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.
The “United East Indian Company”, or “United East Indies Company” (also known by the abbreviation “VOC” in Dutch) was the brainchild of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, the leading statesman of the Dutch Republic.
Before the Dutch Revolt, Antwerp had played an important role as a distribution centre in northern Europe.
In 1598, an increasing number of fleets were sent out by competing merchant groups from around the Netherlands.
Some fleets were lost, but most were successful, with some voyages producing high profits.
In March 1599, a fleet of eight ships under Jacob van Neck was the first Dutch fleet to reach the 'Spice Islands' of Maluku, the source of pepper, cutting out the Javanese middlemen.
The ships returned to Europe in 15 and the expedition made a 400 percent profit.
These factors motivated Dutch merchants to enter the intercontinental spice trade themselves.
The flag of the company was red, white, and blue (see Dutch flag), with the company logo embroidered on it.
Around the world and especially in English-speaking countries, the VOC is widely known as the "Dutch East India Company".
East of Solor, on the island of Timor, Dutch advances were halted by an autonomous and powerful group of Portuguese Eurasians called the Topasses.
They remained in control of the Sandalwood trade and their resistance lasted throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, causing Portuguese Timor to remain under the Portuguese sphere of control.