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DUTCH CROSSINGS
Victor Enthoven
Available online: 19 Aug 2006

To cite this article: Victor Enthoven (2005): DUTCH CROSSINGS, Atlantic Studies, 2:2, 153-176
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DUTCH CROSSINGS
Migration between the Netherlands and the
New World, 1600 1800
/

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Victor Enthoven

This essay presents an overview of 200 years of demographic consequences of Dutch presence in
the Western Hemisphere. It starts with an overview of the Dutch Atlantic World and its
settlements. The second section deals with the European Atlantic migration from the Dutch
Republic in comparison with the human needs of the Dutch East India Company. In more detail, it
addresses the Jewish Diaspora and the migration of the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch to the New
World.
KEYWORDS: migration; trans-Atlantic; Dutch; Jews; Pennsylvania Dutch

Introduction
The motivation behind this essay is an article published by Piet Emmer and Wim
Klooster on the Dutch Atlantic World in 1999.1 One particular section, written by Emmer,
takes as its subject The Demography of the Dutch Atlantic. In a rather arbitrary way, he
compares the Dutch demographic impact in the Atlantic with the British Empire and the
Dutch East India Company (VOC). Without much documentation he estimates that the
Dutch Atlantic required 2,400 men per year, half the 4,800 individuals needed annually by
the VOC. Emmer argues that the Dutch Republic had an open labour market, which
especially attracted young German and Scandinavian men. However, he concludes
surprisingly that the Dutch Atlantic was a drain on Dutch population. Furthermore he
argues that Dutch merchants were very keen to exploit the lethal trade niches of tropical
zones in Asia, rather than to send those men as settlers to North America (as Britain did)
which would have been less profitable, according to Emmer. By 1983, however, Marianne
Wokeck had already shown that Dutch merchant houses played a pivotal role in
populating Pennsylvania with German settlers, the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch.2
This essay gives an overview of 200 years of demographic consequences of Dutch
presence in the Western Hemisphere. First, it addresses two different aspects of Dutch
migration in the Atlantic: the overseas settlements and the European Diaspora. In the
second section, a comparison will be made between the human needs of the Dutch
Atlantic World and the VOC.
1
2

Emmer and Klooster, The Dutch Atlantic.


Wokeck, Tide of Alien Tongues.

Atlantic Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, October 2005


ISSN 1478-8810 print/1470-4649 online/05/020153-24
2005 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/10494820500224335

154

VICTOR ENTHOVEN

The Dutch Atlantic World

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In the 1570s, the Dutch started to revolt against the King of Spain. Consequently,
Dutch entrepreneurs began to venture beyond the familiar European waters, both in
search of uncharted lands and new commercial opportunities, and to damage the kings
interests. In 1613, for instance, Amsterdam merchants set up a trading post in the region
of Paramaribo, on the Suriname River. A year later, the New Netherland Company was
founded, which launched a settlement on the Hudson River. The Dutch also established
colonies on the banks of the Amazon River, the Pomoroon River and the Essequibo River,
also known as the Wild Coast.3

The Dutch West India Company


These colonial ventures had taken place during the relative calm of the Twelve Year
Truce (1609 /1621). When war resumed in 1621, the Dutch West India Company (WIC) was
founded, a chartered trading company granted a monopoly on all trade and shipping with
West Africa, the Americas and the West Indies. In essence, the WIC had three objectives: to
damage the enemys interest, to generate commercial activities and to establish overseas
settlements.4
Initially, the main goal of the WIC was the so-called grand design, the conquest
of the Portuguese possessions in Brazil and the exploitation of its rich sugar plantations.
This would suit all three objectives of the company: a large settlement could be
developed, it was profitable for commerce and the enemy would suffer a great loss. In
1630, a fleet of 67 vessels and more than seven thousand soldiers captured the towns of
Olinda and Recife.5
Under the inspiring leadership of Governor General Johan Maurits of NassauSiegen (1604 /1679) the thriving and heterogeneous colony of New Holland emerged (see
Table 1). In the Dutch held territories, more than 15 000 indigenous Indians were living: the
Tups, already Christianised by the Portuguese and referred to as Brazilians, and the
nomadic Tapuyas. The company, however, failed to conquer all of Portuguese held Brazil
and a protracted war developed. After Johan Maurits had left the colony in 1644,
Portuguese planters started to revolt against Dutch rule. Eventually the WIC had to
abandon Recife in 1654.6
Owing to their presence in Brazil, the WIC had to turn its attentions towards West
Africa in search of black enslaved plantation workers. In 1637, a fleet sailed from Brazil and
conquered the Portuguese fort Sao Jorge dElmina, known to the Dutch as Elmina,
present-day Ghana. Between 1641 and 1654, the WIC also occupied Luanda. As mentioned
above, the Dutch had some scattered settlements on the Wild Coast. In 1620, there was a
small but thriving colony on the Xingu River (a tributary of the Amazon) of around seventy
3

Lorimer, English and Irish Settlement , 27, 51, 253.


Heijer, The Dutch West India Company, 77 /112.
5
Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil , 37.
6
Schalkwijk, The Reformed Church , 47 /8; and Mello, Nederlanders in Brazilie , 114, n. 119 and
122.
4

DUTCH CROSSINGS
TABLE 1
Population in Dutch Brazil, 1645
Category
Company officials
Military
Sailors on 33 ships
Civil

Total

3,050
675
500
4,225
3,583
2,671

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Amerindians
African slaves

Vrijlieden (free settlers)


Recife
Mauritsstad
Itamaraca
Paraba
Rio Grande
Total

1,704
685
150
160
200
2,899
13,378

Source: National Archief, The Hague (NA), Archief van de Oude West-Indische Compagnie (OWIC)
61:51, Lyst van al het volk in Brazilie, 1645; ibid., Lyst van het volk varende op de schepen, 1645/46.

