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
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.
* MA Gouden Eeuw. Interdisciplinaire Introductie (Dutch Golden Age. Interdisciplinairy Introduction)
* MA Media en macht in de Gouden Eeuw (Media and power in the Dutch Golden Age)
* BA Inleiding in de Geschiedenis I en II (Introductory course first year history students)
* BA Wereldgeschiedenis (World History)
For an overview of my teaching, see the UvA Course Catalogue
I am available for (BA and MA) thesis supervision and tutorials regarding the Early Modern history of science/knowledge, secrecy, Dutch Golden Age, travel, maritime history, book history. Do not hesitate to email me and discuss plans and ideas.