Tavern of two oceans: Alcohol, taxes and leases in the seventeenth-century Dutch world
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The retail of alcohol was so central to the economy and society of the Cape of Good Hope during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that it earned the nickname “tavern of two oceans”. This retail business was organised on the socalled lease or monopoly (pacht) system whereby a person paid the authorities for the right to sell a certain type of alcohol for a given period in a specific area. This article traces the intellectual origins of this system of alcohol retail at the Cape during the VOC era. It does so by tracing both the idea of using leases or monopolies, first in the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, and by investigating the ways in which various products, including alcohol, were leased off in the largest and most significant of the VOC’s colonies, Batavia, during the first half of the seventeenth century. It is demonstrated that the ways in which alcohol retail and other economic activities were organised at the Cape developed out of practices established elsewhere in the seventeenthcentury Dutch world, but that the exact nature of the system was adapted to unique local circumstances at the early Cape. As such, this comparative article serves as an illustration that developments at the Cape in such a central sphere as business practices were the product of both global and local forces and influences.