Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 June 2011
The establishment of a Dutch trading factory at Kayalpatnam in 1645 initiated half a century of Luso-Dutch rivalry for the control of the Madurai coast (modern Tamilnad) until its ‘final solution’ in the 1690s. The stakes were high and involved both material and non-material considerations. Contemporary Dutch sources estimated the capital value of the local chank or conch shell and pearl fishery at 350,000 and 5 to 6 million guilders, respectively. Almost half of the circa 500 vessels involved in the pearl fisheries of 1668 and 1669 came from the seven major ports (yelu ur) of the socalled Fishery Coast (Costa de Pescaria). Control over southeast India littoral, moreover, meant mastery of the strategic Palk Straits and the Indo-Ceylon trade in areca, textiles, salt, grains, ray skins, chaya or dye roots, lime, and the like. Dutch projections of potential revenues derived from this source in the 1670s ranged from 1.28 to 1.65 million guilders per year. Apart from the intra-Asiatic or country trade, exports from the Madurai coast became increasingly important in the long-distance trade with Europe in the wake of the ‘calicoe craze’. Between 1680-81 and 1734-35, the total invoice and sales value of Dutch textile exports from Madurai destined for patria amounted to 8.85 and 15.31 million guilders, respectively. The annual invoice and sales value of Company textile exports from southeast India littoral to the Dutch Republic peaked in the first decade of the eighteenth century at an average of 282,824 and 644,541 guilders, respectively. In 1704-05, the invoice and sales value of Dutch textile exports from Madurai to Europe alone amounted to no less than 659,215 and 1,362,050 guilders, respectively.