Portrait of Isaac de l'Ostal de Saint-Martin, Member of the Council of the Dutch East Indies and Commander of the Garrison at Batavia
The East India Company or the British East India Company and informally as John Company was an English and later British joint-stock company, which was formed to pursue a trade with the East Indies but ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and Qing China. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, London merchants presented a petition to Queen Elizabeth I for permission to sail to the Indian Ocean. Permission was granted, and on 10 April 1591 three ships sailed from Torbay around the Cape of Good Hope to the Arabian Sea. On 31 December 1600, the Queen granted a Royal Charter to "George, Earl of Cumberland, and 215 Knights, Aldermen, and Burgesses" under the name, Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies. The governance of the company was in the hands of one governor and 24 directors or "committees", who made up the Court of Directors. They, in turn, reported to the Court of Proprietors, which appointed them. Ten committees reported to the Court of Directors. According to tradition, business was initially transacted at the Nags Head Inn, opposite St Botolph's church in Bishopsgate, before moving to India House in Leadenhall Street.
Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, or Dutch West India Company, was a chartered company (known as the "WIC") of Dutch merchants. Among its founding fathers was Willem Usselincx (1567–1647). On June 3, 1621, it was granted a trade monopoly in the West Indies (meaning the Caribbean) by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the Dutch colonization of the Americas. Some historians date the origins of the firm to the 1500s with arrivals of colonial settlers in what is now called New York long before the English at Jamestown, Virginia. The WIC was organized similarly to the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, abbreviated as VOC). Like the VOC, the WIC company had five offices, called chambers (kamers), in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hoorn, Middelburg and Groningen, of which the chambers in Amsterdam and Middelburg contributed most to the company. The board consisted of 19 members, known as the Heeren XIX (the Lords Nineteen). The company was initially relatively successful; in the 1620s and 1630s, many trade posts and colonies were established. The largest success for the WIC in its history was the seizure of the Spanish silver fleet, which carried silver from Spanish colonies to Spain, by Piet Heyn in 1628; privateering was at first the most profitable activity. In 1629 the WIC gave permission to a number of investors in New Netherlands, which included New Amsterdam, covered parts of present-day New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey. The settlers had little success with populating the colony of New Netherland, and to defend themselves against local Indians. The main focus of the WIC now went to Brazil and in 1630 the West India Company conquered a part of Brazil. Due to the Peace of Westphalia the hijacking of Spanish ships was no longer allowed. Merchants from Amsterdam and Zeeland decided to work with marine and merchants from Hamburg, Glückstadt (then Danish), England and other countries. In 1663 and 1664 the WIC sold more enslaved Africans than the Portuguese and English together. The first West India Company suffered a long agony and ended in 1674. The Collection includes Dutch maritime prints of the time period.