In the late 17th and early 18th century several European maritime powers struggled for dominance in the Asian trade. Foremost among these were the Dutch, the English and the French. Accurate cartographic knowledge was greatly prized. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had its own mapmaking department. Here only manuscript maps were made for use in navigation in VOC ships. These maps were kept secret to give the VOC a competitive advantage.
Johannes (II) van Keulen became the hydrographer of the VOC in 1726. In 1753 he produced a printed atlas which was officially known as Part VI of the Zee-Fakkel (Sea-Torch). This atlas became known as the “Secret Atlas”, because it was not for public sale and was intended for use in VOC ships only. After each voyage the atlas was returned to VOC headquarters.
This map of Bengal was taken from the Secret Atlas. The map is based on the Van den Broucke map of Bengal published by Francois Valentijn in 1726. The time of production of the Secret Atlas was a period of intense commercial activity by the European traders in Bengal. Most of this activity was in the Hooghly River valley and the upgrades in this map reflect this activity.
The important Dutch factories and trading posts in this period were:
Pipli (Pipely) and Ballasore (Baleshwar), now in Odisha state were the earliest posts in Bengal, established in 1627. Main purchases at these centers were saltpeter used to make gunpowder. These posts were also utilized in the Dutch Indian Ocean slave trade.
Hooghly the main trading post and Headquarters of the VOC in Bengal, established in 1635. The headquarters were moved to nearby Chinsura in 1656. Hooghly is marked here as “Hollandse Logie”.Main purchases at this post were cotton, silk, sugar, ginger and opium.
Moxudabad (Murshidabad), the capital of Bengal from 1710 and a mint town. Almost no European goods were brought into Bengal. Purchased goods were paid for either with products from other Asian countries or with silver, which was promptly converted into Mughal coins.
Cassembassaar (Kasim Bazar), a center for purchase of raw silk.
Dacca (Dhaka), a center for purchase of coarse and fine textiles including Dhaka muslin.
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