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The Dutch MomentThe Dutch Moment

War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World

Wim Klooster

Narrated by Fred Filbrich

Available from Audible

Book published by Cornell University Press

In The Dutch Moment, 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. The Dutch would not have been able to achieve military victories without the native alliances they carefully cultivated. Indeed, 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 pivotal colony in the Dutch Atlantic was Brazil, half of which was conquered by the Dutch West India Company. Its brief lifespan notwithstanding, Dutch Brazil (1630–1654) had a lasting impact on the Atlantic world. The scope of Dutch warfare in Brazil is hard to overestimate—this was the largest interimperial conflict of the seventeenth-century Atlantic. Brazil launched the Dutch into the transatlantic slave trade, a business they soon dominated. At the same time, Dutch Brazil paved the way for a Jewish life in freedom in the Americas after the first American synagogues opened their doors in Recife. In the end, the entire colony eventually reverted to Portuguese rule, in part because Dutch soldiers, plagued by perennial poverty, famine, and misery, refused to take up arms. As they did elsewhere, the Dutch lost a crucial colony because of the empire’s systematic neglect of the very soldiers on whom its defenses rested.

After the loss of Brazil and, ten years later, New Netherland, the Dutch scaled back their political ambitions in the Atlantic world. Their American colonies barely survived wars with England and France. As the imperial dimension waned, the interimperial dimension gained strength. Dutch commerce with residents of foreign empires thrived in a process of constant adaptation to foreign settlers’ needs and mercantilist obstacles.

Wim Klooster is Professor of History at Clark University.


“Expertly researched and rich in revealing anecdotes, Wim Klooster's superb book explains the spectacular rise and fall of the Dutch empire in the Atlantic world. Like no study before, The Dutch Moment demonstrates how the short-lived Dutch conquest of Portuguese Brazil contributed to the transformation of the Atlantic world in the seventeenth century.”

—Mark Meuwese, author of Brothers in Arms, Partners in Trade

The Dutch Moment is indispensable for anyone working in Atlantic history, especially those unable to access Dutch-language sources.”

—Jaap Jacobs, University of St Andrews, author of The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-Century America

“There has been a recent flurry of books on the Dutch in the Atlantic world during the 17th century. Klooster (Clark Univ.) has written the definitive work on the subject. It is a wonderfully lively, thoroughly researched synthesis of the entire story of the rise and fall of the Dutch in the Atlantic, including the dramatic story of the Dutch in Brazil as well as in New Netherland in North America, the Caribbean, and Africa.... Though the Dutch were not the colonizers other European nations were, they established trade to benefit the United Provinces, including becoming a major participant in the slave trade. There are several very helpful maps, charts, and images and extensive notes. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.”


“The author draws on a dazzling variety of archival and printed sources.... The Dutch Moment is a signal contribution to the field.”

Renaissance Quarterly

“i>The Dutch Moment is a remarkable accomplishment. It will become the definitive work on the Dutch in the Atlantic world, and it is an exemplary work in Atlantic history. It provides a much-needed history of Dutch activities in the Atlantic in the seventeenth century, and it does so based largely on an original interpretation of primary materials in several languages, remarkable sources ranging from dictionaries to cargo lists to diaries. The writing is lively and witty, and Wim Klooster has a wonderful eye for the memorable detail.”

—Alison Games, Dorothy M. Brown Distinguished Professor of History, Georgetown University, author of The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in the Age of Expansion, 1560–1660

“Much more than a conventional study on the Dutch in the Atlantic world, Wim Klooster's book presents a major synthesis that encompasses systematically all the aspects of life, activities, and presence of the Dutch in the North and South Atlantic.... Klooster's aim is certainly ambitious and constitutes a tremendous achievement.”

Journal of Early American History

“In The Dutch Moment, Wim Klooster provides an excellent overview of why the Dutch were more than just interimperial interlopers or outsiders residing offshore. Their calculated policy of aggression between 1620 and 1670 shaped a short-lived empire that transformed the geopolitical balance of power in the Western hemisphere; Klooster's account of those events is vital to understanding the Atlantic world more fully.”

—Michiel van Groesen, author of Amsterdam’s Atlantic

“Klooster has magnificently captured the early Dutch steps into the Atlantic.... In the ongoing surge of Dutch Atlantic publications, Wim Klooster has taken center stage.... The Dutch Moment makes many valuable contributions to our understanding of the Atlantic world and the Dutch in it. The greatest contribution by Klooster undoubtedly lies in the boldness of his work paired with the fact that he has no fear of exploring archival sources. He has used them extensively to reassess the Dutch Moment and setting a new standard for contributions to Dutch Atlantic history.”

Low Countries Historical Review

“Based on rigorous research in multiple languages.... A powerfully argued, impeccably documented, and important book.”

American Historical Review

“Wim Klooster has provided us with a welcome survey.... Relying on both archival sources and the wealth of specialized literature on the Dutch Atlantic that has appeared in the past couple of decades, he relays a narrative of rapid expansion and equally rapid decline. This narrative is supplemented by deeply researched chapters on trade, settlement, military conditions, and encounters with Amerindians and Africans.”

Sixteenth Century Journal

“The scholar who chooses to present a narrative of the structuring and peopling of the Dutch Atlantic world in the middle decades of the seventeenth century undertakes a mighty task. Wim Klooster does so with narrative skill and an authority derived from his exhaustive examination of archives and secondary sources.... He can turn his narrative to remarkably diverse ethnic and racial communities, men and women who came to the New World and intended to remain.”

Journal of American History

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