DUTCH-PERSIAN RELATIONS

, from the 16th century to the present. Until the 16th century the Dutch knew little of Persia and nothing of its language. Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-97), a professor at Leiden University, drew up a short list of Persian words based on the first Persian text ever printed, the translation of the Pentateuch published in Hebrew characters in Istanbul in 1546.

 

DUTCH-PERSIAN RELATIONS, from the 16th century to the present, encompassing commercial, political, and cultural contacts, including Persian studies in the Netherlands. Until the 16th century the Dutch knew little of Persia and nothing of its language. Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-97), a professor at Leiden University, drew up a short list of Persian words based on the first Persian text ever printed, the translation of the Pentateuch published in Hebrew characters in Istanbul in 1546 (see BIBLE vii; ČĀP). Raphelengius called attention to the similarities between certain Persian and Dutch words, but until the older Iranian and Indian languages became known in the 19th century (see CODICES HAFNIENSES) this first attempt at comparative Indo-European linguistics could lead no farther. Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), another Leiden professor, expanded Raphengelius’ list into a concise Persian-Latin vocabulary (Leiden University library, cod. ar. 267; de Bruijn, p. 166; cf. Emmerick). Although unpublished, it can be considered the first example of Persian academic studies in Europe.

For 136 years, from 1033/1623 to 1174/1759, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (V.O.C., Dutch East Indies company) was the most important single foreign trading firm in Persia (e.g., Thévenot, II, p. 138), though it did not, of course, go unchallenged, particularly by the British East India Company. Dutch documents on relations with Persia consist almost exclusively of V.O.C. records from the 17th and 18th centuries; except for the years 1623-38 (Dunlop, 1930), however, they have not been published, though a few studies have been based on them (Floor, 1978b; idem, 1979b; idem, 1980; idem, 1983c; idem, 1987). Most are kept in the national archives (Algemeen Rijks Archief) in the Hague, including the 19th- and 20th-century Dutch legation files (Gast). Some reports, journals, and letters by individual Dutch travelers to Persia have also been published (e.g., Hotz, 1908; Roobacker; van Dam; Valentijn; Floor, 1979a; idem, 1982b; idem, 1982c; idem, 1984; idem, 1365 Š./1986). Nevertheless, it is surprising, in view of the long and substantial presence of the V.O.C. in Persia, that so few Dutchmen wrote about their experiences; on the other hand, various staff members were instructed to buy Persian manuscripts and to collect indigenous herbs for shipment to the Netherlands (Valentijn, p. 242).

There is also very little information about the Dutch, occasionally called Valandīs or Holandīs, in Persian sources, perhaps because many state records were destroyed by the Afghans in the mid-18th century and also perhaps because merchants were of little interest to the Persian upper classes. That Persians visited the Netherlands is clear from François Valentijn’s remark that he “need not describe the Persians, neither how they are dressed nor their nature, because there are many of them in Amsterdam, where one can see them every day” (V, p. 208).

The reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629). Foremost among Dutch travelers who contributed to diffusion of knowledge about Persia was Jan van Linschoten (1563-1611), whose account of his voyage in 1589 was influential throughout Europe. Visits to the Netherlands in 1016/1607 by Shah ʿAbbās’ ambassador Zayn-al-Dīn Beg and in 1020/1611 by Robert Sherley, who was seeking to promote military and commercial relations between Persia and Europe, whetted an interest in Persian silk (Dunlop, 1930, pp. 1-3; Chronicle,I, p. 170; Glamann, p. 112; see ABRĪŠAM). Nevertheless, because the V.O.C., which had been founded in 1602, was at first preoccupied with fierce commercial competition with the Portuguese and British in southeast Asia, it was unable to act on its intentions in Persia until 1031/1622, when the East India Company drove the Portuguese from their base on Hormuz. The V.O.C. was quick to take advantage of the new opportunities: In 1033/1623 Huybert Visnich, an experienced merchant, arrived to establish a trading station in Isfahan (Lockhart, p. 381; Gaube and Wirth, p. 282; for a description, see Hotz, 1908, pp. 136-37 n. 138) and to conclude a commercial treaty with the shah (Meilink-Roelofsz, p. 11). The latter saw the Dutch as an outlet for Persian products, thus providing an additional and immediate source of precious metals, whereas the V.O.C. officials saw Persia mainly as a link in the larger Asian trade. On 30 Moḥarram 1033/17 November 1623 the shah signed a treaty granting the V.O.C. the right to import into Persia a specified quantity of selected products at fixed prices and toll free. In return he was to supply the Dutch with a fixed quantity of silk at higher-than-market price, which was 50 tomans per carga (ca. 300 lbs.; Dunlop, 1930, pp. 677-82; Meilink-Roelofsz, pp. 18-19; Heeres, I, pp. 186-91). The firm opened a rest house in Lār for Dutch caravans plying between Isfahan and the coast (Hotz, 1908, p. 47).

