Born in Jakarta, I studied at the University of Amsterdam, Dutch Language and Literature, Art History, and Science of Literature.
In 2008 I received my PhD after writing a monography on Nicolaes Witsen, the true Mercator Sapiens. Besides burgomaster of Amsterdam and boardmember of the EIC, he was a geographer, cartographer, author, a passionate collector and a worldwide researcher. It was published as (translated) Mercator Sapiens. The worldwide research of Nicolaes Witsen (1641-1717), burgomaster and EIC-boardmember of Amsterdam (Amsterdam 2010; De wijze koopman. Het wereldwijde onderzoek van Nicolaes Witsen (1641-1717), burgemeester en VOC-bewindhebber van Amsterdam)
In the last decades of the past century my partner, the photographer Ferry André de la Porte, and I made long voyages through Asia. In India, near Mahabalipuram, we were rewarded with a very interesting discovery. On the walls of a little rock cave Shiva-temple we found hundreds of names inscribed, names of Dutch VOC-officers and their families, with the dates of their visits attached. Between 1662 and 1818 the temple seems to have been used as a kind of guestbook. For us this guestbook in stone meant the starting point of years of research to find out who these people were. One of the names engraved belonged to the noteworthy figure Daniel Havart. He wrote a historiography of the VOC on the Coast of Coromandel. In his book Rise and Fall of Coromandel (Amsterdam 1694; Op- en Ondergang van Cormandel) he describes the country and its rulers, the factories and their merchandise, the careers of the officers, their social life and living with wives, slaves and kids, how the Dutch dealt with tropical diseases and death, and his aversion of the frugal management of the VOC (United East Indian Company). Besides all this, Daniel Havart was also an enthousiastic funeral-poet. All along the east (and west-) coast Dutch cemeteries can be found, of which eight (of formerly 20) graves bear a funerary poem by Havart. Our investigation also included the Dutch remains. All the existing fortifications, graffiti, grave-yards and graves that we could find have been charted and photographed. In 2002 this resulted in an exhibition of a selection of these pictures in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. This exhibition was accompanied by the book Written in stone. Life and death of VOC-officers and their families at the Coast of Coromandel in India (In steen geschreven. Leven en sterven van VOC-dienaren op de Kust van Coromandel in India). In 2003 the book was awarded with the Jan Huygen van Linschoten prize (named after the famous Dutch discoverer of the route to East India).
East India Company, particularly the personnel and their way of life, use of leisure, net-works, diseases and death, female emigrants, adventurers;
History of collections, history of science, cartography, geography, natural science, history of colonization, pioneers of ethnology, etcetera.