Europeans. In 1623, the Portuguese destroyed all the Dutch settlements in the Amazon
estuary.7
As the company could not be actively engaged throughout the entire area of the
cooperative, it was possible for private entrepreneurs to set up so-called patronships in
the WIC area, like those of Cornelis Lampsins on the island of Tobago and Abraham van
Pere on the Berbice and Essequibo Rivers. The population of each of these settlements
never exceeded one hundred Europeans. On Tobago, for instance, in 1628, 68 colonists
were the vanguard of a stream of Europeans, including free settlers and indentured
servants. For some 50 years, they defied both Spanish and Amerindian hostilities as well as
claims from the Baltic Duke of Coerland. In 1678, a French force took the island.8
After the loss of New Holland in Brazil in 1654, the WIC lay in tatters. There were no
resources left for new initiatives, yet it was essential to populate the Atlantic settlements.
Even more than before, the company was forced to endorse private initiatives in its
domain. In 1656, Jan Claessen Langendijck began a settlement in Cayenne between Cape
Orange and the Cayenne River. Five years later 40 colonists and 120 slaves were tilling the
tobacco and cane fields. A year later, the French took possession of the colony.9
Another initiative was the colony of Nova Zelandia. The main objective was to repopulate the colony on the Essequibo River. A first group of settlers and 25 soldiers left the
Netherlands in February 1658, followed by five other ships carrying predominantly Jewish
emigrants. In addition, several ships had been equipped for Africa to buy 200 /300 African
7

Edmundson, The Dutch in West Guyana; and idem, The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro,
1 and 2.
8
Grol, De grondpolitiek , 2:24; and Kesler, Tobago.
9
Goslinga, The Dutch in the Caribbean, 1580 /1680 , 421; Grol, De grondpolitiek, 2:90 /2; and
Mims, Colberts West India Policy , 65.

155

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156

VICTOR ENTHOVEN

slaves. In 1661 things had progressed so far that a large part of the Essequibo, Pomoroon
and Morucca estuaries had been cultivated.10
A third initiative to create a settlement in South America after the loss of Brazil was
the Guyana Company. In 1659 Balthasar Gerbier, a parvenu from Middelburg, was granted
a license to establish a colony between Cape Orange and the Cayenne River, the same area
where Langendijck operated. The company equipped two ships under his command and
that of Otto Keye, a Brazilian veteran. All that came from the ambitious plans was a small
colony on the Aperwacque (Approuage River) that only lasted a short while.11
In the summer of 1676, 350 Dutch colonists settled on the Oyapoc River. This ended
in another failure. They arrived during the rainy season and after six weeks 60 of the
colonists had perished. In July 1677, the French terminated the sorrowful venture.12 In
1692, the Dutch attempted for the last time to colonize Cayenne. Under the leadership of
Jan Reeps, 44 colonists and one black African left for the Wild Coast. The attempt was
abandoned after their vessel was shipwrecked on the Brazilian coast.13
The second Anglo-Dutch War (1664 /1667) had far-reaching consequences for the
Dutch Atlantic possessions. The English took the Dutch colonies on the Essequibo, the
Aperwacque and the Pomeroon. The settlement on the Berbice was spared, however. In
1666, Nova Zelandia was reclaimed from the English, soon followed by the conquest of the
English colony on the Suriname River. The Treaty of Breda (1667) was a confirmation of the
status quo: Suriname remained in Dutch hands.14
In 1624, the WIC took control over of the colony New Netherland in what is now
New York. Although the company governed the colony, the WIC was forced to lease large
areas to private enterprises, such as Swanendael, Nieuwer Amstel and Rensselaerswijck.
The colony developed successfully from no more than 500 settlers in 1628 to some 9,000
in 1664.15
During the 1630s, strategic considerations resulted in establishing small bases in the
Caribbean. These strongholds were also halfway from New Holland to New Netherland.
The WIC occupied the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St Eustatius, St Martin and Saba.
For the next couple of decades, the Dutch presence on the islands was limited. The soil
was poor and the climate too dry. Initially it appeared that Curacao would have the same
fate, but during the 1650s, the island developed as an entrepot.16
The ambitious plans of the WIC, intended to establish an extensive overseas Atlantic
Empire, had gradually faded away. The Portuguese retook Luanda and Brazil after only a
brief period of prosperity. In 1648, the Dutch signed a truce with their old adversary, the
King of Spain, followed by a treaty with the King of Portugal in 1661. The Dutch accepted
their loss of New Holland. Elmina on the West African coast, however, remained Dutch.17
During the second Anglo-Dutch War (1664 /1667) the settlement of New Netherland was
lost, but the plantation of Suriname gained in size.
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Enthoven, Nova Zelandia and Cayenne.


Boer, Een Nederlandsche goudzoeker.
Myst, Verloren Arbeyt ; and Muller, Elisabeth van der Woude .
Alphen, Jan Reeps .
Netscher, Geschiedenis van de kolonien , 71 /9.
Jacobs, New Netherland , 47 /8; and Venema, Beverwijck , 100.
Klooster, The Dutch in the Americas , 71 /2.
Groenveld, De vrede van Munster; and Haar, De diplomatieke betrekkingen .

DUTCH CROSSINGS

By the 1660s, the WIC had lost its major overseas possessions and most of its
monopolies. By now, most of the Dutch Atlantic ventures were in private hands. No
wonder that the States General postponed the renewal of the WIC charter in 1671. Three
years later, a new Dutch West India Company emerged.

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The New or Second Dutch West India Company


