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The VOC was historically a military-political-economic complex rather than a pure trading company (or shipping company).

Over the next two centuries the Company acquired additional ports as trading bases and safeguarded their interests by taking over surrounding territory.

Between 16 the VOC sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods.

The commercial networks of Dutch transnational companies, like the VOC and WIC/GWIC, provided an infrastructure which was accessible to people with a scholarly interest in the exotic world.

The company was formed to profit from the Malukan spice trade, and in 1619 it forcibly established a capital in the port city of Jayakarta, changing the name to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta).

In 1598, an increasing number of fleets were sent out by competing merchant groups from around the Netherlands.

Some fleets were lost, but most were successful, with some voyages producing high profits.

Further, a number of Dutchmen like Jan Huyghen van Linschoten and Cornelis de Houtman obtained first hand knowledge of the "secret" Portuguese trade routes and practices, thereby providing opportunity.

The stage was thus set for the four-ship exploratory expedition by Frederick de Houtman in 1595 to Banten, the main pepper port of West Java, where they clashed with both the Portuguese and indigenous Indonesians.

Demand for spices was relatively inelastic, and therefore each lag in the supply of pepper caused a sharp rise in pepper prices.

In 1580 the Portuguese crown was united in a personal union with the Spanish crown, with which the Dutch Republic was at war.

By contrast, the rest of Europe combined sent only 882,412 people from 1500 to 1795, and the fleet of the British East India Company (EIC), the VOC's nearest competitor, was a distant second to its total traffic with 2,690 ships and a mere one-fifth the tonnage of goods carried by the VOC.