Continuity and Change: Taxation in the Portuguese and Dutch Empires in Early Modern Asia

Susana Münch Miranda, Chris Nierstrasz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By taking two case studies – Cochin and Ceylon – this article examines how the Estado da Índia and the Dutch East India Company (VOC) dealt with acquired fiscal rights in territories and establishments in Asia. In this manner, this article will question the extent to which institutional differences from Europe in the organisation of empire can account for the different fortunes of both empires in the seventeenth century. It argues that the fiscal systems of the Portuguese and Dutch, although largely adapted from the Asian fiscal matrices, varied in development and outcomes depending on the interaction with local rulers and on the intentions and goals of the colonisers. In drawing such a comparison, this article argues for caution against exaggerating the impact of institutional differences from Europe. Rather, it makes the claim that both the Portuguese empire and the VOC faced similar problems and opted for the same choices in Asia. More importantly, they both changed their stance on monopoly and taxation over time, showing a more fluid and less rigid attitude, than usually acknowledged in the literature. Instead of stressing institutional differences from Europe, continuity and the struggle with similar challenges stand out in the Asian experience of the Portuguese and Dutch empires.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages23
JournalDhau – Jahrbuch für außereuropäische Geschichte
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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