New Perspectives on Dutch New York: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding New Netherland and Its Atlantic Connections

AHA Session 229
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)
Dennis Maika, New Netherland Institute
Wim Klooster, Clark University

Session Abstract

Although North America’s Dutch colonial history has received increasing attention in recent years, this part of Early American and Atlantic history requires closer investigation. Through analysis of building instructions, marriage and sex regulations, poetry, and slave trade records, this panel presents new ways to examine New Netherland’s history and its Atlantic connections. In so doing, this panel hopes to generate a broader dialogue concerning the colony’s history and its place in colonial American and Atlantic history.

Jeroen van den Hurk’s paper analyzes the role city planning played in the construction of New Amsterdam. In particular, his paper examines how the building instructions for New Amsterdam reflected ideas about city planning in 16th and 17th century Europe. His paper demonstrates, however, that the city’s actual construction was more reminiscent of the organic growth of medieval towns in Europe. Deborah Hamer uses traditional sources to examine a not-so-traditional topic: sex and marriage in New Netherland. Her paper argues that marriage and sex regulations not only provided the foundation for social order in the colony, as they did everywhere in the Atlantic world, but also supported the West India Company’s claims to political authority. Danny Noorlander uses the poetry of the Dutch colonist Jacob Steendam to study the common man's view of Dutch expansion. Although known primarily for his descriptive verses about New Netherland, Steendam’s other more voluminous works included personal reflections on his experiences in Africa and Asia. Noorlander’s paper places Steendam’s lesser-known work in relation to his New Netherland poetry to reveal a unique personal view of the Atlantic world. Finally, Andrea Mosterman’s paper reconstructs the voyage of a slave ship to obtain new insights into the Dutch slave trade into New Amsterdam. In her paper, she shows that while there are only few sources that record specifics of the slave trade into this city, by piecing together micro-histories of the places and people involved in the trade it is possible to write a history of the Dutch slave trade that extends beyond the statistics.

Together, these presentations will offer new interpretations and diverse methodological approaches to understanding New Netherland history and its place in colonial America and the seventeenth century Atlantic; as such, this panel should appeal to scholars of New Netherland, the Early Modern Atlantic, Early American history, as well as those interested in exploring different ways to reconstruct history.

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