New Netherland

The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley

Jansson-Visscher_mapWhat did the world of the seventeenth-century Hudson Valley look like? At the 35th Annual Conference on New York State History, historians Leslie Choquette, Jaap Jacobs, Paul Otto, and L.H. Roper grappled with what the region looked like from Native American, Dutch, English, and French perspectives.

In this post you will discover what these scholars had to say about life in the Hudson Valley during the seventeenth century.


Rise of English vs. Dutch Competition

Jaap Jacobs discussed how the decentralized nature of the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company worked well: Decentralization allowed investors to send Dutch ships into the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans to take advantage of new trade opportunities in an organized way.

Jacobs admitted that the Dutch benefitted from the English Civil War (1642-1651) because the English turned their attention inward while the Dutch turned their attention outward. Likewise the Spanish and Portuguese devoted their attentions to their colonies and the closing years of the Eighty Years War. By the 1640s, the Spanish no longer had the means to defend its colonies. With its main competitors distracted, the Dutch expanded their trade networks around the globe.

The Dutch began to face serious competition for global trade during the 1650s. Between 1652 and 1674, the Dutch and English engaged in three wars known as the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Jacobs succinctly expressed the outcomes of these wars:

1st Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654): Marginal victory for the Dutch. • 2nd Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): Victory for the Dutch although the Dutch lost New Netherland. • 3rd Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674): Narrow escape for the Dutch that effectively ended their activities in the Atlantic World.


The French

Leslie Choquette outlined the differences between New France, New England, and New Netherland.

The French commenced their North American forays in 1534, when Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River. Between 1598 and 1608, the French attempted to found trading settlements in New France, all proved unsuccessful. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec with twenty-eight men.

Le_Canada_ou_Nouvelle_FranceChoquette argued that New France had two characteristics that distinguished it from New England and New Netherland.

1. The people of New France formed an alliance with indigenous peoples.

New France suffered from hostility and warfare, but the New French fought distant Native Americans, not those who lived nearby.

2. New France suffered from a very low rate of European immigration, which hampered its development as a colony.

Choquette discussed the need for scholars to move away from nationalistic histories of New France.

English nationalistic histories suggest that New France experienced low immigration because the French were incompetent. They also posit that the French had great relations with the “savages” because they were “savages.”

French nationalistic histories assert that the people of New France coexisted well with their Native American neighbors because the French were a tolerant people. They address low immigration rates to New France by suggesting that no Frenchman wanted to leave “Belle France” and that England experienced high rates of migration to its North American colonies because what Englishman would not want to leave England?

Choquette stated that French-centered histories discount the fact that the French could be just as ruthless as the English and Dutch when it came to dealing with Native American peoples who were not their allies. Both the English- and the French-centered histories also discount the fact that de Champlain had to enter an alliance with Native Americans on Native American terms. He entered the alliance not because the French were tolerant, but because Native American nations controlled the territory outside European colonial settlements.


Native Americans

Paul Otto wants historians to understand that economic, religious, and social norms structured the seventeenth-century encounter between Native American and European peoples in the Hudson Valley.

Otto believes that if historians can understand Native American economic, religious, and social structures then they will have a better sense of what took place in the colonial Hudson Valley; European interactions with Native Americans and Native American participation in those interactions made the formation of societies in the Hudson Valley possible.

Otto asserts that historians must understand two things if they are to understand how colonial society developed around the Hudson Valley:

wampum101. The Iroquois

The Iroquois occupied lands inland from European settlements. The distance between the Haudenosaunee peoples and Europeans gave the Iroquois time to adapt to European settlement before European diseases ravaged their populations.

Historians must also develop a understanding of Haudenosaunee society. Prior to European colonization, the Iroquois had brought their five different linguistic and cultural groups together into one metaphorical longhouse. In this communal longhouse, the Haudenosaunee peoples developed rituals for how to negotiate and deal with their differences. One ritual revolved around wampum and the exchange of wampum to settle disputes and seal agreements.

2. Where did wampum come from?

The Iroquois peoples did not make wampum. They traded for the beads which Munsee peoples along the coast of Long Island and southern New England made from the whelk and quahog shells they found along their beaches.

Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Munsee and Iroquois interacted and exchanged wampum. This trade demonstrates that North America was not a land where people lived in isolation from one another, but a land made up of diverse peoples with sophisticated trade and diplomatic networks.

