National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

From Dust till Dawn: the Dutch Records Project at the Tamil Nadu Archives (Chennai, India)

Nowadays, not many people are aware that for about two centuries the Dutch were closely involved with the Indian subcontinent. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) established trade factories in Malabar, Coromandel, Surat and Bengal. When the Dutch left India, the archives of the four VOC establishments were handed over to the British. Currently, these records can be found in the Tamil Nadu Archives (TNA) in Chennai. Created in India, at a relatively low level of the VOC administration, they are distinctly different from the materials drawn up or received in the Dutch Republic or Batavia. Therefore, most of the 1763 volumes of Dutch Records are unique.

Preparations for digitization

As a considerable part of the material is damaged, the TNA, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in India and the Nationaal Archief joined forces to safeguard the contents of these documents. During a month, employees of the TNA and the Nationaal Archief worked side by side to prepare the Dutch records for digitization. Next to cleaning, labeling and boxing this involved identifying and mending of the volumes too fragile for scanning. The next step will be on site digitization of the documents by a local company, which will be funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

More Dutch records in India

Dutch records can also be found in India at the Regional Archives Ernakulam (Kochi) and the State Archives of West Bengal (Kolkata). Clearly, the MCH-team Nationaal Archief is exploring possibilities to work with these institutions as well as aspire to provide access to all Dutch records in India through the Mutual Cultural Heritage Archives Portal.