The East India Company repeatedly attempted to interfere with V.O.C. trade in Persia, for example, pressing a claim to 50 percent of the tolls from Hormuz/Gombroon (see BANDAR-E ʿABBĀS) under a treaty signed with Persia in 1032/1622; owing to Visnich’s excellent relations with the shah and Emāmqolī Khan, governor of Fārs, these efforts were unsuccessful, however. Nevertheless, as the V.O.C. was generally short of cash, Visnich was forced to remit less for the silk than he was supposed to, despite the protests of Molayem Beg, the shah’s factor and mint master (Ferrier, p. 62 fig. 7). Eventually the shah had to intervene personally (Meilink-Roelofsz, pp. 20, 22); over the objections of the V.O.C. he sought to establish closer political relations with the Dutch government by sending one Mūsā Beg as his ambassador to the Hague. Mūsā Beg embarked with several merchants carrying silk for sale in the Netherlands on 2 Jomādā I 1034/10 February 1625, on a company ship sailing via Batavia. The mission was not very successful diplomatically, commercially, or personally, and Mūsā Beg was forced to leave the Netherlands, embarking on 14 March 1627 for the return trip by way of Java and India. He was accompanied by Jan Smidt, ambassador of both the Estates-General and the V.O.C. (Floor, 1978a, pp. 40-58; Vermeulen, 1975-78b).

Meanwhile, in 1035/1626 Visnich had concluded a three-year contract with Molayem Beg for annual V.O.C. payments of 40,000 tomans (Dfl. 1.6 million), one-fourth in cash, the rest in specified goods at fixed amounts, in return for silk (Dunlop, 1930, pp. 184-86). The most important commodity to be provided by the V.O.C. was pepper: 750,000 pounds at 12,000 tomans. The most important exchange commodity was specie (gold and silver), which the Dutch exported from Persia illegally at first. Other Persian exports included small quantities of all kinds of dried fruit, pistachios, almonds (see BĀDĀM), hazelnuts, madder (see CARPETS ii), wine and rose water from Shiraz, and medicinal drugs. V.O.C. imports to Persia, aside from pepper, were considerable and varied: spices, textiles, tin, camphor, Japanese copper, powdered and lump sugar, zinc, indigo, sappanwood, chinaroot (Smilax china, Pers. čūb čīnī), gum lac, benzoin, iron, steel, and sandalwood. Trade was conducted through brokers, and merchants usually received credit; a variety of drafts, money orders, and the like were used (Floor, 1978b, chap. 1). Molayem Beg did not find the contract to his advantage, however, and Visnich himself did not comply with its terms, continuing to turn over less cash than was due or even none at all. His relations at court were still strong enough to protect him from Molayem Beg (Steensgaard, p. 383; Meilink-Roelofsz, pp. 22-23), but Smidt, who arrived on 14 Rajab 1038/8 February 1629, listened favorably to Visnich’s detractors and the allegations of British rivals and Molayem Beg.

Apart from commercial relations, the main point of contact between Persia and the Netherlands in the 17th century was art. Especially in the forty-five years after 1029/1620 a number of Dutch painters were active in Persia, though their possible influence on Persian painting has not yet been studied. From available sources it is clear that Dutch artists were employed by the shahs and members of the Persian political and commercial elite. For example, Jan van Hasselt, who lived in Isfahan from 1029/1620 to 1038/1628, was appointed court artist and executed paintings for Shah ʿAbbās’ palace at Ašrāf in Māzandarān (see BEHŠAHR). When he returned home the shah appointed him his political agent in the Netherlands.

During this period travelers brought back increasing numbers of Persian manuscripts to the West. In particular, Thomas Erpenius (1584-1624) and Jacobus Golius (1596-1667), both of Leiden University, acquired better knowledge of Persian through their study of manuscripts in Arabic script. Golius, who was for some time assisted by the same Azerbaijani who had assisted Adam Olearius (Floor, 1983b), read Saʿdī’s Golestān with his students and also prepared a Persian-Latin dictionary, which was published after his death (Castellus). His own extensive personal library was sold at auction twenty-five years later; most of it was purchased by Narcissus Marsh, Archbishop of Armagh, who bequeathed it to the Bodleian Library, Oxford (McCarthy, pp. 25, 47, 49). Golius’ students contributed still further to Persian studies in the Netherlands. Lodewijk (Louis) de Dieu published the first Persian grammar in Latin (Rudimentae Linguae Persicae, Leiden, 1639). Levinus Warner published an annotated collection of Persian proverbs with translations (Proverbiorum et Sententiarum Persicarum Centuria, Leiden, 1644) and, while serving as Dutch consul in Istanbul, bought a large number of manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. His library, which he bequeathed to Leiden University, still constitutes the most important part of its collection of oriental manuscripts.

The reign of Shah Ṣafī I (1038-52/1629-42). Shah ʿAbbās and the governor-general of the V.O.C., Jan Pietersz Coen, died in the same year. On 1 Šaʿbān 1039/16 March 1630 Smidt sailed for Batavia, having obtained from ʿAbbās’ successor, Shah Ṣafī I, limited confirmation of the earlier V.O.C. treaty (for a Persian translation of Smidt’s account of his stay in Persia, see Floor, 1978a, pp. 60-113; cf. Vermeulen, 1975-78a). The most important commercial concessions remained in effect; in exchange the V.O.C. was required to buy silk from the shah at 50 tomans per carga, higher than the market rate. Interpretation of these provisions led to serious difficulties, however. Visnich was ordered to Batavia to give an account of himself, but, after first taking refuge in the suburb of Jolfā, he left for the Netherlands via Iraq, hoping to appeal directly to the managing board of the company, known as the Heeren XVII. In Iraq the Ottoman authorities arrested him on suspicion of spying for Persia and executed him. Meanwhile, van Hasselt had been successful in obtaining trading privileges for Persians in the Netherlands, effective 7 February 1631 (Vermeulen, 1979; Valentijn, pp. 296-97; Alexandrowicz).

