Global Cuisine in the Dutch Indian Ocean Empire

Global Cuisine in the Dutch Indian Ocean Empire
This dissertation charts a new course in the history of the empire of the Dutch East India Company in the eighteenth century. It tells the story of the origins, travels, transformations, and ultimate decline of a novel food culture, which I am calling global Batavian cuisine, in the empire of the Dutch East India Company, which emerged in European colonial households in Batavia in the late seventeenth century. I navigate the spatial and temporal shifts in this cuisine as it moved among the ports of empire, and even the Dutch Republic, where it was associated with merchant and elite status. Following the traces of mobile women, men, foods, material culture and knowledge as they travelled the oceans, I reconstruct this cuisine to shed fresh insights on the politics of empire that are rarely illuminated by classical approaches to economic and social history of the Company, or wider studies of Indian Ocean food exchanges focused on the movements of staples and spices. Within the framework of global Batavian cuisine, I make several important arguments which contribute to our better understanding of the intersection between early modern empires, mobility, gender, and food.
Drawing on scholarly approaches to connected and global histories, I reconstruct a global food history of the Dutch East India Company’s empire in the Indian Ocean. I argue that enslaved male cooks from India and Indonesia and ‘mestiza’ women, a dubious category of colonial administrative governance meaning mixed, negotiated the production of this new colonial cuisine in an unequal exchange of knowledge in Batavia, the heart of empire. This new cuisine, in turn, was transported to the ports of the Dutch Company’s empire by the mobility of these enslaved cooks, elite male merchants and their women partners, foods, and material culture on the Company’s shipping network. Using food as an analytical object, I reconstruct these connections between the port cities of Ambon, Batavia, Colombo, and Cape Town, at the same time interrogating the possibilities and limitations of a connected history approach.


Kathleen Burke

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

University of Toronto, History Department




Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)
Maritime Asia


Gender and Identity
Diasporas and Migration