Untouched 17th-century Dutch manuscripts in a Hague preserve have the potential to completely alter Kerala’s medieval history.
When King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the 16th-century Dutch Palace in Kerala in the fall of 2019, they came across a peculiar request from a local historian. In order to gain access to ancient manuscripts from Kerala that were uncharted in the Dutch national archives, Michael Tharakan, the Chairman of the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) at the time, asked the royal couple for assistance.
Your nation provided us Tharakan told the King and Queen regarding Captain De Lannoy, a Dutch general who changed sides after his army was eliminated from the former Travancore kingdom in the famous battle of Colachel in 1741.
Thanks to De Lannoy’s knowledge, Travancore managed to set up an organized army. In order for our historical scholars to investigate medieval handwritten ones that have been shipped from here to the Netherlands, we are eager to acquire the old Dutch language. Tharakan headed on as a former Kannur University vice chancellor. He recalls the October 2019 incident at the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry and says, “They got it effectively.”
Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in April of the previous year with KCHR, the Netherlands’ Leiden University, established in 1575, is ready to take on four Indian students for a Masters in Colonial and Global History and to instruct medieval Dutch.
The six pupils from Kerala are the first group to make the trip to Leiden as part of Cosmos Malabaricus, a seven-year collaborative project including KCHR, Leiden University, and the National Archives of the Netherlands in The Hague—all individuals to the Memorandum of Understanding. Leiden-based Dutch academics will be forthcoming to Kerala for summertime school and internships.
According to KCHR, the collaboration will involve educating Indian students about the language of the Middle Ages and Early Modern eras, as well as how to utilize archives, translate a few Dutch documents, and promote historical research on the Dutch colonial era. The Dutch national archives have just finished a massive digital age of manuscripts, which helped facilitate their work. The botanical treatise Hortus Malabaricus, composed by the Dutch Governor Hendrik van Rheede in the 17th century, from which the project’s name originates,
Long before the visit of the Dutch King and Queen to India, discussions had been taking place among historians from the Netherlands and India for a joint academic initiative. Authorized by the Union government’s Ministry of External Affairs, the India-Dutch research partnership represents a significant beginning towards analyzing old Dutch manuscripts that have the ability to rewrite Kerala’s medieval history.
Neither Indian historians nor Dutch historians have previously thoroughly investigated the old Dutch manuscripts, which contain historical data based on maritime trade compared to land and temple paperwork in the Indian sources of information. According to Gautam Das of KCHR, the old Dutch records of Malabar remain mostly unexplored. Malabar historians are not familiar with historical Dutch, and scholars conversant in historical Dutch are not knowledgeable about Malabar history,” he says. Shelves in excess of 100 meters long have been taken up by the important manuscript collection at the Hague.