This chapter has attempted to make an inventory of various aspects of the VOC relevant to the way in which it waged war. It has done so in the hope that these aspects would combine to form a certain system which could function as a framework to the case-study still to follow.
Looking at the purely military aspects of this system, we might distinguish between two particular ‘realms’ of VOC warfare: a maritime realm and a land-based realm. To the maritime realm we may count naval warfare, but also the various fortified VOC settlements, which were invariably built along the coast. The synergy of superior warships and the use of artillery fortresses gave the VOC a certain military superiority in this maritime realm, both vis-à-vis other Europeans and local societies. Although non-military factors are certainly important in this maritime superiority as well, it cannot be considered separately from European military innovation. The galleon and the artillery fortress were indeed exponents of European military developments, transposed to an Asian context, which irrefutably contributed to the VOC’s success. For the land-based realm, on the other hand, notions of military superiority hold far smaller explanatory value. The limited resources with which the VOC had to make do in its vast area of operation, as well as the very relative relevance of European innovations with regard to infantry and land warfare in its Asian context, pretty much limited the VOC’s military superiority to one cannon shot inland.
In addition, and perhaps more importantly, this chapter has aimed to show how the influence of factors which are not in the first instance military were at least as important to the VOC’s military success as military factors in the strict sense of the word. The wider context of the VOC’s military actions, consisting of its goals, its political culture, its perceived role in Asia and its organisation, were strongly defining for the conflicts in which the VOC got itself involved, and the way in which it handled these. The latter of these, the organization, will be the topic of the following chapters.