The new or second WIC was a much smaller operation than its forerunner. The
company managed and controlled only a few settlements in the Atlantic: the forts and
castles in West Africa, the plantation colony of Essequibo (in the 1750s to be extended to
the Demerara River), the three Leeward Islands of Saba, St Martin and St Eusatius (Statia),
and the three islands in the Lesser Antilles of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. The plantation
colonies of Suriname and Berbice were private ventures: Suriname was handed over to the
Societeit van Suriname in 1684, and Berbice was under the patronage of the Van Pere
family, but after a French raid it had to be sold to the Societeit van Berbice in 1720. In
1791, the WIC charter was not renewed and all assets and liabilities of the company were
taken over by the Dutch government.18 By then the Dutch Atlantic settlements
consisted of some 17,000 Europeans, 6,500 free people of colour and over 150,000 slaves
(see Table 2).
Until well into the eighteenth century, the most important WIC possessions were the
dozen or so strongholds in West Africa. The European presence in the forts was less than
impressive. The average number of Europeans was about 350, predominantly military.
Although the company hired Africans and tapoejers (people of a mixed African/European
birth), they did not belong to Dutch controlled society and lived outside the forts. The
WIC also owned some 300 slaves.19 In the privately owned plantation colony of
Suriname, between a 100 and 140 plantations were cultivated in 1684. This number
grew to 700 in 1800. The population grew accordingly from 4,000 in 1684 to 65,000 in
1791. Over time a heterogeneous society of Amerindians, Africans and Europeans
developed.20
At the end of the seventeenth century, around 9,500 Amerindian families of the
Carib and Arawak nations lived in Suriname, of which the Caribs were by far the more
prolific. After the so-called Indian War (1678 /1686) both nations retreated from the
vicinity of the plantations and over time faded away from colonial society.21
The European population grew from a mere 650 in 1684 to 1,058 in 1730 and 3,360
in 1791. As one would expect in a plantation colony, less than 20% of the population lived
in the city. Paramaribo was where most of the Societeit officials lived. The rest of the
European population was composed of free settlers, including scores of deprived artisans,
shopkeepers, bargemen, and widows.22
The dominant element in Suriname society was of course African. By far the largest
group of Africans were slaves, both first generation and those born in captivity in the New
World, the Creoles. The number of slaves grew from 3,300 in 1684, to 18,200 in 1730 and
18
19
20
21
22

Heijer, The Dutch West India Company, 97 /112.


Feinberg, Africans and Europeans , 34 /5; and Heijer, Goud, ivoor en slaven , 81 /5, 93 /7.
Wekker, Surinaams plantagewezen; and Lier, Samenleving in een grensgebied , 22.
Wekker, Indianen en pacificatie; and Dragtenstein, De ondraaglijke stoutheid , 22 /5, 36 /57.
Lier, Samenleving in een grensgebied , 22 /3; and Beeldsnijder, Op de onderste trede.

157

158

VICTOR ENTHOVEN

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TABLE 2
Overview of the population in the Dutch Atlantic territories, c. 1800

The African forts


Suriname
Berbice
Essequibo/Demerara
Curacao
Aruba
Bonaire
St Martin
St Eustatius
Saba
Total

Europeans

Free people of colour

Slaves

Total

350
3,360
860
2,700
4,850
210
50
990
2,340
730
16,440

/
700
200
650
2,450
1,150
650
130
640
10
6,580

300
60,000
8,300
60,000
12,900
370
430
3,600
5,140
560
151,600

650
64,060
9,360
63,350
20,200
1,730
1,130
4,720
8,120
1,300
174,620

Source: See text and notes 19 /34.

some 60,000 in the 1790s.23 A second black element in Suriname were the maroons, free
Africans and Creoles who had fled enslaved life on the plantations and lived deep in the
forest.24 Third, there were the free people of colour, the free Africans/Creoles (the
manumitted slaves), and the free slaves who served in the Neger Vrijcorps (the Black
Rangers).25
In the other Dutch plantation colonies similar societies evolved, but on a much
smaller scale. In 1720, the Societeit van Berbice owned eight plantations with 895 slaves
and 111 Europeans, all of them Societeit personnel. In 1732, private planters were allowed
in. By the end of the eighteenth century the total number of plantations had risen to 300,
with a population of 320 Societeit officials, 540 free European burgers, 200 free people of
colour, and 8,300 slaves.26
The colony of Essequibo was governed by the WIC. Around 1700 there were 19
plantations with 426 slaves and 60 Europeans. Essequibo was instrumental in establishing
a settlement on the nearby Demerara River in 1746, populated by predominantly English
planters from the West Indies. By the end of the century, Essequibo/Demerara had almost
equalled Suriname in size, with seven hundred plantations, 50,000 /60,000 slaves, 600 /
700 free people of colour, and 2,700 Europeans.27
In Dutch Caribbean societies, Amerindians played only a minor role. On the Leeward
Islands, for instance, there were no indigenous people at all. In the 1630s, some fourhundred Caribs lived on Curacao; after the Dutch took over, most of them left. On Aruba,
there were a few dozen Amerindians, on Bonaire even less. They herded cattle on all the
23

Dragtenstein, De ondraaglijke stoutheid , 25; Beeldsnijder, Om werk van jullie te hebben ,


appendix 3; and Stipriaan, Surinaams contrast , 311.
24
Hoogbergen, De bosnegers zijn gekomen ; and Dragtenstein, De ondraaglijke stoutheid .
25
Beeldsnijder, Op de onderste trede; Hoogbergen and Hove, De vrije gekleurden; Blakely,
Blacks in the Dutch World , 237 /40; Groot, Het Korps Zwarte Jagers, 1 and 2.
26
Netscher, Geschiedenis van de kolonien , 282; and Buffart and Jong, Naar de Barbiesjes, 6
and appendix 2.
27
Oest, The Forgotton Colonies, 329, Table 12.1.

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DUTCH CROSSINGS

islands. Over time, the Amerindians mingled with the free people of colour and
disappeared as a separate ethnic group.28
Curacao was unsuitable for growing cash crops. The island estates eventually
specialized in growing sorghum (small maize), the staple diet of the slaves, and raising
cattle as well. In time, the island became an important entrepot. Until 1714, the island was
also a major slave market, distributing slaves to the Spanish colonies. The number of free
residents rose from 300 in 1675 to 850 in 1715. In 1735, there were 410 European
households, including forty of company officials. By 1789, the European population had
reached 3,814 Europeans. The rest of the free population consisted of some 2,450 people
of colour and manumitted slaves. There were 12,864 registered slaves in that same year.29
Up until 1770, no colonists were allowed on Aruba, although in 1715 there had been
an unsuccessful attempt to establish a plantation on the island. There was a small garrison.
Several hundred Amerindians inhabited the island. After private individuals were allowed
on the island, the population grew to 1,730 souls in 1816, predominantly Amerindians and
free blacks, but also 210 Europeans.30
In order to prevent competition with Curacao, no settlers were allowed on Bonaire. It
was only after 1780 that some free colonists settled there. In 1792, there were twenty
Europeans and 319 slaves on the island. By 1816, the population had grown to over 1,130
souls.31 On Dutch St Martin, there were several large saltpans and 35 sugar plantations.
The population grew from 1,642 (532 Europeans and 1,110 slaves) in 1735 to over 4,700 in
1794.32 Over time, St Eustatius developed into a major West Indian entrepot. The
population grew from 410 Europeans and 561 slaves in 1715 to 860 Europeans and 1,586
slaves in 1742. In 1790, 2,340 Europeans, 640 free people of colour, and 5,140 slaves
populated the island.33 The small island of Saba had a population of 1,300 people in
1791.34

The European Diaspora


In order to assess the European demographic consequences of the Dutch presence
in the Atlantic World several variables have to be determined, such as the average number
and size of the ships, and the average number of sailors, soldiers, and passengers on board
these vessels. Since the available data consists of bits and pieces, the assessment will be
28

Geschiedenis van de Antillen , 44 /5.


