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Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij (The Netherlands)

Dutch Commercial Company, NHM

Last modified: 2018-12-15 by rob raeside
Keywords: nhm | cultuurstelsel |
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[Dutch Commercial Company flag] image by Jaume Ollé, 15 Jan 2003

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Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij

The "Nederlandse Handels Maatschappij" (NHM, Dutch Commercial Company) was founded in 1824 at the instigation of King Willem I, who guaranteed the dividends at the start. The NHM was intended to blend the interests of the textile industry in Belgium (which at that time was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), and trade and shipping of the Northern Netherlands, in order to compete with the textile-industry in the UK, which was based on cotton from India.

However, after the VOC (United Eastindian Company) was dissolved in 1798, imports from the Dutch East Indies couldn't be guaranteed any more. The English took the East Indies over, and Mr. Raffles set up his own system, fighting monopoly and slavery. Although the East Indies were handed back to the Netherlands in 1815, it was only c. 1830 that formal control was established.

Around that time a new system was initialized in the Dutch East Indies: the "Cultuurstelsel" (culture system). It's probably better translated in "cultivation system". Native peasants were required to give 20 % of the harvest to their sovereign. For convenience's sake that was changed to 20 % of the farmer's territory; that was to be cultivated with products the NHM deemed useful. It became thus a progressively more brutal form of forced labor. Petty residents required far more than 20%.
Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) was one of those residents, and was disgusted about that kind of exploitation. He wrote his impressive "Max Havelaar", a major cause of the downfall of the "cultuurstelsel". In 1865 the (meagre) cultivation of indigo, cochenille, tobacco and tea was stricken from that system. Only in 1920 the last remnant (coffee) disappeared.

After the "cultuurstelsel" was finished the NHM became a banking institution, with its own cultivation enterprises. In 1964 it merged with the Twentsche Bank into the "Algemene Bank Nederland NV" (ABN), now ABN/AMRO.
Source: "Nijhoff's Geschiedenislexicon Nederland en België", 1981.

The flag was sent to the Vexillum-list on 15 Jan 2003 by Jaume Ollé, after Steenbergen (c. 1860).
Jaume wrote: "49 Netherland, Comercial society (Handel Maatschappij, perhaps translated as Canal lighters)".
It is red, in center connected "NHM", in canton "34", at fly and bottom mysterious items, all white.
I have my doubts about this flag - but I think that it is important to have a reminder of the Dutch not so glorious colonial past.
Jarig Bakker, 3 Jun 2006