be found.