Monday, 19 March 2012

New important source for research in Dutch maritime history especially Admiralty of Zealand now available

In the 15th century the Habsburgs founded an admiralty in the Netherlands with as first admiral Filips van Kleef (1485-1488). The admiralty was officially founded on 8 January 1488. Since 1491 the Lords of Veere were appointed as admiral until 1558. Veere was a small seaport town in the province Zealand. In 1550 the Habsburgs founded an own navy with Veere as naval base including yard facilities including an arsenal. In 1558 the Lord of Veere Maximilian of Burgundy died childless and his successor was not recognised in Holland. In 1559 the treaty with France was signed and a year later the admiralty was moved to the town Gent (nowadays Belgium). The warships were sold in 1561.

In 1568 started the revolt of the Netherlands against the Spanish ending in what was later known as the 80-years war. In the 90’s if the 16th century a more or less central naval organisation was founded consisting of five admiralties of which three were suited in Holland. Each admiralty was quite independent in for instance their financial management and decisions (taxes were the main revenues) although the States-General made the financial decisions concerning the employment of the navy. Although all admiralties had their own yard facilities partly of the ships were, still in the 18th century, built at private yards. The five admiralties were Amsterdam. Rotterdam or the Maze, Noorderkwartier (situated at Hoorn and Enkhuizen), Zeeland and Friesland.

In the province Zealand the admiralty was suited in Middelburg. Although in Middelburg in the 17th century the Dutch East Company founded an own shipyard and some warships were build at Middelburg in Flushing were the most important yard facilities later including wet and dry docks. In this place most of the warships were built for the admiralty of Zealand. Nowadays there are still warships being built in Flushing by a company in fact a successor of the original navy yard. Veere and Zierikzee became less important in the 17th century although in both places warships were built and equipped/fitted out. The buildings of the arsenal at Veere dating from the mid 15th century were in the 17th century still known as the arsenal of the count (lord) and not earlier as in the 20th century broken up.

The Admiralty archives are sadly enough mostly destroyed, for example the disaster in 1844 when the building of the Department of Navy in The Hague was destroyed by fire caused the loss of the major part of the at moment still preserved documents. Except for the so-called Admiralty archives there is still a lot to be found in family-archives, municipal archives and so on. There is one major exception namely the admiralty of Zealand.

A group of volunteers translated all decisions taken by the Council of this admiralty for the period 1584-1609. In those years the Netherlands were revolting against Spain resulting in founding a independent Republic of the United Netherlands and which became a major naval power since the thirties of the 17th century. The translations which are now available are of major interest for everyone interested in the Dutch maritime history. They are for sell since 16 March 2012 (totally costs for the five volumes 295 euro or 75 euro separate volumes). See the website of the Zeeuws Archief:

But there are more treasures to find on this website, namely the archive of the Rekenkamer. This organisation was responsible for the financial and judicial administration of the Admiralty of Zealand. Her archive contains for instance the (annual) accounts of the equipage- en ammunitiemeesters of the several shipyards as for instance at Flushing. These equipagemeesters were responsible for the building and fitting out of the warships. Part of this archive is digitized. For the period 1577-1609 you are able to consult at home via the internet several accounts. Follow the link for an example of the account of Cornelis Claesse over the period 1 February-31 March 1593