The Empire that Never Was

The Nearly-Dutch Atlantic Empire in the Seventeenth Century

in Journal of Early American History
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This book forum focuses on Wim Klooster’s The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World (Cornell University Press, 2016). In his book, Wim Klooster shows how the Dutch built and eventually lost an Atlantic empire that stretched from the homeland in the United Provinces to the Hudson River and from Brazil and the Caribbean to the African Gold Coast. The fleets and armies that fought for the Dutch in the decades-long war against Spain included numerous foreigners, largely drawn from countries in northwestern Europe. Likewise, many settlers of Dutch colonies were born in other parts of Europe or the New World. According to Klooster, the Dutch would not have been able to achieve military victories without the native alliances they carefully cultivated. Indeed, Klooster concludes, the Dutch Atlantic was quintessentially interimperial, multinational, and multiracial. At the same time, it was an empire entirely designed to benefit the United Provinces.

The four reviewers – Trevor Burnard, Joyce Goodfriend, Cynthia Van Zandt, and Willem Frijhoff – all offer praise, some more profusely than others. Their reviews critically question some aspects of Klooster’s narrative, particularly in relation to slavery, the inevitability of the Dutch Atlantic empire’s decline, his assessment of the rule of Johan-Maurits van Nassau-Siegen in Dutch Brazil, the role of violence and of women in Dutch colonization, as well as the relationship between microcosmic and macrocosmic perspectives on the history of Dutch America.

The Empire that Never Was

The Nearly-Dutch Atlantic Empire in the Seventeenth Century

in Journal of Early American History




Emmer and Klooster“Dutch Atlantic”48.


Russell R. MenardSweet Negotiations: Sugar Slavery and Plantation Agriculture in Early Barbados (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press2006) 51. For another aspect of the Dutch influence on Barbados see Wim Klooster “De Ruyter’s Attack on Barbados: The Dutch Perspective” in Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Perspective 60 (2014) 42–53.


Trevor BurnardPlanters Merchants and Slaves: Plantation Societies in British America 1650–1820 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press2015). For another model of a successful Atlantic World strategy that was not based upon plantation agriculture see Michael Jarvis In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda Bermudians in the Maritime Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 2010). But the most important eighteenth-century colonies were those that harnessed the labour of Africans and the capital of Europeans to develop a form of Atlantic capitalism based upon plantation agriculture. See Trevor Burnard and John Garrigus The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2016).


David EltisThe Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (New York: Cambridge University Press2000).


 For example Jaap JacobsThe Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-Century America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press2009); Evan Haefeli New Netherland and the Dutch Origins of American Religious Liberty (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2012); and more generally: Hans Krabbendam Cornelis A. van Minnen and Giles Scott-Smith (eds.) Four Centuries of Dutch-American Relations 1609–2009 (Amsterdam: Boom / Albany: suny Press 2009) America being in this case limited to North America.


Michel Mollat (ed.)Histoire de Rouen (Toulouse: Privat1979); Jean-Pierre Bardet Rouen aux xviie et xviiie siècles. Les mutations d’un éspace social (Paris: sedes 1983) 2 vol.


Luuc KooijmansVriendschap en de kunst van het overleven in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker1997); Geert Mak De levens van Jan Six: een familiegeschiedenis (Amsterdam: Atlas 2016). Other examples are Julia Adams The Familial State: Ruling Families and Merchant Capitalism in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2005) and for New Netherland Susanah Shaw Romney New Netherland Connections: Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America (Chapel Hill nc: University of North Caroline Press 2014).


J.A. Jacobs“Johannes de Laet en de Nieuwe Wereld” in Jaarboek van het Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie 50 (1996) 108–130; R.H. Bremmer Jr and P. Hoftijzer (eds.) “Johannes de Laet (1581–1649): A Leiden Polymath” special issue of Lias. Sources and Documents Relating to the Early Modern History of Ideas 25/2 (1998) 135–229.


A.Th. van DeursenMensen van klein vermogen. Het kopergeld van de Gouden eeuw (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bert Bakker1991) improperly translated as Plain Lives in a Golden Age. Popular Culture Religion and Society in Seventeenth-Century Holland (Cambridge University Press 1991).


G.W. Kernkamp“Een contract tot slavenhandel van 1657” in Bijdragen en Mededeelingen van het Historisch Genootschap 22 (1901) 444–458.


G.W. van der MeidenBetwist bestuur. De eerste eeuw bestuurlijke ruzies in Suriname 1651–1753 (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw2008) 41 45 50 55 66.


Lee Siegel“Our George Steiner Problem – and Mine” in New York TimesSunday Book Review 12 March 2009.


George SteinerIn Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes towards the Re-definition of Culture (London: Faber & Faber1971) 54.


 Cf. Irving Howe“High Mandarin” in Commentary Magazine1 February 1972.


Simon HartThe Prehistory of the New Netherland Company: Amsterdam notarial records of the first Dutch voyages to the Hudson (Amsterdam: City of Amsterdam Press1959) 12–17; Th. J. Kupp “Quelques aspects de la dissolution de la Compagnie de M. de Monts 1607” in Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française 24:3 (1970) 357–374 herein 359–360; Cornelius Jaenen “Champlain and the Dutch” in eds. Raymonde Litalien and Denis Vaugeois Champlain: The Birth of French America (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press Septentrion 2004) 242.


Olaf van Nimwegen‘Deser landen crijchsvolck’: Het Staatse leger en de militaire revoluties (1588–1688) (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bert Bakker2006) 43; Michael Sikora Disziplin und Desertion: Strukturprobleme militärischer Organisation im 18. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1996) 297–305.


L.H. Roper“The Fall of New Netherland and Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Imperial Formation, 1654–1676” in New England Quarterly 87:4 (2014) 666–708.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 30 30 11
Full Text Views 76 76 55
PDF Downloads 6 6 3
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0