On this date in 1602, the Dutch East India Company, known around the world as the VOC (for Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, United East-India Company referring to the country’s union after driving out the Spanish) was formed. It was the first public company to issue negotiable shares, and by some measures is considered the most successful company of all time.
The company lived for nearly 200 years, before being quasi-nationalized by Napoleon Bonaparte’s client state in what became known as the Batavian Republic.
Wikipedia user Red4Tribe has uploaded a map showing the extent of the VOC’s holdings, in light green, over its lifetime. This is as if Apple or GE owned entire countries. We’ve previously documented how the British East India Company, born two years earlier, likewise ended up holding large amounts of land in India, not to mention paying their own armies. The map also shows the holdings of the Dutch West India Company, created 19 years later, in dark green. In yellow are territories held later, during the 19th century.