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The Empire that Never Was

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The Nearly-Dutch Atlantic Empire in the Seventeenth Century

This book forum focuses on Wim Klooster’s The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World (Cornell University Press, 2016). In his book, Wim Klooster shows how the Dutch built and eventually lost an Atlantic empire that stretched from the homeland in the United Provinces to the Hudson River and from Brazil and the Caribbean to the African Gold Coast. The fleets and armies that fought for the Dutch in the decades-long war against Spain included numerous foreigners, largely drawn from countries in northwestern Europe. Likewise, many settlers of Dutch colonies were born in other parts of Europe or the New World. According to Klooster, the Dutch would not have been able to achieve military victories without the native alliances they carefully cultivated. Indeed, Klooster concludes, the Dutch Atlantic was quintessentially interimperial, multinational, and multiracial. At the same time, it was an empire entirely designed to benefit the United Provinces.The four reviewers – Trevor Burnard, Joyce Goodfriend, Cynthia Van Zandt, and Willem Frijhoff – all offer praise, some more profusely than others. Their reviews critically question some aspects of Klooster’s narrative, particularly in relation to slavery, the inevitability of the Dutch Atlantic empire’s decline, his assessment of the rule of Johan-Maurits van Nassau-Siegen in Dutch Brazil, the role of violence and of women in Dutch colonization, as well as the relationship between microcosmic and macrocosmic perspectives on the history of Dutch America.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Melbourne, ; 2: University of Denver, ; 3: University of New Hampshire, ; 4: Erasmus University, Rotterdam ; 5: Clark University,


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