The Dutch Colonies

In 1597 three Dutch merchantmen returned to Amsterdam from a far-flung voyage - a modest cargo of spices the richer and two-thirds of their crew the poorer. The first Dutch passage to India had been completed. This dramatic voyage earned the small Netherlands a large share of the European expansion, thus setting a crucial seal on world history.

Original title
De Nederlandse Koloniën
Jur van Goor

Van Goor is the first post-war historian to brave a survey of Dutch colonial history. Early maritime trade with Asia; the origins of a colonial empire in the Indonesian archipelago; and also the Dutch presence and activities on the African and American coasts of the Atlantic: Van Goor carries the reader from Japan to Brazil, and from Cape Town to New Amsterdam in Manhattan, paying tribute to the global span of Dutch expansion.

The widely ramified network of Dutch trading posts in Asia was able to hold its own for two centuries thanks to the firm organization, shrewd commercial strategy and military strength of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC). The broad approach of Van Goor’s book makes it possible to compare the unparallelled success of the voc with the less spectacular feats of the Dutch West India Company. The author pays special attention to the transitional period of 1780-1830, when the days of the great companies were numbered, and shows the many links between the company system and state colonialism.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Dutch government increasingly asserted its will over the colonies. The increase of state power, often by military means, turned the Dutch East Indies into an important political unit in about 1900. The difficult decolonisation of Indonesia put an end to the close links between that part of the world and the Netherlands.

The Dutch Colonies makes it clear that colonial historiography written from a purely Eurocentric viewpoint is a thing of the past. By highlighting the vast differences encountered by Dutch colonists in different parts of the world, Van Goor lends his history of Dutch expansion welcome variety. The interaction between Dutchmen and their overseas antagonists - the local population but other Europeans as well - runs like a thread through this important study.

An excellent survey of Dutch colonial history based on extensive research and encompassing a wide range of relevant literature.

Jörg Fisch, Itinerario

This book is scrupulously constructed … lucid and well-rounded.

NRC Handelsblad
Jur van Goor
Jur van Goor is professor emeritus at the University of Utrecht, where he taught in the history of colonialism and decolonisation.
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