New Netherland
The Dutch West India Company


New Netherland was a region in America claimed by the Dutch in the early 1600's. It included parts of what are now Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.

In 1621, merchants in the Netherlands formed the Dutch West India Company to compete with the Spanish Empire, colonize New Netherland, and develop the region's fur trade. Thirty families, sponsored by the trading company, began a Dutch colony at the mouth of the Hudson River in 1624. In 1625, the Dutch settlers founded New Amsterdam (now New York City) there. Peter Minuit, governor (or director-general) of New Netherland, bought Manhattan Island from the Indians in 1626. The Dutch set up trading posts at what are now Albany, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Trenton, New Jersey.

In 1638, the Swedes established a trading post and settlement called New Sweden in present-day Delaware and southern New Jersey. The Dutch claimed New Sweden in 1655. But in 1664, the British -- far better established in America than the Dutch -- took over New Netherland and New Sweden.

The Dutch West India Company attracted settlers from many European countries. About 20 languages were spoken in the colony, and many religions were represented. The Dutch colonists became allies of the Iroquois Indians, and they fought other tribes and neighboring French colonists. By the 1650's, a fierce trading rivalry had built up between the Dutch and the English. In 1664, the English sent a fleet of warships to capture New Netherland for the Duke of York. Many of the Dutch colonists refused to fight, and Governor Peter Stuyvesant was forced to surrender to the English. New Netherland became the English colony of New York.

King Charles II of England gave the New York and New Jersey territory to his brother, James, Duke of York. Friends of the duke founded huge farming estates in northern New York. New York City developed from the Dutch city of New Amsterdam in southern New York. It became a shipping and trading center. The Duke of York gave New Jersey to two of his friends who allowed much political and religious freedom. As a result, New Jersey attracted many settlers.

Contributor: Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D., Prof. of History, California State Univ., San Marcos.


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