The Dutch in the Levant: Trade and Travel in the Seventeenth Century
Keywords: Dutch, Trade, Levant, 17th Century, Cornelis de Bruijn, Ottoman Empire
Although Dutch connections with the Levant, especially in terms of pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and also within the context of the Crusades, may go back to the Middle Ages and perhaps even before, it was from the late sixteenth century onwards that these connections took a dramatic turn and were fully developed. Despite the political, economic, administrative and military problems with Spain after the 1560s, historically termed as the Eighty Years War (1567-68 to 1647-48), the States General of the Dutch Republic prudently took courageous steps and put in place sober policies to establish diplomatic relations with the Ottornan Empire and become a major player in the so-called "riches trade" with the Levant. Indeed, the Republic and the Ottoman Empire were both enthusiastic about forging their cooperation for mutual interests, and, from 1612 onwards, when the first Dutch diplomatic mission was set up in lstanbul, the Dutch primacy in the Levant was consolidated. Dutch merchants were granted by the Ottoman government special privileges and exemptions (i.e. the "capitulations") and, thus, strongly competed with, and even outplayed, other European trade colonies, especially the English, in the Levant. Along with the development of Dutch trade with the Ottoman Empire, there also began Dutch travels to the region. Among the early Dutch travellers, especially Cornelis de Bruijn (1652-1727), who stayed in Izmir and Istanbul for nearly three years (1678-1681) is of particular interest.