Dutch Colonization

The Dutch Republic started attempts to establish colonies in North America in early 16th century.

The Dutch East India Company, also known as WIC, was established in 1602. Its primary task was to explore the Americas and claim suitable territories for the Republic.

The efforts of WIC ultimately led to the establishment of New Netherland which became the most significant Dutch colony in North America.

Establishment of New Netherland

In 1621, WIC established the Dutch colony of New Netherland. This colony was established in order to allow Dutch traders to partake in the lucrative fur trade.

The colony soon ran into numerous problems due to the mismanagement of WIC. In spite of these, the colony flourished very rapidly during the 1650s and became a major centre of trade.

Contact with Native Americans

When the Dutch established New Netherland, the Algonquian lived in the regions nearby. The Dutch purchased beaver pelts from the Native Americans who caught and skinned them.

This established a trade relationship between the Dutch and the Native Americans. However, disagreements and misunderstandings between the two sides often took place, especially on issues related to land ownership.

Establishment of New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam was the heart and capital of the New Netherland colony. In 1623, the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam around which a large settlement grew. This settlement was designated as the capital of the province of New Netherland, and renamed as New Amsterdam.

In 1655, the city was attacked by a large number of Native Americans who killed nearly 100 settlers and took many as captives. Then in 1665, the English attacked and captured New Amsterdam. They renamed it to New York which remains its name to this day.

Land Ownership in New Netherland

The Dutch wanted to encourage the settlements of New Netherland. So they started offering land ownership along with different privileges to individuals who could settle it.

The Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions in 1629 defined the land rights of the owners. Each owner was given a vast piece of land and was required to settle 50 families on it within a period of 4 years. Five such ownerships were granted and only one of them turned out to be successful.

The War with Native Americans

In the 1640s, many Native American tribes from the northern areas of North America had come south and sought refuge in areas around New Netherland. The then-Director of New Netherland, William Kieft, decided to seek tribute from these tribes.

When this provoked reaction from the Native Americans, Kieft attacked and killed 130 of them in a massacre. This initiated a war known as the Kieft’s war which raged on for the next two years. It finally came to an end in 1645.

British Annexation of New Netherland

In 1664, the King of England decided to annex New Netherland and make it a part of the English colonial empire in the Americas. In August the same year, four British frigates entered the harbor of New Amsterdam and quickly took control of the colony.

This was made possible because of a lack of manpower, defenses and soldiers on the part of the Dutch presence in New Netherland. The English renamed the colony as New York.