Between 1035/1626 and 1050/1640 silk was the main commodity exported from Persia by the V.O.C., but high prices, varying quality, and competition of silk from Bengal kept the profits from Persian silk low. Furthermore, despite the treaty terms, the shah supplied silk only irregularly and in smaller quantities than stipulated. The Dutch therefore also bought silk from private individuals, without paying customs duties on it. Pieter del Court, who had been appointed to succeed Visnich, was an ineffective administrator and was dismissed in 1044/1634; he was replaced by Nicolaas Jacobus Overschie, who in 1045/1635 was instructed to attempt to corner the silk market and to borrow the necessary cash (at 20 percent annual interest). His efforts were unsuccessful (Dunlop, 1930, pp. 410-12, 435; Steensgaard, pp. 391-93), and, to make matters worse, in 1047/1637 Mīrzā (Sārū) Taqī, the grand vizier, demanded payment of customs duties on the silk purchased from private merchants, pointing out that the V.O.C. had been granted exemption only on what it purchased from the shah. The Dutch refused to pay, insisting that the treaty guaranteed tax-free trade in Persia unconditionally, and Mīrzā Taqī then seized 4,309 tomans from Overschie by force. He went farther still; as he was having difficulty disposing of the shah’s silk, he forced the Dutch to buy 300 bales at the stipulated high price of 50 tomans a carga. The V.O.C. then ordered its staff to reduce silk purchases in Persia.

During this period of conflict Dutch artists and craftsmen continued to find success in Isfahan. The painter Joost Lampen was working there in 1039/1630, and Barend van Sichem probably painted the murals at All Savior’s cathedral in the suburb of Jolfā in 1049/1639-40 (Floor, 1979b, pp. 147-48). A number of Dutch jewelers were also active, including a certain Huybert Buffkens, a diamond cutter, and two goldsmiths named Cornelis Walraven and “Claes,” though no work by any of them has been identified (Leupe, p. 262). Buffkens was appointed to the boyūtāt-e salṭanatī at a salary of Dfl. 1,000 a year; he died in Isfahan in 1066/1656.

The reign of Shah ʿAbbās II (1052-77/1642-66). The V.O.C. continued to protest Mīrzā Taqī’s high-handedness without positive result; in 1054/1644 the firm therefore decided on military action (Floor, 1978b, pp. 46-48). In May 1645 seven men-of-war blockaded Bandar-e ʿAbbās on the Persian Gulf coast and seized all Persian vessels there. The fleet bombarded the Safavid fortress on Qešm island (Plate LVII) but failed to seize it. The company then shifted most of its operations from Isfahan to Bandar-e ʿAbbās, which became its main trading station (Plate LVIII). The shah promised the Dutch redress for their earlier losses at the hands of Mīrzā Taqī and invited them to send a plenipotentiary to court. In 1057/1647 Nicolaes Verburch and Willem Basting arrived; although they were unable to reach an agreement with the shah, the V.O.C. did continue trading with Persia tax-free. Even the appearance of a Dutch fleet on the roadstead of Bandar-e ʿAbbās in 1059/1649 did not cause further deterioration in political and commercial relations between the two countries (Floor, 1978b, pp. 48-51). Nevertheless, between 1055/1645 and 1062/1652 the V.O.C. exported no silk at all from Persia.

In 1061/1651 Joan Cunaeus arrived in Persia and negotiated a new agreement, which, with minor changes, remained the basis for V.O.C. trade with Persia until 1180/1766. The Dutch were to buy from the shah 300 bales of silk at 48 tomans a carga, in exchange for toll-free trade of 20,000 tomans a year; export of specie from the country was prohibited, and V.O.C. goods were exempted from inspection and road tolls. The company was not satisfied with the 20,000-toman limit or the prohibition on export of specie. Furthermore, in no year thereafter did the shah provide the promised 300 bales of silk, though the Dutch did enjoy tax-free trade (Hotz, 1908, pp. 355-62). Until 1108/1696 silk deliveries remained irregular because the shahs preferred to sell in the Levant when the price was better. Nevertheless, despite occasional problems over illegal export of specie, which was in fact the country’s most important export commodity, the V.O.C. continued to prosper in Persia. Precise data for the 17th century are lacking, but gross profits in the years 1033-50/1624-50 had averaged about Dfl. 200,000; under the new treaty they began a gradual rise in 1062/1652, eventually reaching Dfl. 400,000 (van Dam, pp. 317-18; Table 40). A Dutch trading station was opened at Kermān in 1069/1659, when the V.O.C. began to buy wool there; it remained in operation, with interruptions, until 1157/1744. The firm had a standing order for 70,000 pounds of red wool annually, though it never actually received that much in any given year (Matthee; Floor, 1978b, p. 39; idem, forthcoming, chap. 5).

