The Dutch colonization of the Americas began with the establishment of Dutch trading posts and plantations in the Americas, which preceded the much wider known colonisation activities of the Dutch in Asia. While the first Dutch fort in Asia was built in 1600 (in present-day Indonesia), the first forts and settlements on the Essequibo River in Guyana date from the 1590s. Actual colonization, with the Dutch settling in the new lands, was not as common as with other European nations. Many of the Dutch settlements were lost or abandoned by the end of the 17th century, but the Netherlands managed to retain possession of Suriname until it gained independence in 1975, as well as the Netherlands Antilles, which remain within the Kingdom of the Netherlands today.

Mainland In North America

1685 reprint of a 1656 map of the Dutch North American colonies showing extent of Dutch claims, from Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River in the South and West, to Narragansett Bay and the Providence-Blackstone Rivers in the East, to the St. Lawrence River in the North

In 1602, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands chartered a young and eager Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or "VOC") with the mission of exploring North America's Rivers and Bays for a direct passage through to the Indies. Along the way, Dutch explorers were charged to claim any uncharted areas for the United Provinces, which led to several significant expeditions and, over time, Dutch explorers founded the province of New Netherland. By 1610, the VOC had already commissioned English explorer Henry Hudson who, in an attempt to find the so-called northwest passage to the Indies, discovered and claimed for the VOC parts of the present-day United States and Canada. Hudson entered the Upper New York Bay by sailboat, heading up the Hudson River, which now bears his name.

On March 27, 1614 the States General would move away from traditional monopolistic endeavors and take a new and freer approach to exploration and commercial development of the New World; the issuance of the General Charter for Those who Discover Any New Passages, Havens, Countries, or Places stated that "the said undertaking to be laudable, honorable, and serviceable for the prosperity of the United Provinces and wishing that the experiment be free and open to all and every of the inhabitants of this country, have invited and do hereby invite all and every of the inhabitants of the United Netherlands to the aforesaid search."[1]

In 1614, Adriaen Block led an expedition to the lower Hudson River in the Tyger, and then explored the East River aboard the Onrust, becoming the first known European to navigate the Hellegat in order to gain access to Long Island Sound. Block Island and Block Island Sound are befittingly named in his honor. Upon his return to Amsterdam in 1614, Block compiled a map, and applied the name 'New Netherland' for the first time to the area between English Virginia and French Canada, where he was later granted exclusive trading rights by the Dutch government. Block quickly ascended and became Manhattan's first monopolist.

Area settled by the Dutch in 1660

After some early trading expeditions, the first Dutch settlement in the Americas was founded in 1615: Fort Nassau, on Castle Island along the Hudson, near present-day Albany. The settlement served mostly as an outpost for trading in fur with the native Lenape tribespeople, but was later replaced by Fort Orange. Both forts were named in honor of the House of Orange-Nassau.

By 1621, the United Provinces had charted a new company, a trading monopoly in the Americas and West Africa: the Dutch West India Company (Westindische Compagnie or WIC). The WIC sought recognition as founders of the New World – which they ultimately did as founders of a new Province in 1623, New Netherland. That year, another Fort Nassau was built on the Delaware River near Gloucester City, New Jersey.

In 1624, the first colonists, mostly Walloons and their slaves-bound servants, arrived to New Netherland by the shipload, landing at Governors Island and initially dispensed to Fort Orange, Fort Wilhelmus and Kievets Hoek. In 1626, Director of the WIC Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lenape natives and started construction of Fort Amsterdam, which grew to become the main port and capital, New Amsterdam. The colony expanded to outlying areas at Pavonia, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Long Island.

On the Connecticut River, Fort Huys de Goede Hoop was completed in 1633 at present day Hartford. By 1636, the English from Newtown (now Cambridge, Massachusetts) settled on the north side of the Little River. In the Treaty of Hartford, the border of New Netherland was retracted to western Connecticut and by 1653, the English had overtaken the Dutch trading post.

Expansion along the Delaware River beyond Fort Nassau did not begin until the 1650s, after the takeover of a Swedish colony, obviously called New Sweden which had been established at Fort Christina in 1638. Settlements at Fort Nassau and the short-lived Fort Beversreede were abandoned and consolidated at Fort Casimir. By 1655 Fort Christina, sitting in what is today Wilmington, had already been renamed Fort Altena.

