The Company Fortress: Military Engineering and the Dutch East India Company in South Asia, 1638-1795

Research output: Book/ReportBookScientificpeer-review


The remains of Dutch East India Company (VOC) forts are scattered throughout littoral Asia and Africa. But how important were the specific characteristics of European bastion-trace fortifications in enabling early modern European expansion? The Company Fortress takes on this question by studying the system of fortifications built and maintained by the Dutch East India Company in present-day India and Sri Lanka. Remaining fortifications in places like Kannur, Sadras, Jaffna and Galle give an impression of the size and complexity of these works, but cities like Kochi, Nagapattinam and Colombo were also fortified by the Dutch company. The book uncovers the stories of the fortifications and their designers, arguing that many of those responsible for building these forts were in fact amateurs and their creations contained serious flaws, to the bewilderment of later engineers tasked with improving them. Disagreements over fortification design hampered these improvement efforts: there proved not to be a single ‘European school’ of fortification design. This book questions the importance of fortification design for explaining European colonial expansion, shows the relationship be­tween siege and naval warfare, and highlights changing perceptions by VOC-commanders of the military capabilities of new polities like Mysore and Travancore in the late eighteenth century. About the Author Erik Odegard is a Dutch historian of the Dutch colonial empire. His PhD thesis on the careers of Dutch colonial governors was published by Brill in 2022. Currently, Erik works at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam on a research project on private investment in the Dutch plantation colony in Brazil (1630-1654). Other research interests include maritime and naval history, military history and slavery.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages306
ISBN (Print)9788119139231
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2023


  • Dutch East India Company (VOC)
  • India
  • Sri Lanka
  • Fortification
  • Military engineering
  • Military Revolution
  • Dutch empire
  • South Asia
  • colonial wars


Dive into the research topics of 'The Company Fortress: Military Engineering and the Dutch East India Company in South Asia, 1638-1795'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this