Dutch trade and patronage networks as facilitators of transcontinental mobility in early modern Russia and the VOC Cape

Authors

  • Boris Gorelik Centre for Southern African Studies, Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
  • Gerrit Jan Schutte Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Keywords:

Hendrik and Johannes Swellengrebel, migration, Nicolaes Witsen, patrimonial networks, patronalism, patronage, Russia, social identity, Hendrik en Johannes Swellengrebel, migrasie, patrimoniale netwerke;, patronalisme, patronaatskap, Rusland, sosiale identiteit, opwaartse sosiale mobiliteit, VOC Kaap

Abstract

The Swellengrebels were the most important family at the Cape under Dutch East India Company (VOC) rule to become members of the Netherlands governing elite. Hendrik Swellengrebel was the colony’s only locally-born governor, while his father and other members of the family at the Cape were born in Russia. Their migration between Europe, Africa and Asia reflected the development and functioning of the Dutch trade and patrimonial networks. Even on the periphery, at the Cape and among Dutch expatriates in Russia, those networks provided opportunities for overseas employment and upward social mobility. The case of the Swellengrebels shows that not only goods but also people could make their way from Russia to the Cape and the VOC Asia. Patronage enabled both spatial and upward social mobility. Keeping mutually beneficial relations with influential patrons such as Nicolaes Witsen, members of the Swellengrebel family navigated their way within the Dutch trade networks and achieved prosperity and a high status in such culturally diverse societies as Russia and the Cape. The social advancement, identity transformations and transcontinental migrations of the Swellengrebel family demonstrate the materiality of transcontinental patrimonial networks in the early modern period.

 

 

 

Afrikaans

Die Swellengrebels was die vernaamste van die Kaapse families wat onder die bewind van die Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC)lid geword het van die Nederlandse regerende elite. Hendrik Swellengrebel was die kolonie se enigste plaaslik gebore goewerneur, terwyl sy vader en ander Kaapse familielede in Rusland gebore is. Hul migrasie tussen Europa, Afrika en Asië weerspieël die aard en ontwikkeling van Nederlandse handels- en patrimoniale netwerke. Selfs op die periferie, aan die Kaap en onder Nederlandse uitgewekenes in Rusland, het daardie netwerke geleenthede gebied om oorsese poste te bekom en om met die maatskaplike rangleer te vorder. Die geval van die Swellengrebels wys dat nie net goedere nie, maar ook mense, die reis kon onderneem vanaf Rusland na die Kaap en VOC-beheerde Asië. Patronaatskap het beide ruimtelike en maatskaplike beweeglikheid bevorder. Deur wedersyds voordelige bande met invloedryke patronate, soos Nicolaes Witsen, te smee, kon die Swellengrebel familie hul weg deur die VOC handelsnetwerke baan, en welvaart en aansien behaal in kultureel uiteenlopende samelewings soos Rusland en die Kaap. Die sosiale opgang, identiteitsomvorming en transkontinentale migrasie van die Swellengrebel familie dui op die wesenlikheid van transkontintentale patrimoniale netwerke in die vroeë moderne era.

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Published

2021-06-14

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Articles