NA, Archief van de Nieuwe West-Indische Compagnie (NWIC) 582:242, Number of
households, 1735; NA, Archief van de Raad van Colonien (RvC) 120: Report Sontag (1794),
appendix 16; Jordaan, The Curac ao Slave Market; and Renkema, Het Curacaose
plantagebedrijf , 26 /7 and 112 /5.
30
Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen , 192; Jordaan, De eerste slaven op Aruba. In
August 1804 and April 1806, Aruba had a population of 1,155 and 1,546 people respectively.
NA, Archief van de Raad der Amerikaanse Bezittingen 185 /I: 202 /4.
31
NA, RvC 120:57, Report Sontag; and NA, RvC 83: Inventory, 28 December 1792; and
Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen , 194.
32
Paula, Vrije slaven , 28, 35 and 50.
33
Knappert, Geschiedenis ; and Postma, The Dutch in the Atlantic Slave Trade , 197 n. 46.
34
Brugman, The Monuments of Saba , 25.
29

159

160

VICTOR ENTHOVEN
TABLE 3
Inhabitants of Suriname, 1684
Gentiles

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Europeans
Males
Females
Total
Slaves
Black males
Black females
Total
Red males
Red females
Total

362
127
489
Owned by Gentiles
1,299
955
2,254
29
54
83

Total

Jews

Total

105
58
163

467
185
652

Owned by Jews
543
429
972
10
13
23

1,842
1,384
3,226
39
67
106
3,984

Source: Enthoven, Suriname and Zeeland, 255, Table 1.

rather provisional. At the end of this section, a comparison on the same lines will be made
with the human needs of the VOC.

The Ships
For the better part of the seventeenth century over 200 ships left the Dutch Republic
every year for an Atlantic destination. During the last quarter of the century, this declined
to an average of 100 ships, to rise again to 200 vessels during the eighteenth century.35 A
tentative estimate for the period 1600 /1800 is 36,000 Atlantic voyages, an average of 180
voyages annually. This may seem a bit excessive, but it is even less than the number
approximated by Piet Emmer in his article cited above.36
A further estimate is that eleven percent of the outward ships did not return. Around
five percent would have been shipwrecked. Other ships were declared un-seaworthy and
scrapped. The rest were taken by enemy ships or pirates.37 Thus, annually an average of
180 ships left a Dutch harbour for an Atlantic destination, of which 160 returned safely.
Initially the WIC operated relatively large, and heavily armed ships of 130 /150 feet
and measuring 200 /600 last , (400 /600 tons).38 No serial data exist for private ships, but
these vessels must have been relatively large, too. By around 1700, the ships had become
smaller. From 1674 to1740, the WIC used ships averaging 107 feet in length. By then slave
traders, too, operated medium-sized ships.39 During the eighteenth century, when the
35

Enthoven, An Assessment, 402 /10.


Emmer and Klooster, The Dutch Atlantic, 58.
37
Of the 750 WIC ships bound for West Africa in the period between 1674 /1740, 40 were
shipwrecked (5.3%), 40 were taken by the enemy (5.3%), and nineteen were scrapped (2.5%).
Heijer, Goud, ivoor en slaven , 108 /9. As this period was especially rife with conflicts, I have
slightly lowered the percentage of the captured ships.
38
Laet, Jaerlyck verhael , 1:34 /5; 2:48, 56 /7, 158; 3:135; 4:1, 280.
39
Heijer, Goud, ivoor en slaven , 405, appendix 2; Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade , 142 /3; and
Enthoven, Pinassen, 43 /57.
36

DUTCH CROSSINGS

Guiana plantation colonies expanded, ships became even smaller, because they had to sail
up the shallow rivers to take plantation commodities onboard. This tendency toward
smaller ships is of course reflected in the number of persons on board.

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Sailors
In the period between 1624 /1636, the WIC equipped over eight hundred ships, with
an average of 100 men on board, of which 40% were sailors and 60% soldiers.40 Between
1674 and 1740, 750 company ships sailed for West African destinations. On average, these
vessels had a crew of 43 sailors.41 Company slave ships had a higher average of 58
seamen.42 This concurs with privately operated ships in the Atlantic. In the years 1720 /
1750, the Middelburgsche Commercie Compagnie (MCC) equipped 36 ships, including
slave ships, with an average crew of 48 sailors.43 Ships especially equipped for a bilateral
trip to the Spanish colonies had particularly large crews.44 After 1730, the average number
of seafarers on private slave ships was 34.45 For Amsterdam merchantmen, average crew
size declined from 27 in the 1760s to 24 in the 1790s.46 Although averages deviate from 58
for WIC slave ships to 24 for the Amsterdam ships, I estimate an average of 35 sailors on
Dutch ships for the period 1600 /1800.
Data on mortality among seamen on Atlantic ships is rather scarce. On a slave ship, a
sailor had by far the highest chance of not surviving the voyage. On board slave ships
operated by the MCC the mortality was 18%.47 With only some 1,600 slaving voyages on a
total of 36,000 Dutch Atlantic voyages these figures are, however, not significant. In bilateral
shipping death rates were much lower. Figures for French ships to the West Indies suggest a
mortality of 6%.48 Death rates on board ships to Berbice were even as low as 1%.49 I assume
that on average a seaman had a 5% chance of not surviving an Atlantic voyage.

