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Demand for spices was relatively inelastic, and therefore each lag in the supply of pepper caused a sharp rise in pepper prices.In 1580 the Portuguese crown was united in a personal union with the Spanish crown, with which the Dutch Republic was at war.

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The commercial networks of Dutch transnational companies, like the VOC and GWIC, provided an infrastructure which was accessible to people with a scholarly interest in the exotic world.

The company was formed to profit from the Malukan spice trade, and in 1619 it established a capital in the port city of Jayakarta, changing the name to Batavia (modern-day Jakarta).

View of Table Bay with ships of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), c. In the 1600s the size of the Dutch merchant fleet probably exceeded the combined fleets of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany.

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After 1591, however, the Portuguese used an international syndicate of the German Fuggers and Welsers, and Spanish and Italian firms, that used Hamburg as the northern staple port to distribute their goods, thereby cutting Dutch merchants out of the trade.