The Dutch East Indies Company vs. Sakoku: Background information when reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

A Novel

by David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2010, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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Beyond the Book:
The Dutch East Indies Company vs. Sakoku

There are two nations with two utterly incommensurate notions of power at loggerheads with each other in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. On the one hand, the Netherlands is represented by the Dutch East Indies Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC in Dutch), a government-chartered company founded in 1602 to monopolize the Netherlands' trading in Asia. A chartered company allowed its shareholders to pool capital and dilute risk in order to embark on farflung missions. The VOC was the world's first multinational corporation and the first company to issue stock. Its rights far exceeded those of today's multinationals, because it was allowed to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies. The VOC, in other words, was the perfect embodiment of capitalism, fully formed and perfectly mobile. Its raison d'etre was exploration, the creation of new markets, and colonization.

On the other hand, Japan is symbolized by sakoku, literally "...

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