Between 1061/1651 and 1065/1655 Philip Angel not only made paintings for Shah ʿAbbās but also instructed him in the art. Other Dutch artists in Persia during this period included Hendrinck Boudewijn van Lockhorst, who worked there in 1053-57/1643-47; Juriaen Ambdis, who took service as a gunner in the shah’s army in 1058/1648; a man named Romeyn, whose presence in 1065/1655 is attested; Jan de Hart, who was there the next year; Adriaan Gouda, there in 1071/1661; and an unnamed painter from Brabant in the later 17th century (Floor, 1979b).

Problems created by the governor of Fārs prompted the V.O.C. to send Huybert de Lairesse as envoy to the Persian court in 1076-77/1666, in order to ensure continuation of good relations and profitable trade. He was the last Dutch ambassador to have an audience with Shah ʿAbbās and the first to be received by his successor, Shah Ṣafī II.

The reign of Shah Ṣafī II (Solaymān I; 1077-1105/1666-94). One result of de Lairesse’s mission was renewed confirmation of the commercial privileges granted to the V.O.C. (Coolhaas, III, pp. 571-72, 598). Other Dutch travelers also visited Persia in this period, but little information is available on what they observed. For example, Jan Struys, who was shipwrecked and subsequently enslaved (1082/1671), left an account of his experiences, which was translated into four languages and reprinted more times than its contents seem to have warranted (Floor, 1995). Herbert de Jager, a former student of Golius, spent many years in the country (1076-81/1666-70, 1094-98/1683-86) in the employ of the V.O.C., but his recorded observations have not been preserved. Other European travelers commented on his vast knowledge of the country, on which many of them drew in composing their own works. Jean Chardin, for example, mentioned his collaboration on the description of Isfahan (VII, pp. 287-89). Engelbert Kaempfer praised his learning and reported on their joint outings to collect plants and other information (Meier-Lemgo, pp. 112, 122; cf. Thévenot, II, p. 104).

Although the V.O.C. generally did very well in Persia in this period, it did have difficulties with the governor of Bandar-e ʿAbbās, who sought “arrears” in rent for the Dutch-owned station there, and with the grand vizier Šayḵ-ʿAlī Khan (Lockhart, pp. 366-67; Chardin, IX, pp. 71-72). In 1089/1678 the firm threatened armed action against the governor and abandonment of its trading activities in Persia. A protest at court resulted in orders to the governor to cease interference with Dutch trade or traders. Nevertheless, the grand vizier, in response to a deteriorating Persian economy, forced the Dutch to accept more silk than previously, and the next year the government demanded payment of road tolls. In 1091/1680 the V.O.C., engaged in military action elsewhere in Asia, instructed its staff to ask for deliveries of only 150 cargas of Persian silk; the grand vizier refused to comply and sent the usual quantity to the Dutch factory, where it was turned away. He then seized payment by force, and the Dutch agent was beaten. The V.O.C. finally decided on war; in 1096/1685 a fleet of five ships blockaded Bandar-e ʿAbbās, seized Persian vessels, and took Qešm island. A delegation that included de Jager was unable to reach an agreement with the shah (van Dam, p. 318; Valentijn, p. 249; Coolhaas, IV, pp. 299-300, 358-63, 582-83, 740-43, 826-27).

The generally tense atmosphere was temporarily relieved by the arrival in 1102/1691 of Johan van Leene as ambassador. He reached an agreement with Ṣafī II, who again granted tax-free trading privileges for maximum annual imports and exports of 20,000 tomans each and exemption from road duties. Persian officials were not to open Dutch trade goods, and in exchange the Dutch were to buy annually 300 cargas of silk from the shah at 44 tomans each. The next year the Heeren XVII gave instructions that all V.O.C. transactions were to take place at Bandar-e ʿAbbās and that goods were no longer to be transported to Isfahan (van Dam, pp. 319-21; Valentijn, pp. 250-70). The Isfahan office remained open, however, in order to maintain good relations with the court and to purchase silk and specie to be forwarded to Bandar ʿAbbās. The history of other trading stations on the Persian Gulf in this period was also somewhat checkered (Floor, 1985).

Toward the end of the 17th century V.O.C. profits began to diminish as a result of the general economic decline in Persia. Interest in Persian studies was also waning in the Netherlands, though scholars trained by Golius, George Gente and Daniel Havart, did publish Dutch translations of Saʿdī’s Būstān in 1688 and his Golestān in 1694.

The reign of Shah Solṭān-Ḥosayn (1105-35/1694-1722). After his accession to the throne Shah Solṭān-Ḥosayn confirmed Dutch privileges in Persia, but in 1108/1696, when he was unable to sell silk to the V.O.C., his government proposed abolishing the obligatory delivery of silk and receiving from the V.O.C. an annual fixed volume of goods instead. The company declined, and in 1113/1701 Ambassador Jacobus Hoogkamer negotiated a new agreement, which did not differ in essentials from earlier ones. In exchange for taking 100 cargas of silk at 44 tomans each and supplying a certain quantity of “treaty goods,” the V.O.C. was entitled to tax-free trade of 20,000 tomans a year (Valentijn, pp. 270-86; Floor, 1978b, ch. 1). Trade remained reasonably profitable for the Dutch, though between 1107/1696 and 1126/1714 silk was delivered to the V.O.C. only three times and after 1126/1714 it ceased to figure among Dutch exports (Steensgaard, pp. 391-96; van Dam; Floor, 1978b).

