East-India Company (1722-1731)
The trade from Ostend in the Austrian Netherlands to Mocha,
India, Bengal and China started in 1715. Some private merchants
from Antwerp, Ghent and Ostend were granted charters for the
East-India-trade by the Austrian govemment that had recently come
to power in the Southern Netherlands. Between 1715 and 1723 34
ships sailed from Ostend to China, the Malabar or Coromandel coast,
Surat, Bengal or Mocha. Those expeditions were financed by
different international syndicates composed of Flemish, English,
Dutch and French merchants and bankers. The mutual rivalry between
them however weighed heavily upon the profits and this resulted in
the foundation of the Ostend East-India Company, chartered by the
Austrian emperor in December 1722. The capital of the company was
fixed at 6 million guilders, composed of 6,000 shares of 1,000
guilders each. It was mainly supplied by the moneyed inhabitants of
Antwerp and Ghent. The directors were chosen out of the rich and
skilled merchants or bankers who had been involved in the private
expeditions. The company also possessed two factories: Cabelon on
the Coromandel coast and Banquibazar in Bengal.
Between 1724 and 1732, 21 company vessels were sent out, mainly
to Canton in China and to Bengal. Thanks to the rise in tea prices,
high profits were made in the China-trade. This was a thorn in the
side of the older rival companies, such as the Dutch VOC, the
English EIC and the French CFT. They refused to acknowledge the
Austrian emperor's right to found an East-India company in the
Southern Netherlands and considered the Ostenders interlopers.
International political pressure was put on the emperor and he
finally capitulated. In May 1727 the charter of the company was
suspended for seven years and in March 1731 the second treaty of
Vienna ordered the definitive abolition. The flourishing Ostend
Company had been sacrificed to the interests of the Austrian
dynasty. Between 1728 and 1731 a small number of illegal
expeditions was organized under borrowed flags, but the very last
ships sailing for the company were the two "permission-vessels"
that left in 1732 and were a concession made in the second treaty
Only a few documents are left because the municipal archives of
Ostend were lost during the Second World War.
The ships used for the East India trade were generally large
three-masters of the frigate-type, heavily armed and measuring
several hundreds of tons. The vessels used by the Ostenders were of
the -same type. Although the period of activity was rather short,
there was already a clear tendency to use larger ships.
The first ones that sailed in 171 5 -1717 only measured 200 to
250 tons, but the average of 22 private East-Indiamen (1715-1723)
was from 330 to 360 tons. The company took over some of the larger
private vessels and bought a few others, second-hand ships of about
400 tons. From 172 5 on die company directors ordered new ships
built in Hamburg and in Ostend. The average size of those vessels
was 600 tons, and it raised the average of the 15 company ships
from 407 to 43 3 tons. It was only for the illegal expeditions of
1729-1730 that the company again preferred smaller bottoms.
The small Ostend shipyards at first were not able to produce
vessels of that size and so the Ostenders were obliged to look for
their ships abroad. The private merchants bought them mainly in
England. Out of 23 private vessels 15 came from England against 8
from the Northern Netherlands, and die English preponderance even
becomes larger when we consider that those 15 ships made 25 voyages
between 1715 and 172 3, against only 9 voyages for the 8 Dutch
vessels. The English private East-Indiamen were smaller than the
Dutch. The latter averaged around 390 tons, against around 320 tons
for the English. This difference in size seems to have been typical
for both types of ships.
