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Ian Burnet: East Indies

Ian Burnet reveals the 200 year struggle between the Portugese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas.

In 1497 Vasco da Gama’s fleet rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and became the first Europeans to sail the Eastern Seas. ¬†Over the next 100 years the Portuguese spread their trading network in search of spices, sandalwood, silks, gold, silver, porcelains and other oriental goods from Goa in India as far east as the Moluccas and Timor in Indonesia, and as far north as China and Japan.

In 1595 and 1601 respectively, the first Dutch and English trading expeditions rounded the Cape of Good Hope and challenging the Portugese the trading monopoly. The stakes were high.

For the next 200 years the struggle for trade supremacy between the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English ranged across the Eastern Seas and in the settlements of Goa, Malacca, Ambon, Macao, Canton, Nagasaki, Batavia, Macassar, Johor and Singapore.

For the winners, the pay off was huge. By the end of the 19th century the Portuguese had almost vanished from the Eastern Seas, and the Dutch and the English East Indies Companies had been transformed from trading companies into colonial powers, ruling vast territories in Indonesia, India and Malaya.

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