In a previous blog article I spoke about the logistics in the historical Netherlands and how it helped the country became the most important economy in the world. Today I will talk about the importance that Cape Town had in the colonial era(SXVII-XIX) and why all the Europeans desired to have territorial control in South Africa.
In that time traveling between Asia and Europe could take about 8 months, this presented a lot of logistical issues like the need to resupply or repair the fleets that were on route between Asia and Europe. At first they negotiated with the natives in the zone but as the fleets grew in number of ships they started to get several issues at getting supplies during the travel.
For that reason the Dutch founded Cape Town in 1652, that was just in the middle of the route between Asia and Europe. This settlement allowed the Dutch fleets to stop, get supplies and do reparations. It also allowed to facilitate the communications between the Netherlands and Asia, since in that era it was quite difficult to stablish contact with a person in the other side of the globe. If a fleet had a problem between Europe and Cape Town they would send the message once they arrived at Cape Town and from there another ship would sail towards the headquarters in Netherlands, which was more efficient than having to send it from Indonesia. Also they could also estimate more exactly which was the current position of their fleet. If a fleet was sunk they could know if the disaster happened before Cape Town or after stopping there, in the Indic Ocean.
So it’s not strange that in the end of the XVIII Britain tried to acquire Cape Town at all costs because it was the most important settlement between Asia and Europe. If they hadn’t done that the Dutch colonial companies would have had a competitive advantage towards the British ones. At the XIX the balance of power in Asia shifted from the Dutch towards the British, and one of the reasons it was the acquisition of Cape Town.
Even the businessman of 300 years ago knew that the logistics were one of the most vital and important aspect of the firm, and they didn’t had any problem to wage a war against another colonial company in order to have logistical advantage. Even though the problems that the firms had were very different (in this case we are talking about the need to resupply during a large travel).
Written by: Daniel Puerto