Aagje Luijtsen’s Letters

The history of the VOC (1602-1795) is generally told from the perspective of the men sailing aboard the ships. These stories portray the seafarers who sometimes travelled for years to the East in order to obtain spices. These stories paint a true picture, but they only tell half of the story. There were also those who remained behind: family and friends whose stories were forgotten.

In the late 1990’s, when the historian Perry Moree was at the National Archives of England for research, he found a number of letters from a woman from Texel called Aagje Luijtsen. These letters portray a different side of the seafaring life. The letters describe the loneliness she felt when her husband, Harmanus Kikkert, was at sea. They also describe the moments in which she missed Harmanus: the birth of their two sons, of which one soon passed away, and an illness which Aagje probably died from.

In various ways, these letters illustrate this time in history from a perspective which has not been seen before. The collected letters form an unique example of correspondence from the home front on Texel to a husband at sea and the fact that they are written by an ordinary housewife make them even more special.

Click on the online exhibition below to experience Aagje’s story!


  • Johannes Vinckboons, Gezicht op Kanton in China, circa 1662-1663 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
    The Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) was a company which engaged in trade between the Dutch Republic and Asia. This involved violence, slavery and displays of power in order to create a trade monopoly in South East Asia. From the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic maintained a strong position in this way in both South East Asia and Europe.