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Dr. Djoeke van Netten, assistant professor at the early modern history department of the University of Amsterdam, received a prestigious NWO Veni grant for her research project 'Hide and leak. Secrecy and openness in overseas companies in the Dutch Golden Age'.

Project description

Secrecy creates power, fear and desire. The culture of secrecy makes us conscious of how people interacted. The information they deliberately kept secret or leaked, determined their possibilities and shaped our image of the past.

This Veni-project will investigate secrecy and openness in Dutch overseas companies (VOC and WIC) in the seventeenth century. It analyses the culture of secrecy in these companies by examining practices of concealment and revealment. Which information about Dutch overseas exploration and expansion was deliberately kept secret and how and why was secret information leaked?

The production of secrecy was performed by individual actors. These people with different – even conflicting – roles and interests will be at the centre of attention. What did different groups of people (directors in the Dutch Republic, governors in the Indies, company-officials, sailors and soldiers, scientists and suppressed people) mean and do when they mentioned secrecy? This project will examine their use of media and the discourse they applied by combining internal archival material and external sources, like letters, travel journals and scientific works.

VOC and WIC are particularly interesting because they embody not earlier emphasized conflicts between trade and science. Whereas trade benefits by a certain accepted degree of secrecy, science is often linked with sharing knowledge and openness. By analysing practices of secrecy, this project will challenge existing ideas about the relationships between commerce and science. The result will yield more insight into Early Modern discoveries, expansion and communication.

Secrecy and leaking are very topical issues that will continue to engage society at large. Therefore, besides a monograph and scholarly articles, the results of this project will be broadly disseminated, inter alia by way of various projects in collaboration with the Maritime Museum, Amsterdam.