Cornelis Houtman

Birth: 1565


Cornelis Houtman (2 April 1565 – 1 September 1599) was a famous Dutch traveler and founder of trade with the East Indies, born at Gouda in the middle of the sixteenth century. He went on a trading voyage with his brother, Frederik, to Lisbon in 1593, where he was thrown into a debtor's prison. Released by a friend, he studied the Portuguese routes to the Far East, and returning with charts to Amsterdam, organized an expedition which sailed in four ships out of the Texel (1595).

He rounded the Cape of Good Hope, passed through the Straits of Sunda to the south coast of Java, and returned safely to Holland in 1597, having demonstrated an easy route to the Spice Islands. This voyage was followed by many others, and led to the formation of the Dutch East India Company. In a second expedition of two ships in a conflict with the natives of Achin, assisted by the Portuguese, he was killed.

His brother, Frederik, navigator of his fleet, also played an important part in the opening of the East to trade and commerce. In 1598 he was taken prisoner by the King of Achin, but, having been freed by Panlus van Caarden, he reached Holland in 1601, and in December, 1603, went again to the East Indies, and was Governor of Amboyna during six years. In 1609 he became commander of twenty-three ships, and in 1625 was honored with a gold medal for having opened the treasures of the East to Dutch enterprise.

Almost as great as his exploits in war and commerce and explorations were his linguistic attainments. Having learned the Malay language during his captivity in Achin, he opened the Malay languages to European study. In 1603 he published a dictionary with grammatical notes of Malay and Madagascar, with comparison of many Arabic and Turkish words, which work was republished in 1680 as a grammar and dictionary of Dutch and Malay. In 1880 bronze statues of the brothers Houtman were erected at Gouda, from models by Strackée of Amsterdam.


The New International Encyclopaedia (1905) pg. 268

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