Not all inhabitants of New Netherlands, Manahattan's first European colonizers, were ethnically Dutch, but in reality came from many European countries. Along with the large number of African native peoples—originally brought over bound by the shackles of slavehood—many New Netherlanders were Walloons, Huguenots, Germans, Scandinavian and English relocated from New England.[citation needed]

In 1664, an English naval expedition ordered by Prince James, Duke of York and of Albany (later King James II & VII) sailed in the harbor at New Amsterdam, threatening to attack. Being greatly outnumbered, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered after negotiating favorable articles of capitulation. The Province then took a new name, New York (from James's English title). Fort Orange was renamed Fort Albany (from James's Scottish title). The region between the lower Hudson and the Delaware was deeded to proprietors and called New Jersey.

The loss of New Netherland led to the Second Anglo–Dutch War during 1665–1667. This conflict ended with the Treaty of Breda, which stipulated that the Dutch give up their claim to New Netherlands in exchange for Suriname.

From 1673 to 1674, the territories were once again briefly captured by the Dutch in the Third Anglo–Dutch War, only to be returned to England at the Treaty of Westminster. In 1674, Dutch navy captain Jurriaen Aernoutsz also briefly captured two forts in the French colony of Acadia, which he claimed as Dutch territory the new colony of New Holland. However, Aernoutsz's appointed administrator, John Rhoades, quickly lost control of the territory after Aernoutsz himself left for Curaçao to seek out new settlers, and with effective control of Acadia remaining in the hands of France, Dutch sovereignty existed only on paper until the Netherlands surrendered their claim in the Treaties of Nijmegen.

Caribbean Sea

Netherlands (Dutch) Antilles

Dutch colonization in the Caribbean started in the 1634 on St. Croix and Tobago (1628), followed in 1631 with settlements on Tortuga (now Île Tortue) and Sint Maarten. When the Dutch lost Sint Maarten (and Anguilla where they had built a fort shortly after arriving in Sint Maarten) to the Spanish, they settled Curaçao and Sint Eustatius. They regained half of Sint Maarten in 1648, from then on sharing the island with France. The border between the two portions of the island continued to be modified periodically, before being set for good in 1816

Until deep into the 19th century, the now Venezuelan islands of Aves, the Aves archipelago, Los Roques and La Orchila were also considered by the Dutch government to be part of the Dutch West Indies.

The Netherlands Antilles remained an overseas territory of the Netherlands. It was granted self-rule in 1954. In 1986, Aruba was granted autonomy, separately from the other islands. On October 10, 2010 the Netherlands Antilles was dismantled. Like Aruba, the islands Curaçao and Sint Maarten became constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius became special municipalities of the Netherlands.


The Netherlands made numerous attempts to colonize Tobago (Nieuw-Walcheren) in the 17th century. Each time, the settlements were destroyed by rival European powers. Dutch settlements on Tobago:[2]

  • 1628 – 1 Jan 1637: Fort Vlissingen; massacred by the Spanish
  • Sept 1654 – Jan 1666: Forts Lampsinsberg, Beveren, and Bellavista; conquered by British, destroyed by French
  • 1667 – 18 Dec 1672: Nieuw-Vlissingen; destroyed by British
  • 1 Sept 1676 – 6 Dec 1677: Fort Sterreschans; destroyed by French

Virgin Islands

As a group, the islands are known as the Maagdeneilanden in Dutch. The Dutch established a base on St. Croix (Sint-Kruis) in 1625, the same year that the British did. French Protestants joined the Dutch but conflict with the British colony led to its abandonment before 1650. The Dutch established a settlement on Tortola (Ter Tholen) before 1640 and later on Anegada, Saint Thomas (Sint-Thomas) and Virgin Gorda. The British took Tortola in 1672 and Anegada and Virgin Gorda in 1680.

South America


Recife or Mauritsstad - Capital of the Nieuw Holland in Brazil
Dutch Brazil, c. 1655

From 1630 onward, the Dutch Republic gained control of a large portion of northeastern Brazil from the Portuguese. The Dutch West India Company set up their headquarters in Recife. The governor, Johan Maurits, invited artists and scientists to the colony to help promote migration to the new South-American colony. However, the Portuguese fought back and won a significant victory at the Second Battle of Guararapes in 1649. On January 26, 1654, the Dutch Republic surrendered and signed a capitulation returning control of all the northeastern Brazil colony to the Portuguese. After the end of the First Anglo–Dutch War in May 1654, the Dutch Republic demanded that New Holland (Dutch Brazil) be returned to Dutch control. Under threat of an occupation of Lisbon and a reoccupation of northeastern Brazil, the Portuguese, already involved in a war against Spain, acceded to the Dutch demand. However, the new Dutch political leader Johan de Witt deemed commerce more important than territory, and saw to it that New Holland was sold back to Portugal on August 6, 1661 through the Treaty of the Hague.[3]


In 1600, the Chilean city of Valdivia was conquered by the Dutch pirate Sebastian de Cordes.[4] He left the city after a few months. In 1642, the VOC and WIC sent a fleet to Chile to conquer Valdivia and its supposed gold mines. This expedition was led by Hendrik Brouwer, a Dutch admiral. In 1643, Brouwer died before effecting the conquest of the Chiloé Archipelago; his lieutenant Elias Herckmans succeeded in capturing the ruins of the city, which he refortified and named Brouwershaven.[5][6] Finding no gold but many hostile natives, the Dutch soon abandoned the outpost.

