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Collecting the Companies: The material and quantitive evidence

What material evidence do we have concerning the East India Companies trade, what do existing collections represent? How do they relate to changing trends in scholarship and collecting? Are there sources as yet not studied that can help us understand the connection between trade and material culture? The histories of the companies have largely been told as national ones. However the companies did not operate in national frameworks: they competed and collaborated and borrowed from one another. They sold their goods to overlapping markets in Europe, and trade was conducted by merchants belonging to transnational networks.



 Anna Jackson, Keeper, Asian Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

‘Encounters: exhibiting the material culture of trade and exchange'

In 2004 the V&A staged an exhibition 'Encounters: the meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800' which examined the dynamic period of commercial, cultural and technological exchange that followed Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India. This paper will look back at the exhibition, examining the ideas that informed it, the challenges that accompanied it, and the objects through which we constructed the narrative.


Lars Olof Loof, City Museum, Gothenburg

‘Remains and Collections from the Swedish East Inda Compnay in the Gothenburg City Museum’.

I would like to introduce our collections, and how we have looked upon this eastern influenced heritage during the last 200 years. The big collections have focused very much upon porcelain (china!), but we could also look upon ivory, silk, cotton, furniture and wall-paper. I still believe that some of these categories are too much forgotten. Connections with the European continent and the British Isles - from a northerna point of view.


Berit Eldvik, Nordiske Museet, Stockholm

‘Tracing the history of the English East India Company through fabric in the Nordiske Museum’.

I will talk about some Indian hand painted textiles, so called Palampores. They have been in the Nordiska museum since long time without any documentation and without any knowledges of the origin from my predecessors. I will try to give you the history behind them and their connection to the English East India Company through their first believed owners. They are, at least most of them, pieces in the great puzzle of re-exportation and private trade with the Asian goods.


Martine Gosselink, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

‘Comparing the Competitors: the Portuguese and the Dutch 1500-1700’

Why, where and how the Dutch East India Company (VOC) took over the position of the Portuguese, and how different attitudes towards religion, diplomacy and trade influenced merchandise and luxury items.

 During the 16th and 17th centuries Portugal and the Netherlands established huge empires. Whereas the Portuguese developed theirs as early as 1500, the Dutch had their kick off around 1600. By that time the two powers bumped into each other in Sri Lanka, Japan, Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia and various other places. During the decades to follow, the Netherlands managed to take over the Portuguese position in many of these regions.

The Rijksmuseum is preparing an exhibition, which envisages dealing with this take over. By showing trade products and luxury items from settlements controlled by the Portuguese and subsequently the Dutch, the ‘Rijks’ will try to reveal differences and similarities between the governing methods of the two colonial powers. By comparing these objects from different periods, we plan to show the differences in social-political structures, the impact for the local inhabitants and the changes in the trading market.