Soldiers
The second largest group leaving Europe for an Atlantic destination were military
personnel */at first only in the service of the WIC, but later also for the Societeit van
Suriname and the Societeit van Berbice. All three corporations hired individuals to serve as

40

See note 38.


Heijer, Goud, ivoor en slaven , 96 and appendix 2.
42
Postma, Slave Trade Data Collection. This data is from the period 1675 /1738 and is based on
174 slaving voyages. I thank Johannes Postma for sharing his information.
43
Reinders Folmer-van Prooijen, Van goederenhandel , 188 /9, appendix 6.
44
Klooster, Illicit Riches , 84.
45
Postma Slave Trade Data Collection; and Unger, Bijdragen, 2, 109 /10, appendix 1.
46
This is based on a selection from the register of the Amsterdam Waterschout (water bailiff).
For the years 1760, 1770, 1782, and 1794 crew size of all ships with an Atlantic destination were
collected. Gemeentearchief Amsterdam, Amsterdam (GAA), Archief van de Waterschout 1, 2, 22,
42. The Postma Suriname Data Collection gives the same averages.
47
Unger, Bijdragen, 2, 26.
48
Goff, The Labour Market, 315 /6.
49
Buffart and De Jong, Naar de Barbiesjes, 82.
41

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VICTOR ENTHOVEN

soldiers overseas, mostly disadvantaged males from Germany and Scandinavia.50 After
arrival in the colony, the recruits received some basic military training. Eventually they
were billeted in the main fort or in one of the isolated outposts. Very rarely did they see
military action. Boredom must have been their greatest enemy.
On only three different occasions did the States General send regular army units
overseas. The first time, in the 1640s in support of the WIC in Brazil, the 6,000 troops were
too little, too late.51 Due to malnutrition and bad treatment slaves revolted in Berbice in
1763. Colonel Jan Marius de Salve and his regiment of 660 officers and men were sent to
Berbice to suppress the rebellion.52 Ten years later 1,600 soldiers were shipped to
Suriname to fight the maroons in the so-called Boni wars. This left us the famous narrative
of John Stedman notating his exploits during his five-year expedition to Suriname.53 As
Table 4 shows, by the end of the eighteenth century some 3,000 European troops lived in
Dutch settlements, although over time numbers could vary significantly. In Essequibo, for
instance, in 1780 there were 54 soldiers. Five years later, this number had doubled, and in
1790, in Essequibo and Demerara combined, the number of soldiers was 532.54 On
Curacao there were 200 troops around 1790; in a few years this number had quadrupled.55
Data on the number of soldiers sent overseas is scant. In the seventeenth century,
WIC ships had some 60 soldiers onboard.56 The 6,000 troops for Brazil were carried in 40
merchantmen: averaging 150 troops per ship. Between 1696 and 1765 the Societeit van
Suriname did send some 6,800 soldiers overseas, averaging six to seven soldiers per
vessel.57 To West Africa, the average number of soldiers was probably 15.58 For the two
hundred year period between 1600 /1800, I assume that on average 10 soldiers per ship
were sent overseas.
Although the military were a rather small portion of Dutch Atlantic societies, with
the exception of the West African forts, relatively many soldiers were needed. For the
period between 1740 /1794 Johannes Postma found that of the recorded 13,343 soldiers
shipped to Suriname, only 976 returned.59 The two main causes for this astounding
difference were death and desertion. In 1719 on the island of Curacao, for instance, of the

50

Ibid., 24 /9; and Lohnstein, De werving voor de militie, 67 /70.


Hoboken, Witte de With , 43.
52
Netscher, Geschiedenis van de kolonien , 225 /6.
53
Stedman, Narrative ; and Hoogbergen, De Boni-oorlogen.
54
Zeeuws Archief, Middelburg, Archief Adriaan Anthony Brown 36: Rapport van de militairen in
fort Zelandia, 2 februari 1780; NA, RvC 119: Garnizoen Demerara & Essequibo, May 1795.
55
NA, RvC 120: Report Sontag, appendix 7; and Coomans-Eustatia, Het oog van de Engelsen,
142, appendices 1 /2.
56
See note 38.
57
Postma, Population of a Tropical Slave Plantation; and Lohnstein, De werving voor de
militie, 71.
58
In the period between 1718 /1760, annually on average 82 Europeans died and had to be
supplemented. During the eighteenth century, four ships per year called at the forts. Of the 20
or so company passengers onboard, presumably around 15 had to be soldiers. Feinberg,
Africans and Europeans , 36 /7; Enthoven, An Assessment, 406, Table 14.3.
59
Postma, Populating a Tropical Slave Plantation.
51

DUTCH CROSSINGS
TABLE 4
Number of soldiers in the Dutch Atlantic settlements, c. 1790

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Company and region

Dutch West India Company


Forts in Africa
Curacao
Aruba
Bonaire
St Eustatius
St Martin
Saba
Essequibo
Demerara
Total
Socie
teit van Suriname
Paramaribo garrison
33 posts of the Cordon or Barrier
Artillery Corps
Neger Vrijcorps (Black Rangers)
Total
Socie
teit van Berbice
Fort Nassau
Post Wironje
Post Acquewyn
Fort Sint Andries
Post Nieuwe Sloot
Total
Total

Troops

Total

280
250
10
15
170
60
15
100
230
1,130
530
1,090
160
120
1,900
50
20
20
90
5
185
3,215

Sources: NA, Verspreide West-Indische Stukken (VWIS) 113: Stamlyst van het gedetacheerde corps in Rio
Essequebo, 25 April 1789; ibid., 156: Stamlyst van het Corps troops in Demerary, April 1789; ibid., 496:
Lyst der jouissances der militie op Curacao; ibid., 525: Generale monster rolle van alle militairen op de
Kust, 31 December 1793; ibid., 1211: Diverse staten; NA., Archief van de Stadhoudelijke Secretarie 1332:
Het militaire wezen op St Eustatius & St Maarten, 1791; NA, Archief Pieter van de Spiegel 134: Militie
colonien; NA, Archief van de Societeit van Berbice (SvB) 180:25, Lyst van het Corps Militaire, 1790; NA,
RvC 119: Garnizoen Demerara & Essequibo, May 1795; Hoogbergen, De Boni-oorlogen, 22 /32; and
Lohnstein, Organisatie, 56 /7.

newly arrived recruits, nine soldiers had deserted and seven others were dead after only a
few days.60
The mortality rate in the forts in West Africa was 18.5%. On average almost one
European out of five in the employment of the WIC, of which around 80% were military,
died every year on the Gold Coast.61 On Curacao and in Suriname the soldiers death rate
was much lower, but still higher compared to the rest of the European population.62 Of
the recruits in Berbice, for instance, 15% died after one year, six percent in the second year,

60
61
62

NA, NWIC 573:848, letter from H. Veldtman, 14 January 1719.


