Opperhoofd is a Dutch word (plural opperhoofden) that literally translates to "upper-head", meaning "supreme headman". The Danish equivalent Overhoved, which is derived from a Danish pronunciation of the Dutch word, is also treated here.

In modern Dutch, Opperhoofd remains in use for a native tribal chief, such as a Sachem of Native Americans. Despite the superlative etymology, it can be applied to several chiefs in a single native community.

However this article is devoted to its more former, historical use as a gubernatorial title, comparable to the English chief factor, for the chief executive officer of a Dutch factorij in the sense of trading post, as led by a factor, i.e. agent.

The etymologically cognate title of Danish Opperhoved (singular) had a similar gubernatorial use (sometimes rendered in English as Station Chief), notably in the Danish Gold Coast (in present Ghana), see Colonial Heads of Danish Gold Coast. The German cognate is Oberhaupt.

Dutch colonial Opperhoofden

In Asia

The factory established on 20 September 1609 at Hirado by the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC), next in 1641, as the Dutch factorij was moved by order of the Shogunate thereto, on Dejima (Desjima in purist Dutch, or Latinized as Decima) Island, in Nagasaki Bay.[1] The trading post was maintained under the Dutch state after the 1795 end of VOC administration till on 28 February 1860 Dejima was abandoned. For a full list of its Opperhoofden, see VOC Opperhoofden in Japan.

In Africa

  • The Dutch Fort Lijdzaamheid (Lydsaamheid),[2] was established by the VOC in March 1721 as a naval support point at Delagoa Bay, near modern-day Mozambique's capital Maputo. It was subordinate to the Dutch Cape colony. The Dutch abandoned the post on December 27, 1730.
  • Mauritius, since 1638 a Dutch colony under the chartered VOC, was governed by an Opperhoofd/Commandeur until it was abandoned on 17 February 1710. In September 1715, the island was claimed for France and renamed Île de France by the passing French sailor Guillaume Dufresne D'Arsel.

See also


  1. Screech, Timon. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822, pp. 5-6.
  2. vocsite.nl


  • Screech, Timon. (2006). Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-7007-1720-X
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