Steven van der Hagen (or Haghen) (Amersfoort, 1563 – Utrecht, 1621) was the first admiral of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). He made three visits to the East Indies.
Steven van der Hagen was born around 1563 in Amersfoort and was brought up by an aunt and uncle after his parents fled to the Southern Netherlands due to the Dutch Revolt. At the age of 12, Steven developed a great interest in Spain and (unbeknownst to his uncle) he travelled to Calais on foot to catch a ship to Spain there. Steven stayed in Spain for two years, until he spoke Spanish well. In 1578 Spain went to war with Barbary. A number of Dutch boats fought for Spain, but their crews returned dangerously ill and when they were being given the sacrament as part of their last rites, so that they could be buried in holy ground, Steven acted as interpreter. Steven joined the crew for the return journey to Holland. When Steven got back to Holland, he returned to Amersfoort and heard that his mother had died and his father had remarried.
With the money he inherited he travelled to Italy. In 1587 his ship was lost in Cadiz in the raid by Francis Drake. He succeeded to get back to Holland and in 1589 he married Stephanie van der Made. Between 1585 – 1593 he was a crossing the street of Gibraltar using enlarged 240 ton ships. In 1597-1598 he sailed to the Gulf of Guinea. In 1599-1601 he went to Madagascar as admiral of three ships. In 1600 the three fleets lying at anchor in Bantam decided to bargain and load pepper together. He sailed back to Ambon with 27 soldiers. The inlanders rather dealt with him than the Portuguese, and Van der Hagen was allowed to build a fortification.
In 1603 Van der Hagen was chosen as the admiral of the VOC's first fleet. After six months at sea, they sighted Cape of Good Hope. Then they hijacked a Portuguese ship laden with ivory. In India in September he reached several political trade agreements. He founded factories aimed especially at getting a hold on the huge trade in cotton, spices, precious stones and pigments. In December his ships arrived in Ambon. With the help of local population Van der Hagen captured the Portuguese fort without any shot, the first territory captured by the Dutch Republic in south-east Asia. At the end of the year, one of the fastest sailing ships in Van der Hagen's fleet, the Duyfken, a yacht under the captain Willem Jansz, sailed to the south and discovered the north coast of Australia. In 1607 Van der Hagen sailed to Mauritius, there he ate a dodo, whose taste he noted was rather disgusting.
Back home he bought a house in Utrecht. In 1614 he sailed to Malabar and Goa to fight the Moorish pirates there. He then left for the Red Sea for negotiations, and in 1615 sailed to the Straits of Malacca. In 1616 admiral Van der Hagen defeated the Portuguese at the Malay Peninsula. Between 1616 and 1618 he was governor of Ambon. In 1624 he died of the plague in Utrecht.