The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC)) was founded in 1602 as a State Trading Company with a monopoly of trade between the Netherlands and the East. This monopoly was set up because of the dangers and difficulties of such long-distance trade at the time: the company had to have powers to build fortifications, found and manage trading posts, run a large standing army with all its necessary ancillary facilities, sign binding treaties, occupy and defend land, and conduct trade. All this required the support of a formal State monopoly. Other nations, including Britain, Sweden and Denmark, set up similar State Trading Companies with monopolies of trade.
The VOC, the largest trading company in Asia, had sent almost a million Europeans to work in Asian trade on 4,755 ships that dealt with more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods. It managed its affairs in a highly bureaucratic way with a Board of Directors in Amsterdam, a Governor-General in Batavia (today's Jakarta) and Governors in each trading post. At every level every action had to be recorded, and copies sent to the higher-level authorities. Although many documents have been lost, surviving VOC documents in the various archives where they are preserved run to over 25 million pages. They cover trade in extensive detail and include daily and annual reports on the political, social, economic, cultural, religious and geographical aspects of the local areas, even meteorological reports. The VOC archives are by far the fullest collection of material relating to early trade between Europe and the East, and they are vital for the early history of many of the areas where the VOC operated. The condition of the documents differs from area to area. The VOC was wound up in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars, but during its 193 years of existence it was of critical world importance. Its magnificent surviving archives are of equal significance. The collection was inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2003.