The first comprehensive biography of an important yet understudied figure in the Dutch colony of New Netherland.
This book tells the compelling story of the young legal activist Adriaen van der Donck (1618–1655), whose fight to secure the struggling Dutch colony of New Netherland made him a controversial but pivotal figure in early America. At best, he has been labeled a hero, a visionary, and a spokesman of the people. At worst, he has been branded arrogant and selfish, thinking only of his own ambitions. The wide range of opinions about him testifies to the fact that, more than three centuries after his death, Van der Donck remains an intriguing character.
J. van den Hout follows Van der Donck from his war-torn seventeenth-century childhood and privileged university education to the New World, as he attempted to make his mark on the fledgling fur trading settlement. When he became embroiled in the politics of Manhattan, he took the colonists' complaints against their Dutch West India Company administrators to the highest level of government in the Dutch Republic, in what became a fight for his adopted homeland and a bicontinental showdown. Denounced and detained, but not deterred, Van der Donck wrote a landmark book that stands as a testament to his vision for the country, as the changes he set in motion continued long after his early death and his influence became firmly embedded in the American landscape. Van der Donck's determination to stand by his convictions offers a revealing look into the human spirit and the strong will that drives it against adversity and in search of justice.
J. van den Hout is an independent scholar who lives in California. This is her first book.
"Van den Hout relates the events of Van der Donck's short but storied life capably and sympathetically … her scouring of all the possible manuscript sources on Van der Donck's life is an exemplary exercise in thorough archival research. The book is an important addition to the literature on the short-lived Dutch colonial experiment in North America. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Low-Countries)
"J. van den Hout captures all aspects of this dynamic, determined, and complex figure … This biography makes a significant contribution to the literature on Dutch influence in the New World. " — Hudson River Valley Review
"A biography of Adriaen van der Donck was long overdue. With her cradle-to-grave narrative, Van den Hout presents a comprehensive timeline of one of the most fascinating figures in early colonial America. This elegantly written study, carefully researched and lavishly illustrated, also provides an excellent introduction to the seventeenth-century Dutch colony of New Netherland. " — Jeroen Dewulf, Queen Beatrix Professor in Dutch Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Pinkster King and the King of Kongo: The Forgotten History of America's Dutch-Owned Slaves