In 1124/1712 an internal conflict on the V.O.C. staff led to the departure of the Isfahan agent, Pieter Macare. He asked the shah for protection, in return for which he lent him 14,000 tomans of the company’s funds (Dfl. 595,000), which were never repaid. He also gave the Persian government access to the V.O.C. factory and books, which led to a demand that the company pay taxes on goods that it had traded above the specified tax-free amount. The Dutch demanded that both Macare and the books be handed over to them and continued to maintain that they were not liable for taxation. The shah did send Macare to Batavia, in the company of Mīrzā Jaʿfar; they arrived in the spring of 1127/1715. Johan Josua Ketelaar arrived at Bandar-e ʿAbbās in June 1716 and quickly reached an agreement with the Persian court; the new treaty was essentially the same as that of 1113/1701, except that the V.O.C. had to permit inspection of its goods and pay duty on the export of specie. The directors were not pleased (Floor, 1978b, pp. 58-60), but Ketelaar was not to blame for these relatively unfavorable terms, which in fact reflected an increasingly unstable political situation in Persia. The decline in V.O.C. profits continued. After the fall of the vizier Fatḥ-ʿAlī Dāḡestānī in December 1720 the new government once again raised issues that were supposed to have been resolved by the Ketelaar mission. Nevertheless, in late September 1722 the V.O.C. lent 17,000 tomans to Shah Solṭān-Ḥosayn.

Cultural contacts also declined in this period. The only Dutch painter known to have been in Persia after 1076/1666 was Cornelis de Bruin, who was in Isfahan in 1114/1702 and left an important travel account, enriched with many engravings of notables, ordinary people, plants, buildings, and the like. Furthermore, in the Netherlands there was only one important contemporary Dutch scholar of the Persian language, Adriaan Reland of the University of Utrecht, who used his knowledge of such literary works as the poems of Neẓāmī Ganjavī as the basis for a study of Islam (De Religione Mohammedica, Utrecht, 1717) that was less biased than had previously been customary and was frequently translated into other European languages. Reland also urged the study of Persian to improve understanding of ancient history.

The Afghan interval (1135-42/1722-30). Before the disagreements between Solṭān-Ḥosayn’s administration and the V.O.C. could became more serious the Safavid state was effectively brought to an end by the invasion of Maḥmūd Afḡān, who took Isfahan in October 1722 (Lockhart, pp. 93 ff.). The Dutch, who were kept virtual prisoners in their factory, left a vivid diary of the siege, the most complete available account of those crucial days (for a Persian translation, see Floor, 1365 Š./1986, ch. 5). Having already suffered the loss of the money it had lent to Solṭān-Ḥosayn, the company then lost a further 6,000 tomans worth of “gifts” and property when the Afghans searched the Isfahan trading station and wreaked severe damage on the factory itself; in 1139/1727 it had to be abandoned altogether because the inner city was to be reserved for Afghans only. The Dutch staff moved to Jolfā. Bandar-e ʿAbbās was not occupied by the Afghans until that year; the Dutch residents there had a military garrison and an escape route by sea.

Total V.O.C. profits from the Persian trade dropped steeply during this period (Table 40). In 1141/1729 the Dutch attempted to move their factory from Bandar-e ʿAbbās to the island of Hormuz, which led to the death of the agent and his deputy and open warfare between the Dutch and the Afghan garrison on the island. Nevertheless, after consolidating their power the Afghan rulers tried to induce the Dutch to resume commercial activities; Ašraf (see AŠRAF ḠILZAY), Maḥmūd’s successor, even granted the V.O.C. trading privileges. But Afghan rule was insecure, the population of Persia impoverished, and prospects for trade nonexistent. Furthermore, after the Safavid victory over Ašraf the Afghan troops fled the country (Floor, 1365 Š./1986; idem, 1367 Š./1988; Dunlop, 1912, pp. 258-60).

The reign of Shah Ṭahmāsb II (1135-45/1722-32). Under Shah Taḥmāsb II the Dutch at first fared well, as he appreciated the support they had given to his father, Solṭān-Ḥosayn, and hoped to receive similar assistance. His general Nāder Shah Afšār (see AFSHARIDS) made increasing demands for money and naval assistance, however. In 1143/1730 he demanded Dutch naval support in operations against Masqat and later against the Hūwala Arabs of the Persian Gulf coast; it was given but not without protest. In the same year the firm’s total claim on Persia amounted to Dfl. 1,721,060, an enormous sum (Floor, 1365 Š./1986, pp. 223-25, 237; Dunlop, 1912, p. 258); furthermore, increased expenditures for security and a vastly reduced volume of trade meant that thenceforth the V.O.C. actually lost money in the Persian trade.

The Afsharids (1148-1210/1736-95). Once Nāder Shah had proclaimed himself shah, the Dutch refused to sell him ships to build his own navy. In 1150/1738 the company opened a new trading station in Būšehr; six years later it closed the one in Kermān, though continuing to buy wool there. In 1160/1747 the V.O.C. discontinued trading activities in Isfahan. When Nāder Shah was assassinated later that year the Dutch—and most Persians—were greatly relieved (Floor, 1983c; idem, 1987). Although Nāder Shah’s nephew Ebrāhīm Shah (1161/1748) offered them the same privileges that they had enjoyed under his uncle, the Dutch refused to side with any of the Afsharid contenders for the throne. This entire period had in fact been disastrous for V.O.C. trade in Persia. Not only had the purchasing power of the population been greatly reduced, but also Nāder Shah had increased the cost of maintaining a presence in the country through his continual demands for presents, loans, and ships. After his death there was a commercial upsurge, but it was only temporary.

