Bank van Lening en Courant in Batavia (1746-1814)? The First Modern Bank in Asia?

Cátia Antunes
Leiden University

Emerging research demonstrates that the premise that the Dutch empire was a national enterprise with the Dutch state and trading companies being engines of colonial/imperial exploitation, is partially flawed.  For Asia, the focus on the Dutch East India Company (VOC) has overshadowed the relevance of private partnerships and firms in the exploitation of multiple empires in Asia. Little is known about the way partnerships and firms managed their gains, preserved accumulated capital or reinvested it.  The Bank van Lening en Courant, created in Batavia in 1746, was probably the first institutional bank in Asia, if not in the world. Why the VOC issued a charter for a bank and what reasons informed the decision. The weight of capital gains by private partnerships and firms, on the one hand, and the need for state/company/public liquidity may well have influenced the decision. Once in full operation it provided unique services to Batavia’s colonial elite and to the VOC in the Indies that influenced the way private partnerships and firms expanded their businesses and may have impacted the way the company governed the Dutch empire in Asia.