Colonial New York: Origins of a City, 1600-1800

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Module code


  • Level 4
  • Semester 1
  • 24 places
  • History - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 60% Examination 40%


In this module we will study the exciting early history of New York City and its environs, and offers a fascinating insight into the early history of perhaps the world's most famous city.

The module is divided into three parts. In the first section, entitled 'Origins', we will look at Dutch perceptions of the New World prior to Henry Hudson's voyage in 1609 and then at Hudson's reasons for sailing up the river named after him.

In the second section entitled 'Trade and Settlement', we will discuss Dutch penetration of the Hudson valley, ie. the establishment of trading posts and military strongholds by the Dutch West India Company, and the subsequent settlement of colonists under the aegis of Dutch 'patroons'.

In the third and final section, entitled 'Legacies', we will examine the English capture of New Amsterdam in 1664 and its consequences. What changed after the English take-over in 1664? How did Dutch colonial culture and society adapt to new circumstances? And, finally how have inhabitants of New York remembered and valued their Dutch roots right up to the twenty-first century?

The weekly topics include:

  • The Americanization of the Dutch Revolt
  • Dutch Voyages of Discovery?
  • Exploring the Hudson River and Rounding Cape Horn
  • The Dutch West India Company as an Instrument of War and Trade
  • A Dutch Plantation Overseas?
  • New Amsterdam and the WIC
  • The Dutch Encounter with Amerindians
  • A Shining City on the Hill?
  • Religious, Ethnic and Social Divisions in New Amsterdam
  • The Fall of New Amsterdam, 1664
  • The Dutch Founding Fathers in the American Imagiantion
  • The Politics of Remembrance: Holland Mania in New York


Dr Martine van Ittersum


This module is assessed as follows:

  • In-class presentation (15%)
  • 8,000 word module journal (45%)
  • Examination (40%)


Core Reading

  • P. C. Emmer., The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580-1880: Trade, Slavery and Emancipation. (Ashgate, 1998)
  • J. Jacobs., New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century America. (Brill, 2004)
  • J. D. Goodfriend., (ed.), Revisiting New Netherland. (Brill, 2005)
  • J. Postma, and V. Enthoven., (ed), Riches from Atlantic Commerce. (Brill, 2003)

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