Feinberg, Africans and Europeans , 36 /7.
Teenstra, De Nederlandsche West-Indische eilanden , 1:178.

163

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164

VICTOR ENTHOVEN

and seven percent in the third year.63 Of the recruits newly arrived on Curacao, one third
had died shortly after arrival in 1732.64
Company and Societeit officials complained constantly about the depleted
garrisons.65 The high death rate amongst the military was mainly caused by the
substandard quality of the soldiers. There are many observations on the poor physical
health of the recruits: many were old and grey, some were deaf, blind or even paralysed,
and others were alcoholics. In 1735, of a group of 35 soldiers destined for Suriname, none
were considered fit.66
As mentioned above, the second reason why the colonial garrisons were in constant
need of new recruits was desertion. During the fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780 /1784) in
Berbice, for instance, out of the garrison of 40, 23 soldiers deserted. In 1792, eight soldiers
jumped ship during the voyage to the colony.67 For the other garrisons the situation was
no better.

Passengers
The third and smallest group crossing the ocean were passengers. Two distinct
European groups migrated via the Netherlands to the New World: Jews and the so-called
Pennsylvania Dutch. Furthermore, many non-Europeans shuttled between the Old and the
New World.
In the Jewish Atlantic Diaspora, the Dutch World played a crucial role. In New
Holland, Isaac Aboab da Fonesca became the first rabbi in the Americas. Jodensavanne
(Jewish Savannah) in Suriname was the first permanent Jewish plantation settlement in
the New World, and in Willemstad, on the island of Curacao, the oldest synagogue in the
Western Hemisphere, Mikve Israel, still exists. In Dutch Brazil, Suriname and on Curacao
three different but unique Jewish settlements emerged.68
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the city of Amsterdam attracted New
Christians, Crypto-Jews, conversos , Spanish and Portuguese Marranos, Sephardim and
Ashkenazi for a variety of reasons. Merchants specializing in long distance trade were
drawn to the city because of its international entrepot, while others had fled war-torn
Germany or the Iberian Inquisition, and some came to mokum (the place) because of its
63

Buffart and De Jong, Naar de Barbiesjes, 82.


NA, NWIC 580:515, letter by J. van Collen, 26 April 1732.
65
For Curacao see: NA, NWIC 570:598, letter by J. van Collen, 13 January 1711; ibid., 571:695,
letter by Van Beuningen, 21 July 1714; ibid., 314: J. van Collen to Heren X, 10 January 1735; ibid.,
315: letter by J. van Collen, 23 July 1736; ibid., 1146:54, Van Beeck to chamber Zeeland, 26 July
1701; ibid., 573:285, letter of 20 November 1717. For Essequibo and Demerara see: Villiers,
Storm van s-Gravensande , 182, 27 December 1757; 287, 8 December 1766; 389, 29 August 1772.
For Suriname see: NA, SvS 222: 6 July 1697; Dragtenstein, De ondraaglijke stoutheid , 32;
Hoogbergen, De Boni-oorlogen , 23.
66
NA, NWIC 566:297, letter by N. van Beeck, 21 June 1701; ibid., 567:4, letter by N. van Beeck,
30 June 1702; Hoogbergen, De Boni-oorlogen , 23; and Lohnstein, De werving voor de milite,
73, 77 /8.
67
Buffart and De Jong, Naar de Barbiesjes, 44.
68
Wiznitzer, The Records , 3; Frankel, Antecedents and Remnants, 394 /436; and Buddingh,
Van Punt en Snoa .
64

DUTCH CROSSINGS
TABLE 5
An assessment of the demographic consequence of the Dutch Atlantic and Asiatic empires, 1600 /
1800
Dutch Atlantic

Outward

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Average annual number of ships


Average persons per ship
Sailors
Military
Passengers
Total
Total individuals,
1600 /1800
Annual average

Home
bound

Dutch East India Company


%
Reduction Outward

Home
bound

%
Reduction
29

180

160

11

24

17

35
10
7
52

33
1
4
38

5
90
50

124
62
21
206

/
/
/
109

1,872,000

1,209,510

35

9,360

6,048

Annual average number of people not returning

3,312

973,000 366,900
4,865

62

1,835
3,031

Source: For the Atlantic, see text and notes 35 /98. For the VOC: Bruijn, Gaastra and Schoffer, DutchAsiatic Shipping, 3:75, Table 13; 91, Table 22; 144, Table 27; 152, 162; Bruijn, De personeelsbehoefte,
218 /48; Bruijn and Lucassen, Op de schepen; and Gaastra, De geschiedenis, 85 /7, Tables 10 /12.

relatively religious tolerance.69 Therefore, when the WIC unfolded its grand design to
conquer Brazil, many Jews already lived in the Netherlands, including dozens of New
Christians from Brazil. In October 1629, the directors of the WIC ruled that for the
settlements in the New World:
The liberty of Spaniards, Portuguese and natives, whether they be Roman Catholics or
Jews will be respected. No one will be permitted to molest them or subject them to
inquiries in matters of conscience or in their private homes.70

Two months later a huge fleet left the Dutch Republic for Pernambuco in Brazil, on board
were at least 40 Sephardim and 20 Ashkenazi.
It is a matter of debate how tolerant or repressive the Dutch were towards Judaism.
Wim Klooster paints a rather ambiguous picture.71 On the one hand, the Dutch colonial
government in Brazil guaranteed Jews freedom of conscience and allowed them to open
the first synagogue in the New World in 1637. Over time, Jews came to enjoy virtually
complete legal equality with Christians in Dutch Brazil. Their commercial significance even
earned them the right to retail trade, not allowed to them in Amsterdam. On the other
hand, the Dutch Reformed Church in Brazil consistently opposed their religious freedom,
and private Gentile residents tried to have the privileges revoked by arguing that Jews in
Brazil should not enjoy more rights than those in Amsterdam.72 In addition, in 1652 the

69
70
71
72

Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans .


