Wim Klooster. The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. 432 pp. Ill. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8014-5045-7.
Reviewed by Pamela McVay (Ursuline College)
Published on H-Atlantic (August, 2021)
Commissioned by W. Douglas Catterall (Cameron University of Oklahoma)
Understanding the Dutch Atlantic
In The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World,Wim Klooster surveys the motivations and methods of Dutch war and trade in the Atlantic from 1599 to the end of the transatlantic wars of the 1670s. The first three chapters cover the period in chronological order while the final four treat different themes of the imperial project: soldiers and sailors, trade, human geography, and the treatment of "non-Dutch" people.
Klooster emphasizes the degree to which the Dutch West India Company (WIC) was developed as a military and political tool; trade, privateering, the capture of critical military prizes, and takeover or planting of new colonies were all initially intended to harry and weaken Spanish and Portuguese interests. Citizen investment in the WIC was a sort of patriotic lottery—a high return on investment would be wonderful, but the purpose of the investment was to support Dutch political interests abroad.
Of particular interest is the author's focus on Brazil as the WIC's most important colony, an assertion he supports with reference to the size of its garrison and the amount of planning its leadership devoted to it. Each chapter examines its subject from the perspective of the Netherlands and most of the colonies, with the Brazilian case most often making up the centerpiece.
Klooster's conclusions are based on an exhaustive review of secondary literature, dozens of contemporary travel narratives, and extensive archival evidence. He lays out an organized overview of Dutch activities while keeping an eye on the motives and activities of their opponents; addresses the experiences of sailors, soldiers, and colonists as well as those of the Heren XIX; compares Dutch relationships with Amerindian and African peoples with those of other Atlantic powers; and connects micro-historical events with macro-historical theory. The thematic chapters bring diverse political, military, ideological, and economic threads together in such a way as to highlight differences and confluences of interest throughout the Atlantic.
To sum up, the book belongs in the library of every scholar of Atlantic or early modern colonial history. With very little introduction, any of the chapters could stand on their own as background in an undergraduate course on early modern Europe or the Atlantic world. Klooster's writing is engaging, and the thematic chapters will illuminate primary sources from the period for students as well as specialists.
Cornell University Press's decision to put nearly all the documentation into endnotes is unfortunate. Digging through the notes to find the evidence behind a particular paragraph is frustrating—the original citation might be almost anywhere in a chapter's notes. Klooster attempts to ameliorate this decision by embedding miniature bibliographic essays in the endnotes and providing a stand-alone introduction to "Further Reading." A separate publication of the notes as a stand-alone bibliographic essay or a list categorized by subject would be welcome.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-atlantic.
Pamela McVay. Review of Klooster, Wim, The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World.
H-Atlantic, H-Net Reviews.
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