Friday, May 11, 2018

A Dutch-speaking Tartar in Japan

Although economic migration is often in the news these days, it is of course nothing new. As a result of colonization and trade in the early modern period many people moved or were moved far from their home for economic purposes. One example dated 1641 from the journal of the Dutch trading post in Japan illustrates this well. It records that a man from Tartary, a large area covering Central and East Asia, had come into contact with a Dutch trader in Muscovy, an area in modern-day North-West Russia including Moscow. There were Dutch merchant colonies in Moscow and Yaroslavl where the Dutch traded in furs from Siberia. The Dutch trader took the Tartar with him, presumably along one of the great Russian river routes and thence the sea, to Amsterdam, where he taught him Dutch. The Tartar then sailed to Batavia, the Dutch trading post on Java, and thence to Deshima, the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki Bay, Japan. Ironically, he may have ended up not so very far from his home. But in the meantime, he had seen something of the world, stayed in the great trading entrepot of Amsterdam, and learnt Dutch!

Further reading:
T. Vermeulen et al., eds., The Deshima Dagregisters, 13 vols. (Leiden: Leiden Centre for the History of European Expansion, 1986), XI, pp. 133–135.
C. Joby, Dutch in Seventeenth-Century Japan: A Social History, Dutch Crossing, DOI: 10.1080/03096564.2017.1279449, p. 10.

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