Ostend Company

Ostend Company

The Ostend Company (Oostendse Compagnie) was a private company established in 1717 to trade with the Indies.

The success of the Dutch, English and French East India Companies led the merchants and shipowners of Ostend in the Austrian Netherlands to desire to establish direct commercial relations with the Indies. The trade from Ostend in the Austrian Netherlands to Mocha, India, Bengal and China started in 1715. Some private merchants from Antwerp, Ghent and Ostend were granted charters for the East-India-trade by the Austrian government that had recently come to power in the Southern Netherlands. Between 1715 and 1723, 34 ships sailed from Ostend to China, the Malabar or Coromandel Coast, Surat, Bengal or Mocha. Those expeditions were financed by different international syndicates composed of Flemish, English, Dutch and French merchants and bankers.

The mutual rivalry between them however weighed heavily upon the profits and this resulted in the foundation of the Ostend East-India Company, chartered by the Austrian ruler Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, in December 1722. The capital of the company was fixed at 6 million guilders, composed of 6,000 shares of 1,000 guilders each. It was mainly supplied by the moneyed inhabitants of Antwerp and Ghent. The directors were chosen out of the rich and skilled merchants or bankers who had been involved in the private expeditions. The company also possessed two factories: Cabelon on the Coromandel Coast and Banquibazar in Bengal.
Between 1724 and 1732, 21 company vessels were sent out, mainly to Canton in China and to Bengal. Thanks to the rise in tea prices, high profits were made in the China-trade.

This was a thorn in the side of the older rival companies, such as the Dutch VOC, the English EIC and the French CFT. They refused to acknowledge the Austrian emperor's right to found an East-India company in the Southern Netherlands and considered the Ostenders interlopers. International political pressure was put on the emperor and he finally capitulated.

In May 1727 the charter of the company was suspended for seven years and in March 1731 the second treaty of Vienna ordered the definitive abolition. The flourishing Ostend Company had been sacrificed to the interests of the Austrian dynasty. Between 1728 and 1731 a small number of illegal expeditions was organized under borrowed flags, but the very last ships sailing for the company were the two "permission-vessels" that left in 1732 and were a concession made in the second treaty of Vienna.

References

  • Parmentier, Jan: De holle compagnie. Smokkel en legale handel onder Zuidnederlandse vlag in Bengalen, ca. 1720-1744 (Zeven Provinciën Reeks 4). Hilversum 1992
  • Serruys, Michael-W.: Oostende en de Generale Indische Compagnie. De opbloei en neergang van een koloniale handelshaven (1713-1740), in: Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis 24(2005)1, S. 43-59

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