The Zands (1163-1209/1750-94). In February 1752, when ʿAlī-Mardān Khan Baḵtīārī invaded Lārestān, the V.O.C. agent at Bandar-e ʿAbbās abandoned the station there to two caretakers. The Dutch opened a new factory on Ḵārg island, in order to escape the extortions of mainland rulers. The Baron Tido von Kniphausen, formerly V.O.C. agent in Baṣra, built the Mosselsteyn fortress on the island and proceeded to blockade the Šaṭṭ-al-ʿArab, in order to recover money extorted from him and the firm. He was successful and began to build relations with the local shaikhs of Rīg, Būšehr, Lenga, Kuwait, and the Banū Kaʿb, but open conflict resulted when Mīr Mohannā Zaʿābī of Bandar-e Rīg, in retreat from Karīm Khan Zand (1163-93/1750-79), sought to reclaim Ḵārg island, his natural refuge. A year later the V.O.C. closed the station at Būšehr. Finally, as the Persian trade had become a losing proposition, in 1171/1758 the company decided to abandon it entirely, closing down the station at Bandar-e ʿAbbās (Floor, 1989a); a year later it ceased to buy wool in Kermān (Floor, 1978b, ch. 5; idem, forthcoming, chap. 5).

Eventually, in 1179/1766, despite the presence of two ships in the roadstead, the Dutch were forced to surrender the fortress and the goods stored on Ḵārg island. Although William Eaton, the Dutch consul in Baṣra, tried to persuade the V.O.C. to resume trading activities in the Persian Gulf, the firm declined (Floor, 1979a; idem, 1992; Perry). Only in 1185/1771 did it began voyages to Masqat, primarily to sell sugar; these voyages continued on a fairly regular basis until the end of the 18th century, but there was no further direct connection with Persia (Floor, 1982a; idem, 1982b).

Throughout the 18th century Dutch power had been declining in Europe, which was reflected in the Dutch position in Persia and the Persian Gulf. There are no reports of Dutch artists or craftsmen active in Persia in the later 18th century, apart from those who were employed by the V.O.C.

In the Qajar period (1193-1342/1779-1924). It was not until the reign of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah (1212-50/1797-1834) that trade relations between the Netherlands and Persia were resumed on a fairly regular basis; in 1239/1824 the government of the Dutch East Indies sent the Baron van der Capellen, under the command of one M. Cantor, to Bandar-e ʿAbbās with a typical 18th-century cargo: sugar, tin, copper, spices, steel, nails, iron, and sappanwood, a total value of Dfl. 125,000. At Bandar-e ʿAbbās Cantor was able to sell his goods and load horses, rose water, gallnuts, opium, and especially specie, which accounted for two-thirds of the value of the cargo on the return trip. The profits were reasonable enough to encourage the Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij (N.H.M., or Dutch Trading Company), which had no connecetion with the V.O.C., to finance four other voyages of a single ship each between 1828 and 1831. There already existed an informal trade between Java and Persia, carried on by Armenian merchants living in Java; Cantor had letters of introduction from an Armenian merchant in Batavia to Messrs. Arakil and Arathun, an Armenian firm in Būšehr (den Tex, pp. 23-27). But, as security on the Persian Gulf coast was uncertain and the shaikh at Būšehr somewhat arbitrary in business matters, the N.H.M. eventually decided to discontinue trade in Persia.

That the Dutch had no agent representing their interests on the spot was a disadvantage. In 1273/1857 a commercial treaty was signed in Paris by ambassadors from Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1264-1313/1848-96) and Willem III (text in Dunlop, 1912, pp. 575-79; cf. Floor, 1367 Š./1988), but the Dutch parliament never ratified it. Various private Dutch merchants continued to trade with Persia, sending mainly sugar from Java and bringing back wheat, dried fruit, and dates. The value of this trade increased from Dfl. 300,000 in 1855 to Dfl. 1,690,000 in 1865, when 100,000 picols (1 picol: 125 lb.; den Tex, pp. 28-31) of sugar were traded; imports from Persia in the same years totaled Dfl. 100,000 and 200,000 respectively. After repeated requests for appointment of a consul in Persia to protect the budding Dutch (East Indies) trade the government of the Netherlands invited J. L. Schlimmer, a Dutch physician in Persian service during the 1860s and 1870s, to become honorary consul-general in Tehran. He declined, however, on grounds that he lacked the necessary means to maintain such a prominent position.