Cited by Wiznitzer, The Records , 1 /2.
Klooster, Between Pernambuco and Amsterdam.
Schalkwijk, The Reformed Church , 150, 249 ff.

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VICTOR ENTHOVEN

board of directors of the WIC wrote to Peter Stuyvesant, This nation [of Jews] is cunning
and generally deceitful; therefore, one should not trust them too much.73
In any case, after the Dutch conquest of Recife, hundreds of Jewish families migrated
to Brazil, the majority of them were descendants of Iberian Marranos. The number of Jews
in Dutch Brazil was also increased by Brazilian conversos who during the Dutch occupation
officially returned to Judaism. Eventually, of the 3,000 Europeans living in Dutch Brazil
about half were Jews. A small portion were planters; others were retailers or merchants
involved in importing and exporting.74
There are indications that from as early as the 1640s Jewish colonists settled on the
Wild Coast, but the evidence is somewhat disputable. In any case, after the fall of Recife in
1654 an exodus took place of Dutch Jews and Gentiles. Ships crammed with refugees
were forced to sail first to the West Indies because of the South Equatorial Current, calling
regularly at settlements for fresh provisions.75 Probably some Jewish planters and their
families disembarked on one of the West Indian island to start a new life. In September
1654, a group of twenty-three had arrived in New Amsterdam, thus founding the first
Jewish community in what was to become the city of New York.76
During the second half of the 1650s and the early 1660s many Jewish families
returned to America, this time to the Dutch settlements on the Wild Coast at Cayenne,
Essequibo, Pomoroon, Morucca and Aperwacque. Again, they were granted full religious
rights. The second Anglo-Dutch War (1664 /1667), however, ended these promising
enterprises. Most of the Jewish planters and their families left the settlements and ended
up in English Suriname. Others settled in the West Indies. When Suriname became Dutch
in 1667, many Jews, once again, came under Dutch rule, this time for good.77
The Jewish centre in Suriname became Jodensavanne, where in 1685 the synagogue
Bracha veShalom was opened. Most of the Jews were planters, although this changed
during the second half of the eighteenth century. While 115 out of 401 plantations (29%)
had been in Jewish hands around 1730, in 1788 only forty-six out of 591 (8%) remained.78
By then, many Jews had settled in the capital Paramaribo, the largest Jewish community in
the Western Hemisphere. In 1791, of 3,360 Europeans living in Suriname, some 2,000 were
of Jewish descent.79 The overwhelming majority of Suriname Jewish immigrants came
from Amsterdam. Out of 332 new arrivals for the period between 1771 /1795, 276 arrived
from mokum. If most Jews from Amsterdam left for Suriname, their second favourite
destination was Curacao, the second largest Jewish community in the Dutch Atlantic
World.80 In 1652, a first group of Jews settled on the island, and others followed suit.
Before long, many merchants and ship owners were Jews, who made full use of their

73

Gehring, Correspondence , 154.


Wiznitzer, The Records , 2.
75
Hajstrup, Das Memorial , 108 ff.
76
Klooster, Networks of Colonial Entrepreneurs.
77
Ibid.; Oppenheim, An Early Jewish Colony; idem, Supplemental data; and Zwarts, Een
episode, 519 /30.
78
Klooster, The Jews in Suriname and Curacao, 352.
79
Dragtenstein, De ondraaglijke stoutheid , 25 /7; and Wolbers, Geschiedenis van Suriname , 442.
80
Cohen, Jews in Another Environment , 15 ff.
74

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DUTCH CROSSINGS

particular assets: mastery of the Spanish language and extensive family networks spanning
the Atlantic. They transformed the barren island into a major entrepot.81 On Curacao, too,
Jews had full religious freedom. In 1733, they opened the synagogue Mikve Israel. By then
there were 410 European households, allegedly three quarters of them occupied by Jews.
This last observation was made by Governor Van Collen, who often complained about the
Jewish nation on the island, and who bewailed the lack of houses for Christians.82 By 1789
the population on the island had reached 3,814 Europeans, included 1,100 Jews.83
In 1664, the Dutch lost their North American possessions to the English. Nevertheless, Dutch influence remained significant, not only because a substantial Dutch
community stayed in New York, but also because of the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch:
immigrants predominantly from Germany. The Middle colonies especially were constantly
in need of new, preferably Protestant, settlers. This time it was not rich planters or
capitalist merchants who made the Atlantic crossing, but labourers */and the German
Rhine lands had an almost unlimited supply of these. Dutch on the rivers Maas and Rhine,
especially Rotterdam with its large English speaking mercantile community, were ideally
situated to ship these poor souls to the New World. Several merchant houses specialised in
this human trafficking and established an intricate system of agents along the whole route
from Germany via the Rhine River to Rotterdam and then to America. Most Pennsylvania
Dutch */a corruption of the word Deutsch (Germans) */entered the New World via
Philadelphia. Marianne Wokeck estimated that some 100,000 Germans migrated via the
Netherlands to one of the English colonies in North America during the eighteenth
century.84
The last category of passengers travelling between Europe and Africa, the Americas
and the West Indies, were non-Europeans, comprising Amerindians, Africans, Creoles,
Mulattoes, tapoejers and so forth. Almost from the start of their expansion in the Atlantic,
the Dutch invited Amerindians to Europe. An Amerindian from the Wiapoco River called
Jan was brought to Amsterdam as early as 1608. Unfortunately, nobody took care of him.85
During their short-lived occupation of Bahia during 1624 and 1625, the Dutch sent a
number of Amerindians from the coast of Paraba to the Netherlands with the intention of
obtaining useful military information.86 Many people repatriating from Dutch Brazil
brought with them one or more Brazilians. The party of Tapuyas that voluntarily
accompanied Governor General Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen home, made quite an
impression in The Hague. At the other end of the social ladder, Corporal Peter Hansen
Hajstrup had an Amerindian servant whom he brought with him to Holland. Unfortunately, a few days after arriving in Amsterdam they lost track of each other. In addition,

