Balthasar Bort was born on 14th December 1626 at Amsterdam. He joined the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and in April 1641 he sailed on the ship Vogelstruys to the East.
It was recorded that in 1644, he was a junior merchant in Arakan, in the Philippines and in 1645 he was appointed at a clerk in the secretariat’s office in Batavia. In 1657, he was sent to Malacca and was appointed as secretary of the Council of Malacca and in 1659, he was the fiscaal (tax collector) there. However, in 1656, he was sent to Ligor in Thailand to become the Chief there. In 1657, he returned to Malacca and was made chief merchant and second person in Malacca. In 1659, left Malacca again and he was made the commissioner to Aceh. By 1661, he was in-charge of West Sumatra but he eventually returned to the castle of Batavia.
In 1662, Bort was appointed as head of the Dutch mission to China and he was given command of the VOC’s Noort fleet, comprising of twelve vessels. The goal was the conquest of Macao. While in China, Bort was able to meet the Jesuit, Fr. Philip Couplet (the first European to translate the works of the Chinese philosopher Confucius). He travelled 3 times to China.
As reward for Bort’s services in China, Batavia appointed him as Governor of Malacca. It was a position he held from 1665 to 1677. While in Malacca, he made repairs to the Fortress of Malacca and the surviving Fort gateway was named after him. As a result of his time in Malacca, he wrote a document that is to be known as the Report of Governor Balthasar Bort on Malacca, 1678. Clearly, this report was meant as a reference for the governor of Malacca to be appointed after him.
Bort returned to Batavia and in 1679, he was appointed as President of the Board of Justice and in 1681, Director-General of Trade. Bort died on 11th January 1684 at Batavia and he was buried with his wife at the Old Church there.
The Report of Governor Balthasar Bort on Malacca was discovered as a collection of Dutch manuscripts in the collection of the library of the India Office in London and formed part of a collection purchased by the East India Company from the widow of Colonel Colin Mackenzie in 1822. Colonel Colin Mackenzie obtained the manuscript in 1813 from the private collection of Madame Caulier of Chilinching (Tanjung Priok), near Batavia.
The Report of Governor Balthasar Bort on Malacca, 1678 was translated and published Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1927. It contains an amazing array of history, trade and sociology of Malacca during its early Dutch times.