In 1866 exports from Java to Persia began gradually to decline in volume, and the composition of the cargoes changed. Whereas initially spices, coffee, timber, tea, and textiles had been exported in addition to sugar, the trade had shifted almost exclusively to sugar. Richard Keun was appointed consul at Būšehr in 1285/1868. His family was part of the old Dutch community in Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey), and he was familiar with the Middle East, its culture, and its languages. He built a large house named Holandarābād outside Būšehr (Plate LIX). An ambitious man, eager to increase his small capital, Keun attempted to promote Dutch trade and his own share in it in various ways, including establishment of Perzische Handels Vereeniging (P.H.V.). His efforts sometimes led to conflict with the British political resident in Būšehr and with local merchants, who accused him of misusing his diplomatic position for his own gain (B 149, various letters between 1871 and 1875). The Russian legation, which oversaw Dutch interests in Tehran, had to intervene on his behalf. In 1872 the Dutch government therefore again invited Schlimmer to accept the post of consul-general; he again refused but did agree to act as commercial agent. He was officially appointed in February 1873, and from that time on Keun was supposed to address all requests to the Persian government through him, but, despite official reprimands, he did not do so (B 149, memo to M, 19.10.75). Schlimmer died in March 1876 (B 149, Keun to Willebois, 20.7.76), two years after publishing Terminologie médico-pharmaceutique (Tehran, 1874; repr. Tehran, 1970), still a treasure trove for historians.

In 1296/1879 Keun himself was given the title consul-general and was able to obtain Persian agreement to a new commercial treaty granting the right of entrepôt to the Netherlands; it had been denied to Russia and Great Britain. The Dutch parliament was not really interested in the treaty, however, and the text also posed “legal” problems (Floor, 1367 Š./1988). In 1883 Mīrzā Jawād Khan, Persian minister in Belgium, was also accredited to the Netherlands.

Nevertheless, the overall drop in Dutch East Indian exports to Persia was dramatic: from Dfl. 1,440,000 in 1866 to Dfl. 160,000 in 1884. After that no ships sailed from Java for the Persian Gulf, and Persia no longer figured in the trade statistics of the Dutch East Indies. Exports from Persia to Java, which had reached about Dfl. 200,000 a year, also declined and were discontinued at about the same time as imports. These changes primarily reflected the opening of the Suez canal, for Java sugar could no longer compete with sugar from the West Indies. Nevertheless, some people believed that sugar and tea from Java could be profitably marketed in Persia if a direct steamboat line were to link them via Bombay (Hotz, 1896, pp. 725-26, 739).

In 1306/1889 Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah and in 1318/1900 Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah visited the Netherlands on their way to England, but these visits attracted little attention in either Dutch or Persian sources (Schweiger; Eʿtemād al-Salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, pp. 648-49; Hotz, 1904, p. 676 n. 2). The generally low-key nature of Dutch-Persian relations was also reflected in the workload of the Dutch representative in Persia in the period 1309-31/1892-1913 (Gast; Hotz, 1904). In fact, in the Netherlands it was generally believed that no consul in Persia was necessary, but pressure from commercial interest groups in both the Netherlands (Hotz, 1904, pp. 675-76) and the Dutch East Indies led to the appointment in 1307/1890 of F. N. Knobel as “consul-general”; he served until 1314/1896. Knobel lived in Tehran and, in contrast to other European representatives, was accredited to the Persian court, rather than to the ministry of foreign affairs. He was succeeded by F. W. Bosschart, then served another term himself, and was succeeded again by J. E. de Sturler. It was owing to Knobel’s efforts that the Dutch printing firm J. Enschede & Zoon won a contract to print Persian postage stamps. In 1310/1893 he was also instrumental in establishing the Tehran Toko, a Dutch department store created with the financial participation of many leading Persians, including Amīn-al-Solṭān. Other Dutch commercial activities were generated by J. C. P. Hotz & Zoon, an import-export firm that had been established in 1874, at Keun’s suggestion. It had agents in Isfahan, Shiraz, Solṭānābād, Yazd, Būšehr, and Iraq and was engaged particularly in the carpet trade. A. Hotz undertook many projects to develop the wealth of Persia. He was the first to drill for oil (near Dālakī) and had interests in the development of coal mines, the Imperial Bank of Persia, the carpet industry, and the potential of the Kārūn river, proposed in 1324/1906 by a Dutch engineer, D. L. Graadt van Roggen; unfortunately, the last project came to nothing, owing to British opposition (Dunlop, 1912, pp. 551-64). In 1321/1903 the Hotz firm went bankrupt, largely owing to the dishonesty of a Persian business partner (Floor, 1983a); in the same year the Tehran Toko also went bankrupt, as a result of poor management (Hotz, 1904, p. 677).

Indirect trade between Java and Persia continued through Calcutta and Bombay, involving mostly sugar and tea (Hotz, 1904, pp. 812-13), but the Dutch share in total Persian foreign imports was only 0.75 percent (2.1 million krans) in 1320/1902. The Dutch representative in Persia became discouraged, but others perceived a challenge to do better (Hotz, 1904). Although Dutch trade did not become much more important than before, some Dutchmen were able to market their goods in Persia or to do business there. P. P. ter Meulen, for example, established a thriving import-export business in Ahvāz in 1318 Š./1900 (Hotz, 1906, p. 376). In Tehran two Dutch general stores, Joost Vos and de Pater, were opened to serve the well-to-do (Kuss, IV, pp. 28, 32). Many Dutch insurance firms were also interested in the Persian market (see records in the municipal archives in Amsterdam).

