Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters

A Window on New Netherland

By New Netherland Institute

Subjects: New York/regional, History, New Netherland
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Hardcover : 9780962536854, 184 pages, March 2009

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Table of contents

Martha Dickinson Shattuck
Three Conversations
Russell Shorto
Henry Hudson: New World, New World View
William T. Reynolds
The Native Dutch Experience in the Mohawk Valley
William A. Starna
Jews in New Netherland: An Atlantic Perspective
Noah L. Gelfand
Fortune in the New World: Jan Jansz Damen in America
Jaap Jacobs
Translated by Elisabeth Paling Funk
Barber-Surgeons in New Netherland and Early New York
Peter R. Christoph

Glimpses of Childhood in the Colony of New Netherland
Adriana E. van Zwieten
Bread: Staff of Dutch Life in the Old and New World
Peter G. Rose
From Amsterdam to New Amsterdam: Washington Irving, the Dutch St. Nicholas, and the American Santa Claus
Elisabeth Paling Funk
Searching for True Love: Letters from Kiliaen van Rensselaer
Janny Venema
Family and Faction: The Dutch Roots of Colonial New York’s Factional Politics
David William Voorhees
Why New Netherland Matters
Joyce D. Goodfriend
New Netherland Institute Membership Information

Drawing on the latest research, leading scholars shed new light on the culture, society, and legacy of the New Netherland colony.


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.

The New Netherland Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to enhance the understanding of the Dutch history of colonial America by supporting the translation and publication of early Dutch documents through the New Netherland Project and to increase public awareness of the influence of Dutch heritage on American institutions and culture through academic collaboration, seminars, conferences, publications, internships, lectures, and research assistance.


"…a refreshing glance at the culture and society of New Netherland … This work is suggestive of the need for further scholarship, and the ample documentation is a guide to the extensive source materials. " — CHOICE