An admiralty for Asia: Business organization and the evolution of corporate governance in the Dutch Republic, 1590-1640

Oscar Gelderblom, Abe de Jong, Joost Jonker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602 showed many characteristics of modern corporations, including limited liability, freely transferable shares, and well-defined managerial functions. However, we challenge the notion of the VOC as the precursor of modern corporations to argue that the company was a hybrid, combining elements from traditional partnerships with a governance structure modeled on existing public-private partnerships. The company’s charter reflected this hybrid structure in the preeminent position given to the Estates General as the VOC’s main principal, to the detriment of shareholders’ interests. Protests by Isaac le Maire and Willem Usselinx about the board’s disregard for shareholders were rooted in a conviction that it ought to conform to traditional partnerships with their judicious balance between stakeholders’ interests. However, the perceived public interest of a strong military presence in Asia prevented shareholders’ protests from changing the corporate governance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrigins of Shareholder Advocacy
EditorsJonathan GS Koppell
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9780230116665
ISBN (Print)9780230107328
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

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