Otto believes that once historians understand how Native American societies functioned before the arrival of Europeans, they will better understand why European settlements developed as they did because many formed in response to their interactions and relations with the Native American societies around them.

*Picture of wampum belt courtesy of the Iroquois Museum


Q&AAudience Q & A Highlights

Both the French and Dutch were seventeenth-century peoples who held similar Christian world views, but why did the Dutch seek to avoid interaction with Native Americans while the French sought close interaction?

Leslie Choquette attributed the close interactions the French had with neighboring Native American peoples to the fact that the French had “lucked out” when they settled in the St. Lawrence Valley. The French settled in an area devoid of Native American farming communities. Sometime between the 1540s and 1600, Native American warfare pushed the Iroquois peoples out of the St. Lawrence Valley. The Iroquois practiced sedentary farming.

The people who inhabited the St. Lawrence Valley when the French arrived lived nomadic and semi-sedentary lives. This meant the French faced little-to-no competition for land. Without competition for land resources, the French had an easier time establishing good relations with the peoples who lived near their settlements.

Choquette also described a major difference between French conceptions of land ownership and Dutch and English understandings of property ownership. The people of seventeenth-century France thought about land in feudal terms. The king owned all the land, but it was possible to farm the king’s land. This feudal conception of property ownership accommodated the idea that both the French and Native American peoples could “own” the same land at the same time.

Paul Otto added that the Dutch and English sent colonists to settle in areas populated by Native American peoples. The Dutch and English sought to farm land that Native Americans also farmed. Competition for the land increased proportionately with the expansion of Dutch and English settlement. He hypothesized that if Dutch and English settlement had occurred on a smaller scale as it had in New France then there would have been less conflict because there would have been less competition for the land.


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Book Revisions: What Went Wrong with Chapter 1?

EditI am revising my dissertation into a book called America's First Gateway. I began my work in earnest at the end of February 2014. Now it is July 2014 and my first chapter is still not quite done.

What’s taking so long?

In this post you will learn about the problems I have encountered with Chapter 1 and what I have done to fix those problems.


MistakeWhat Went Wrong with Chapter 1

Problem #1: Ambitious Outline

Chapter 1 is a brand new chapter. It needs to tell the story of how Beverwyck and its community developed into a geographic and cultural gateway to North America.

Unfortunately, I began my work in late February/early March with an outline that had me attempting to research and tell the WHOLE story of Beverwyck in one chapter, which can’t be done.

On some level I knew this couldn’t be done as it took me until early June to start writing the chapter. Even then, I only started because my writing buddy Liana Silva-Ford told me that I had to start writing.

I wrote at least 500 words a day throughout June and produced a 43-page, unfinished draft. It took me 43 pages to realize that my plans were too ambitious.


Problem #2: Project Fatigue

My dissertation did not cover the history of New Netherland in any meaningful way. It focused on the legacy of the Dutch in Albany, New York between 1750 and 1830. Likewise, the majority of my book will also focus on the period between 1750-1830.

With that said, my book needs to strengthen my claims about why a majority of Albany's Dutch-descended community embraced the American Revolution and participated in the formation of New York State and the United States. To accomplish this, I must show how and why Albany appeared to be “Dutch” as late as 1750.

I love my topic, but I have been working on it for over 10 years!

My project fatigue caused me to lose focus. Without consciously realizing it, my brain latched on to Chapter 1 as an opportunity to study something new: New Netherland.


Problem #3: Information Overload

My ambitious outline combined with my excitement to learn about something new led me to read too much about New Netherland.

For three months, my brain feasted on books about the Haudenosaunee, Mahican, and Munsee peoples. It enjoyed multiple, general tomes about the colony and it indulged in reading books and articles about Dutch foodways, religion, women, slaves, poor relief, wampum, and the use of kettles in the fur trade.

I would have continued my intellectual feast into June, but Liana intervened and told me to start writing.

The realization that I had gathered way too much information did not occur to me until I reached page 43 of my draft. At that point I admitted that I had a problem. I stepped away from my computer and took an afternoon to reassess what I needed to accomplish in Chapter 1.


MistakesHow I Have Attempted to Fix What Went Wrong

Fix #1: Self-Evaluation

I stepped away from my draft as soon as I realized that I was trying to tell the whole story of Beverwyck in one chapter.

I spent 2-3 hours thinking through why my chapter was too long, why I hadn’t finished my draft, and how I had become so lost.

I evaluated my situation with free writing as I think better when I write.

Once I realized where I had gone wrong, and what I had done right, I created a more focused outline.