The Sea Routes - Charts and
The route the Ostend ships followed was very similar to that of
the other European companies. This is not a surprise since the
first expeditions were often organized under the command of foreign
captains and mates. These officers had already undertaken a few
voyages to the East Indies in English or French service. In this
way Flemish officers learned to navigate safely round the Cape to
There was also foreign influence in the sea rutters and the
charts on board. The Ostenders used a combination of Dutch, English
and French charts and sailing directions. In two journals of
private voyages data were given on the origins of the charts and on
knowledge of navigation problems. The captain of the Mochaman
Stadt Gendt (I 720) attached more value to the observations
of the English hydrographers Thornton and Seller than to the
information on the sea-charts of St. Malo. Aboard the same ship
there was also a chart of the Dutchman Pieter Goos. When another
Mochaman, the Graaf van Lalaing (1721), called at Fayal
after six weeks sailing from Pernambuco, the captain and the mates
started a discussion on the longitude of the Azores. They found a
difference of 7'45 min. between the dead-reckoning and an
unspecified English chart. The captain gave two possible
explanations: '... de stroom die loopt omtrent de linie
om de west oft dat de cust van Bresil 5 a 6gr. westelicker
liggen volghens de stellingh van de engelse hydrograef
edmund Halley...'. It is remarkable that the Ostenders knew and
used the theory of Edmund Halley on the variation of the compass
and the isogonic lines, while this innovation did not find general
acceptance on board VOC ships until 1740. The tradition of
navigation with the help of foreign sea-charts and rutters
continued on the GIC ships. The company directorate ordered all
maps and navigation instruments from London and Amsterdam. From
England arrived in 1723, apart from East India pilots and charts,
several worldmaps of Halley and a copy of Greenville Collins'
Great Britain's Coasting Pilot.
Louis Bemaert, agent of the company in Ostend, bought on the
Dutch market charts of Hendrick Doncker and also 'een nieuwe
generaele wassende paskaert van de gehele werelt by Joannes
Loots tot Amsterdam,"' On the Carolus Sextus (1723)
German versions of Lastman's 'Bescbryvinge van de kunst der
stuer-luyden' and of Gietennaker's 'Vergulden Licbt der
Zee-vaert' traveled to Bengal in the private library of Cobbe,
the first governor of Banquibazar.
Among the investers was the Moretus family, heirs from the famous Plantin Printing shop
Jonker Joannes Jacobus Moretus, advocate and publishing printer, was a multi-millionaire, one of the richest men in
the Southern Netherlands, if not the wealthiest of them all. had a very active share in the formation of the famous ‘Ostend Company’ and was later one of the promoters of the ‘Trieste and Fiume Company’.
the Oostendse Compagnie for sale.
Very rare share in the Ostend
Company. Copper engraving and manuscript on paper. 320x200mm. Upper
left hand corner share number "4522" in manuscript. In top
emblem of the Company in
Text: " De Directeurs van de
generale Keijserlijche- Indische compagnie, ordoneren aen hunnen
cassier 'joan Bapfist Cogels junior, te ontvangen van De Heer
Ferdinand Anthoin Baron de Veecquemans te Antwerpen de somme
van tweehondert en vijftigh guldens wisselgeldt, voor het eerste
payement sijnder actie van een duijsent guldens in het Capitael van
de Selve compagnie, op de conditien in het Octroij breeder
vermeldt, stellen de quitanfie hier onder, actum in Antwerpen
derthien augustus seventhienhondert dry en twintigh.
Ontvangen van De Heer
Ferdinand Anthoin Baron de Veecquemans de somme van tweehondert
vijftigh guldens wissel gelt voor het eerste paijment ady primo
(1) september 1723 (signatuur) Solvit als boven het tweede
payement 16 december 1723 (signatuur) Solvit als boven d helft van
het derde payement 22: November 1724 (signatuur) Solvit als boven
de heffi van het derde payement 3 July 1725. -"
Share for Mr. Ferdinand
Anthoin Baron de Veecquemans of Antwerp. According to the share
register (Gemeente Archief Antwerpen) was Mr. Ferdinand Anthoin
Baron de Veecquemans a major share holder, holding 100
Price: US $.
References: K.Degryse, in Spiegel
Historiaal, 1973112; J.Undwehr, VOC, page 14-46; N.Laude, La
Compagnie d'Ostende et son activité commerciale au Bengale,
1725-1730; E.Stols, A companhia de Ostende e os Portos Brazileiris.
In: Estudos Hist.S; P.Vandewalle, Oostende ten tijde van de
Oostendse Compagnie, in: Oostende kruispunt van Europa, een
Only a few documents are left
because the municipal archives of Ostend were lost during the
Second World War.
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Ostend Company for sale.