Publications

Why were Dutch East Indiamen so slow?

Solar, Peter M.; Zwart, Pim de

Summary

The speed of ships is a crucial variable in shipping productivity. Despite the dominance of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in Eurasian trade in the early modern era, its ships were generally slower than those of other companies. This article investigates the causes of this gap in shipping speeds. We dismiss reasons that highlight more numerous stops, longer routes, inferior navigation and restrictive instructions, and emphasize differences in ship design resulting from constraints imposed by the Dutch shallow inland waterways, and the slow adoption of copper sheathing in the late eighteenth century, as plausible explanations.