Fix #2: Focused Outline

I used the invaluable advice that Liana gave me to create a more focused outline: Write down the 1-3 points you must get across in your paper and write to those points.

Chapter 1 needs to show my readers:

1. How Beverwyck developed into and functioned as a physical and cultural gateway. 2. How Beverwyck formed as an adaptable community and what an adaptable community looks like. 3. How Beverwyck formed as an autonomous, self-governing community and what that autonomy and self-governance looked like.

Underneath these points, I listed ideas and examples that will help me make and demonstrate them.


SuccessFix #3: Continue Using Techniques that Worked

Although a lot went wrong with my approach to Chapter 1, I found 2 tactics that really worked for me.

1. Writing at least 500 words a day

Sometimes writing 500 words seemed like an arduous task, other days I blew passed this goal. For the most part, 500 words allowed me to write a minimum of 1.5-2pages per day, meaningful and tangible progress, while still allowing me time to pursue my other projects.

2. Ignoring my internal editor

I tend to edit as I write; this is not a good tactic. Sometimes I lose a brilliant thought because I edit it before I type it into my document.

I worked hard to ignore my internal editor as I wrote my first draft of Chapter 1. Although it proved difficult to ignore her, my efforts ultimately helped me get my thoughts on the page, good thoughts that I will be able to edit for clarity later.



A lot went wrong with my initial approach to Chapter 1. I lost a lot of time, but I have gained several valuable lessons that I will carry forward.

I also hope that by writing about what I did wrong, I will help you avoid similar mistakes with your own work.


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What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from your approaches to research and writing?


The 3 Companies of New Netherland

Three companies played a role in the establishment of New Netherland. In this post you will find a brief overview of these companies and learn about how they contributed to the establishment of New Netherland.


Dutch East India Company

Official Name: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (United East India Company)

vocNickname: VOC

Charter Date: 1602

Charter Highlights: The States-General granted the VOC a monopoly on navigation and trade in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The VOC had the authority to enlist and command soldiers and sailors in a company army and navy and to make treaties and form alliances with the peoples living throughout their jurisdiction.

Involvement with New Netherland: The VOC hired Henry Hudson to explore a possible northern route to the Pacific Ocean. They ordered Hudson to sail north from the Netherlands, over Scandinavia, around the northern boundaries of Nova Zembla, and through the Bering Strait into the Pacific Ocean.

Hudson encountered ice, freezing temperatures, extreme winds, and a cold, mutinous crew off the coast of Norway. Rather then return to the Netherlands, he sailed west to North America, where he became the first European to explore the Hudson River.


New Netherland Company

Official Name: Nieuw-Nederlandt Compagnie

Nickname: N/A

Charter Date: 1614

Charter Highlights: Monopoly on navigation and trade to New Netherland for 3 years or 4 voyages.

Involvement with New Netherland: Instituted a regular trade with the Native American peoples of the Hudson River Valley.

Built Fort Nassau on Castle Island across from Albany, New York. The fort served as a trading post and residence for the traders and bosloopers (forest walkers) who opted to live in New Netherland year round. The fort fell into disrepair after 1618.


West India Company

Official Name: West-Indische Compagnie

Dutch-West-India-CompanyNickname: WIC

Charter Date: 1621

Charter Highlights: The States-General granted the WIC a monopoly on navigation and trade in the Atlantic Ocean.

The WIC had the authority to make peace treaties and alliances with the peoples living within their trade jurisdiction and the ability to enlist and command soldiers and sailors in a company army and navy.

The States-General also tasked the WIC with colonizing New Netherland to protect this possession from English encroachment.

Involvement with New Netherland: It took the WIC 2 years to raise the funds it needed to begin its operations; it raised over 7 million florins.

In 1624, the WIC built Fort Orange on the west banks of the Hudson River. The fort served as the center of their fur trade operations.

Also in 1624, the WIC settled 30 Walloon families in New Netherland. The WIC scattered these families along the 3 rivers it claimed as part of New Netherland: the Connecticut, Delaware, and Hudson Rivers. The WIC settled 18 of these families around Fort Orange with the hope that the colonists would be able to establish farms and support the WIC soldiers and traders stationed at Fort Orange.


What IfWhat If?

Would you have settled in New Netherland under the same terms the WIC offered the first Walloon families? Why or why not?

The first Walloon families contracted with the WIC to live in New Netherland for a minimum of 6 years on land that the WIC provided them. The first New Netherlanders also agreed to help the WIC build necessary fortifications and buildings and serve in the militia during times of war.

