Archive

The paper archives created by the Dutch East India Company (VOC, 1602-1799) and dealing with its commercial operations in Asian waters are preserved in the national archives of Indonesia, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, South Africa and India. In particular, the archives in Jakarta contain thousands of documents originating from Asian persons, including many local rulers from around the Indonesian archipelago. The most voluminous collections spanning 2,500 metres are in the Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia (ANRI). On 9 March 2004, the archives of the VOC were included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

The 2,500 metres of archives in ANRI can be roughly divided into two sections:
1) The archives created in  and formerly kept at Batavia Castle, the former headquarters of the VOC in Asia. This is the archive of the Supreme Government (the Governor-General and the ordinary Councillors of Dutch Asia).
2) The archives of local private and public institutions in Batavia.

For this digitalization and public access project, a selection had to be made. The Daily Journals of Batavia Castle which can be found in the archives of the Supreme Government were digitalized and published first. This series reflects the principle concerns of the Supreme Government.  Prominent here were internal Company affairs in matters as diverse as the general management of trade, personnel and financial affairs, shipping and logistics. The Supreme Government also dealt with all political and diplomatic affairs, the administration of justice and correspondence with other VOC factories in Asia as well as the VOC Chambers and their Governing Board, theso-called Gentlemen Seventeen (Heren XVII) or Directors of the VOC  in the Dutch Republic. The Daily Journals were created to maintain an ongoing overview of such activities.

During the course of the eighteenth century, the Resolution Books of the Supreme Government became more and more important and voluminous while the registration of correspondence in the Daily Journals gradually declined. In particular, the handling of all matters to do with the regional establishments of the Company were included in the General Resolution Books. In 1743, such matters were recorded in a separate yearbook, giving birth to a separate series: the General (Foreign) Affairs Books (Net-Generale Besogneboeken).

Another, hitherto unresearched and historically unique series are the Appendices to the General Resolution Books. These total together some 742 volumes numbering some 550,000 folio pages. This series contain a variety of documents which may gradually become accessible via a special database. The first document descriptions for this database were started in 2013 by ANRI’s Content Team (see organisation).

Inventory
Daily Journals of Batavia Castle 1624-1806
General Resolutions of the Supreme Government 1613 - 1810
Digital Preservation

The National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia (ANRI) in Jakarta and the National Archives of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief) have jointly identified and catalogued large sections of the 2,500 metres of VOC archives in the ANRI repositories during 2001 – 2007. This resulted in a newly published inventory in 2007. This inventory is published digitally on this website.

The Daily Journals of Batavia Castle are one of the richest and most concise  sources for both  the history of the Indonesian archipelago, and the wider  Southeast Asian region. Covering a period of 184 years, the journals offer systematic data that cannot be found anywhere else on European and Asian shipping, European-Asian trade, Intra-Asian trade and Inter-Insular trade. They also refer – on a daily basis - to incoming and outgoing letters which number in their thousands over the period of the archive. Sometimes a brief summary of the content of these letters is given. One of the most significant features of the daily journals for historians is the insertion of more than two thousand diplomatic letters from Southeast Asian rulers to the Supreme Government in Batavia Castle, and the Supreme Government’s replies.

The Supreme Government or ‘Hoge Regering’ of the VOC in Asia was established in 1609. It was composed of a Governor-General and a Council of the Indies (Asia) or Raad van Indië of which there were (from 1617 onward) nine ordinary members. The task of these nine members was ‘to assist [the Governor-General] in all such matters as the general management of trade, war, government, and in the administration of justice in all civil and criminal matters’. The Supreme Government usually held two or three meetings per week. All 211.000 pages of the original minutes of these meetings (1613-1810), with the original signatures of the Governors-General and the Council of Asia, will published on our website in 2014-2015.

Original paper archives from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been decaying for a long time and continue to suffer heavily from ink corrosion, acidification, browning and fading. In 2012, after a preparatory year, ANRI and the Corts Foundation built a high-tech scanning street to start digitising ANRI’s large collections of oldest handwritings. This conservation part of the project is called DASA: Digital Archive System at ANRI. Digitising is not like regular document scanning. It is a way of conservation as the digital image will in time replace the original paper manuscript.