'How we ditched the Dutch' is a revealing exhibition about a capture that meant the end of the East India Company, but which you won't find in Dutch history books. Why not? An exhibition from the perspectives of both winner and loser, in which you find out that your picture of the world is never complete.
Early in the morning of 14 June 1795, an English fleet captured nine East India Company ships off the coast of Saint Helena. The English proudly had this victory immortalised by the painter Thomas Luny (1759–1837). This seizure lost the East India Company so many ships and so much cargo that it never recovered. However, this story is virtually unknown in the Netherlands.
Winner versus loser
A loss is often glossed over, whereas a victory is celebrated. This means that stories or perspectives are always missing, even if you think that your picture of the world is complete. That mechanism is the subject of 'How we ditched the Dutch', in which six Dutch and six English witnesses to the capture tell their side of the story - from captain to simple sailor, and a scientist who just happened to be on board. And what was actually the fate of the people sailing on the ships? The curator Irene Jacobs dived into the archives and discovered the striking story of Casper Schopman, a cabin boy from Rotterdam who was on board one of the captured ships.
Painting of the capture on display for the first time
Luny’s painting of this maritime action is being presented to the public for the first time in 'How we ditched the Dutch'. Luny painted the work on instructions from William Money, one of the British captains who was involved in the seizure. His descendants gave it pride of place above a dresser, where it hung for about two hundred years. The painting was auctioned off in 2009 by the family to release funds for maintaining their estate. The Maritime Museum purchased ‘A View of the H.C. Ship General Goddard, Captn. W.T. Money, passing along the Enemy's Line to bring the Dutch Commodore to, at Sun-rise, in the Morning of the 14th. of June 1795’. After restoration (financed by the Friends of the Maritime Museum), the painting is once again in superb condition – ready for its first exhibition, in which it is immediately playing a key role.
'How we ditched the Dutch' can be seen from 7 October 2017 to 3 June 2018.