In exchange, the WIC promised to supply the settlers with land, seeds, and livestock, 2 years of free food and necessities, and allowed them to hunt, fish, find and operate salt pans and pearl beds, and look for precious metals. Additionally, the WIC allowed the Walloons to worship freely in their homes or at public Dutch Reformed services.


Dutch Food History

Dutch-CrestDo you enjoy doughnuts, cookies, and pancakes? Thank the Dutch.

You can also thank them for pretzels, coleslaw, and waffles.


A Brief History of Dutch Food in New Netherland

Last week, I read Peter G. Rose’s article “A Taste of Change,” which investigated Dutch foodways in New Netherland.

According to Rose, New Netherlanders adapted traditional Dutch recipes to fit New World ingredients.

Many of the recipes the colonists adapted came from De Verstandige Kock (The Sensible Cook), a 17th-century Dutch cookbook.

For example, the 1683-edition of De Verstandige Kock contained a recipe for olie-koeken pastry that called for “2 pounds of wheat flour, not quite a pint of milk, half a small bowl of melted butter, a large spoon of yeast, mixed with a cup of the best apples, cut into small pieces, 2 pounds of raisins, 6 ounces of whole almonds” seasoned with a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

oliekoekenNew Netherland bakers and households did not have ready access to raisins and almonds so they adapted the recipe for the ingredients they had: eggs and butter.

The New Netherlanders created a richer dough to compensate for their lack of raisins and almonds.


Native American Influences on New Netherland Foodways

urlRose also found that New Netherlanders acculturated Native American foods such as pumpkins and corn to work with traditional Dutch recipes.

However, the Dutch colonists adopted only one Native American dish into their culinary repertoire: sappaen, a corn mush dish.

According to Peter Kalm and other travelers, the New Netherlanders and their 18th-century descendants ate sappaen often.

Unlike the Native Americans, the Dutch ate sappaen with milk or buttermilk.

The Dutch served sappaen in a communal bowl. Once everyone took their serving, the Dutch dug a circle into the center of their sappaen to create a place for their milk. They ate half a spoon of milk and half a spoon of sappaen. The Dutch added more milk when they ran out and the size of the milk reservoir increased as they ate their sappaen.


Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailNew Netherland-Inspired Dinner Party

Needless to say, I grew quite hungry reading Rose’s essay on Dutch foodways.

In a 1-hour span, I wanted to eat cookies, pretzels, olie-koeken, and sappaen. Some of my hunger stemmed from a desire to know what sappaen and other Dutch pastries tasted like.

Therefore, I have decided to use my copy of [amazon_link id="081560503X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]De Verstandige Kock[/amazon_link], which Rose has translated and republished, to throw a New Netherland-inspired dinner party in the next month or two.

I will be sure to blog about what it is like to cook these dishes and about how they taste.


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What is your favorite Dutch-inspired food?

*Picture shows traditional Dutch oliekoeken pastries. 


The Dutch Revolt and New Netherland

I wrote a guest post for the Junto Blog that provides a recap of the 36th Annual New Netherland Seminar.

New NetherlandThe Dutch Revolt and New Netherland

As my book project explores the cultural legacy of New Netherlanders who lived in Albany, NY, I attended the 36th Annual New Netherland Seminar on Saturday, October 5 at the New-York Historical Society. I admit that I attended the conference as an interloper; I study the revolutionary and early republic periods.

Sponsored by the New Netherland Institute (NNI), the New Netherland Seminar is the only conference dedicated to the study of the former Dutch colony.[1] The seminar convenes in a different location each year, but always within the bounds of New Netherland. The NNI organizes each seminar around a theme. This year, it selected “The Dutch Revolt and New Netherland” in an effort to explore the contributions Flemish and Walloon migrants made to New Netherland.[2] To this end, the NNI invited Guido Marnef, Kees Zandvliet, Maarten Prak, Wim Vanraes, and David Baeckelandt to discuss the Revolt and how and why the event led Flemish and Walloon migrants to participate in the Dutch colonization of North America.

The Dutch Revolt began in 1568 when the Low Countries revolted against the Habsburg Empire that ruled them. The struggle lasted 80 years and centered on political and religious issues. The Revolt ended in 1648, when the Protestant-dominated northern Netherlands (present-day Netherlands) achieved independence; the Southern or Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium) remained part of the Habsburg Empire.

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