The second emigration from the Netherlands to Chile was in 1895. Under the so-called "Inspector General of Colonization and Immigration Chilean", a dozen Dutch families settled between 1895 and 1897 in Chiloé, particularly in Mechaico, Huillinco and Chacao. In the same period Hageman Egbert arrived in Chile.[7] with his family, 14 April 1896, settling in Rio Gato, near Puerto Montt. In addition, family Wennekool which inaugurated the Dutch colonization of Villarrica.[8]

In the early twentieth century, there arrived in Chile a large group of Dutch people from South Africa, which had been established where they worked mainly in construction of the railway. When the Boer War, which would eventually lead to the British annexation of both republics in 1902. These emigrants decided to emigrate to Chile with the help of the Chilean government.

On 4 May 1903, a group of over 200 Dutch emigrants sailed on the steamship "Oropesa" shipping company "Pacific Steam Navigation Company, from La Rochelle (La Pallice) in France. The majority of migrants were born in the Netherlands: 35% was from North Holland and South Holland, 13% of North Brabant, 9% of Zeeland and equal number of Gelderland.

On June 5, arrived by train to their final destination, the city of Pitrufquén, located south of Temuco, near the hamlet of Donguil. Another group of Dutchmen arrived shortly after to Talcahuano, in the "Oravi" and the "Orissa". The Netherlands colony in Donguil was christened "New Transvaal Colony. There were established more than 500 families in order to start a new life. Between 7 February 1907 and February 18, 1909 above the last group of families Boers.

It is currently estimated at about 50,000 descendants of Dutch, mostly located in Malleco, Gorbea, Pitrufquén, Faja Maisan and around Temuco and Osorno.[9][10]


The Dutch West Indian Company built a fort in 1616 on the Essequibo River. The Dutch traded with the Indian peoples and, as in Suriname, established sugar plantations worked by African slaves. While the coast remained under Dutch control, the English established plantations west of the Suriname River. Conflict between the two countries meant parts of the region changed hands a number of times, but by 1796 Britain had control of the region. The Netherlands ceded the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice to Britain in 1814.

The colony in Suriname had originally been founded in the 1650s by Lord Francis Willoughby, the British governor of Barbados. It was captured by the Dutch under Abraham Crijnsen during the Second Anglo–Dutch War. On July 31, 1667, under the Treaty of Breda the Dutch offered New Netherland (including New Amsterdam, modern-day New York City) in exchange for their sugar factories on the coast of Suriname. In 1683 Suriname was sold to the Dutch West India Company. The colony developed an agricultural economy based on African slavery. England controlled Suriname during the Napoleonic Wars from 1799 until 1816, when it was returned to the Dutch. The Netherlands abolished slavery in 1863 and later imported indentured labor from the British Raj and the Dutch East Indies to keep the economy going. Internal self governance was granted in 1954 and full independence in 1975. The prospect of independence prompted many to migrate to the Netherlands. Political instability and economic decline after independence resulted in even more migration to the Netherlands. The Surinamese community in the Netherlands is now almost as large as half of the population in the country itself (about 350,000).

See also


  1. ^ General Charter for Those who Discover Any New Passages, Havens, Countries, or Places; March 27, 1614
  2. ^ Ramerini, Marco. Colonial Voyage. "Dutch and Courlanders on Tobago: A History of the First Settlements, 1628–1677 Archived 2012-11-10 at the Wayback Machine.". Accessed 23 Nov 2012.
  3. ^ Facsimiles of 20 manuscripts from the Dutch West India Company Relating about the events in Brazil in the 17th century, from the first capture of Salvador, expansion, defeat and final peace treaty (PT & NL)
  4. ^ "Tradiciones Coloniales" (in Spanish). 
  5. ^ "Historia Valdivia" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2009-05-31. 
  6. ^ "Intento de Colonización" (in Spanish). 
  7. ^ Egbert Hageman.
  8. ^ Netherlands in Chile.
  9. ^ Dutch immigration. Archived August 18, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Holando-bóers al sur de Chile.

Further reading

  • Israel, J.I., Dutch primacy in world trade, 1585–1740, Oxford University Press, 1989
  • Klooster, Wim. The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World. (Cornell University Press, 2016). 419 pp.

External links