Although there is only one 19th-century Dutch travel account of Persia, by T. M. Lycklama à Nyeholt, a rich though somewhat shady character who wanted to ingratiate himself in Dutch society, Persian studies became more popular in the Netherlands as a result of growing interest in comparative Indo-European liguistics. The many editions of manuscripts published by R. P. A. Dozy and M. J. de Goeje, especially those of geographical texts from the Islamic period, also stimulated Persian studies. In the 1880s M. T. Houtsma was appointed reader of Persian and Turkish at Leiden University; he was interested in medieval Persian history and published Bondarī’s history of the Saljuqs (q.v. Suppl.; Houtsma, Recueil). Furthermore, Hotz and his collaborator Henryk Dunlop were active not only as businessmen but also in trying to stir greater Dutch interest in Persia. To that end Dunlop wrote a history of the country and edited the V.O.C. records for the years 1623-38. Hotz edited historical texts (e.g., the report of the 1651 embassy) and promoted trade with Persia in many publications. His characterization of the Persians was sympathetic, showing none of the usual superior European attitude (Hotz, 1906, p. 364). It is therefore not surprising to find both men mentioned positively by contemporary Persians (Forṣat, p. 539, Sadīd-al-Salṭana, pp. 620-29). Hotz bequeathed many artifacts that he had collected during his travels in Persia to the anthropological museums of Amsterdam, Leiden, and Rotterdam; they include a collection of photographs taken by him in the 1870s-90s.

Maurits Wagenvoort wrote an account of his journey to Persia in 1324-25/1906-07 (1926), as well as two other works on the Babis (q.v.). In 1327/1909 the post of consul-general was upgraded to envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and W. J. Oudendijk arrived to take it up in January 1910; he remained until 1331/1913 (Gast, p. 2). In 1328/1910 the Dutch were asked to organize, train, and provide officers for the urban police and the gendarmerie in Persia, but they declined to do so, and the Swedes took on the task instead. In the same year a third consulate was established, at Ahvāz, supplementing those at Tehran and Būšehr. The first Persian ambassador to live in the Netherlands was Mīrzā Ṣamad Khan, who arrived in 1902. From 1331/1913 until 1338/1920, however, Italy represented Dutch interests in Persia; they were then taken over by the United States.

In the Pahlavi period (1304-57 Š./1925-79). The abolition of the Persian capitulations (q.v.) in 1305 Š./1927 included abrogation of the Dutch-Persian treaty of 1274/1857. In response to urging by the Persian government, the Netherlands appointed a special envoy to assess the need and desirability for permanent representation in Persia. The recommendation was favorable, and a new treaty was signed in 1309 Š./1930. The Dutch have been officially represented in Persia ever since. The two countries were unable to agree on a commercial treaty, however, owing to differences over consular regulations. In 1313 Š./1935 the Dutch chief of mission in Persia, designated successively consul-general, minister-resident, chargé d’affaires, and ambassador, was given jurisdiction over all Dutch consuls in Persia (Gast, p. 2). He dealt mainly with sugar imports from the Dutch East Indies and the export of Persian opium to the latter; the Persian government insisted on a fixed ratio between these two commodities. Trade continued between the Netherlands and Persia throughout the Pahlavi period. Persia exported mainly opium, dried fruit, and textiles, whereas the Netherlands exported agricultural and industrial products to Persia. The pioneering KLM airline route from Amsterdam to Batavia passed through Iraq and Persia, where the government was not always cooperative. There were also Persian requests for experts on tea cultivation (see ČĀY) and other agricultural matters, mineral prospecting, and harbor construction. In the 1940s Dutch representation was merely formal because the Netherlands was occupied by the Germans and most of its colonies by the Japanese (Gast, pp. 2-3). The Dutch embassy regained some importance, however, when Royal Dutch Shell assumed the role of coordinator within the international oil consortium between 1332 Š./1953 and 1352 Š./1973. In fact, its officials focused on the growing commercial relations between the two countries and also concluded a cultural treaty in 1338 Š./1959. In the 1960s the trade balance shifted in favor of Persia, which began to export large quantities of oil to the Netherlands. Dried fruit and textiles also continued to be traded. The Netherlands exported mainly agricultural, industrial, and chemical goods to Persia.

In 1301 Š./1922 J. H. Kramers became reader of Persian and Turkish at Leiden University and later professor of Arabic. His main interest was in the Arab geographers, rather than in Persia, but his successor, Karl Jahn, specialized in Persian historiography. He published and translated many parts of the Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ of Rašīd al-Dīn (de Bruijn).

The Islamic Republic of Persia (1358 Š.-/1979-). At present (1995) the Netherlands has an embassy in Tehran, and Persia has one in the Hague. Trade between the two countries has increased, owing to Dutch refusal to participate in economic sanctions against Persia after the Revolution of 1358 Š./1979. The balance of trade continues in Persia’s favor. In 1365 Š./1986 it exported $500 million worth of goods, mainly crude oil, to the Netherlands, which in turn exported $300 million of agricultural goods, chemicals, machinery, and raw materials, in almost equal proportions, to Persia. Persian studies are still included in the curricula of the universities of Leiden, Utrecht, and Nijmegen (de Bruijn; de Groot and Peters).

 

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[Plate numbers in this entry have been corrected; the numbers given in the print edition's version of the entry are in error.]

(Willem Floor)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: February 27, 2013

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 6, pp. 603-613