Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland

Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland

New Netherland Institute


Edited by Martha D. Shattuck.

Description from SUNY Press: 

When Henry Hudson, sailing on the Half Moon for the Dutch East India Company, first laid eyes on the entrance to the Hudson River in 1609, a world of seemingly infinite possibilities lay before him and his crew. In 1624 the Dutch would take advantage of these opportunities and create the colony of New Netherland, building homes and communities that stretched from the Delaware Bay up along the Hudson River Valley to present-day Albany, New York. 

The story of New Netherland is often overlooked in tales of the founding of America. The essays in Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters: A Window on New Netherland offer a new perspective that takes the spotlight off the Puritans of New England and the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, and instead offers striking arguments for casting the Dutch as central players in the American narrative. 

These twelve essays, written by preeminent historians of New Netherland, pull from diverse perspectives—social, cultural, intellectual, economic, and political—to weave together the dynamic and diverse history of the Dutch in America. These scholars explore all aspects of Dutch life, ranging from sailing methods to factional politics to written expressions of love. The authors discuss how settlers retained traditions from the Netherlands, such as the baking of bread, and how these traditions changed over time and became engrained in American culture—including the transformation of the Dutch St. Nicholas into today’s Santa Claus. The colony of New Netherland was marked by its diversity, and this topic is explored in discussions of the relationship between Native Americans and Dutch settlers in the Mohawk Valley, the role of Jews in New Netherland, and the practice of slavery throughout the colony. The Dutch perspective on child-rearing practices is also examined, as well as the dream of attaining fortune in the New World. 

The Dutch colony of New Netherland and the development of America are not separate stories but are inextricably linked together through historical moments and present realities. Dutch settlers played critical roles in building the nation: their influences are not lost and forgotten but are clearly evident even today. Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters brings the reader into the everyday life of New Netherland and displays just how prominently the Dutch shaped America.