81

Klooster, The Jews in Suriname and Curacao, 353-61; and Israel, The Jews of Dutch
America, 335 /49.
82
NA, NWIC 582:242, Number of households, 1735; ibid., 315: Letter by J.P. van Collen, 18 Juni
1736; and Emmanuel and Emmanuel, History of the Jew , I:132 /50.
83
NA, RvC 120: Report Sontag, appendix 16; Klooster, The Jews in Suriname and Curacao,
355, Table 18.1.
84
Wokeck, Trade in Strangers , 37 ff.
85
GAA, Notarieel Archief 195/9 bis: 497, 15 March 1608.
86
Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil , 21 /7; and Boer, De val van Bahia.

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VICTOR ENTHOVEN

several Amerindians were sent to the Dutch Republic to become reformed ministers.87
Information on North American Indians visiting the Netherlands is scarce, but probably
there were a few.88 Owing to their limited presence in Dutch colonial society, only
incidental South American indigenous inhabitants visited the Netherlands during the
eighteenth century, almost all of them came from Suriname. Even today, the number of
ethnic Indians from Suriname living in the Netherlands is very small.89
The most famous indigenous African to visit the Netherlands was Jacobus Captein.
He studied at Leiden University where he gained a doctorate in theology in 1742 on the
thesis Dissertatio Politica-Theologica de Servitute Libertati Christian non Contraria .90
Africans became a common feature of Dutch society */at least judging from the many
paintings, depicting black servants, including the famous painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
of two African boys (1661).91 During the eighteenth century, African slaves and free people
of colour from the Guiana plantation colonies and the Antilles frequently travelled back
and forth to the Dutch Republic. Johannes Postma found that in a 55-year period 931
people of colour, predominantly slaves, travelled from Suriname to the Netherlands, an
average of 17 per year. After some time, some 80% of them returned to Suriname. There is
also evidence of people of colour from the Antilles going to the Netherlands.92 All these
newcomers to the Old World added to the black image in the Netherlands.
These examples from the seventeenth century suggest several dozen colonists on
outward ships. Between 34 and 48 settlers travelled per ship to the Dutch settlements in
North America, including a dozen or so soldiers.93 Figures for the eighteenth century are
much lower: as Postma found, of 8,000 passengers sailing in 2,000 ships from the
Netherlands to Suriname, on average of only four passengers per vessel.94 For West Africa,
the number of passengers on board outward ships was probably five.95 To the American
Middle colonies, however, an average of over 200 German migrants was crammed on
board every vessel.96 Assuming that there were fewer passengers than soldiers on the
outward voyage */but at least more than four */we can estimate an overall average of
seven passengers on every outward-bound ship.
How many of the passengers stayed overseas and how many returned? It is clear
that many people shuttled back and forth between the Netherlands and the Atlantic
settlements. Especially planters and merchants sometimes made several crossings to
attend to their businesses. In 1646, for instance, 29 vrijlieden (free settlers) left Brazil for the
Dutch Republic on the ship Zelandia .97 Another ship, the Nieuw Gouden Spoor , repatriated
87

Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil , 135-6; Hajstrup, Das Memorial , 121; Mello, Nederlanders in Brazilie ,
224; and Schalkwijk, The Reformed Church .
88
Meuwese, For the Peace and Well-Being, 71 /2.
89
Oostindie, Kondreman in Bakrakondre, 7, 9 /10; and Schoorl, Surinaamse Indianen, 43 /4.
90
Kpobi, Saga of a Slave .
91
For the black presence in the Dutch world, see: Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World .
92
Postma, Populating a Tropical Slave Plantation; Oostindie, Kondreman in Bakrakondre,
6 /19; Maduro, Nos a bai ulanda, 145 /157.
93
Rink, Holland on the Hudson , 166 /7, Table 6.4; and Jacobs, De scheepvaart en handel.
94
Postma, Populating a Tropical Slave Plantation.
95
See note 58.
96
Wokeck, Trade in Strangers , 70 /1, Tables 3 and 4.
97
NA, OWIC 61:77, Lyst van vrijlieden, 1647.

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DUTCH CROSSINGS

14 persons from Essequibo back to the Dutch Republic in 1741, including former
commander Gelskerke, three plantation directors, an indigo planter, a surgeon, a smith,
and four soldiers.98 As mentioned above, most of the people of colour returned to the
New World. Postma found that of the 8,000 outgoing passengers (including people of
colour) some 5,300 returned. In other words, of the people going to Suriname only one in
three stayed abroad. Two thirds returned to the Dutch Republic. Therefore, I assume, that
for all settlements, including North America, on average at least 50% of all passengers
crossing the Atlantic returned to Europe.
Now we have sufficient estimates compiled, not only to make a well-considered
assessment of the demographic consequences of the Dutch Atlantic World, but also to
compare these with the human needs of the VOC. In the 200-year period between 1600
and 1800, almost 1.9 million individuals left the Dutch Republic for an Atlantic destination,
of which 1.2 million returned. So, overall, some 700,000 people (35%) did not return.
Annually, on average 180 ships left with 52 individuals on board, of which 160 vessels
returned with 38 people. Therefore, the Dutch Atlantic was annually in need of 9,300
individuals, of which eventually 6,000 returned. In other words, every year on average
3,300 individuals remained in the New World, either dead or alive.

The Dutch East India Company


Calculated along the same lines as for the Atlantic, figures for the VOC are as follows.
Almost one million individuals left the Netherlands of whom some 370,000 returned. In
total 630,000 men (52%) did not make it back. Annually, on average 24 large East Indiamen
left Dutch ports with 206 people on board, of which 17 vessels with 109 people returned.
Therefore, the VOC needed 4,800 individuals per year, of which some 1,800 came back.
This means that an annual average of 3,000 people either died or stayed in Asia.
There are, however, several differences between the Dutch Asiatic and Atlantic
Worlds. Overseas the VOC employed on average 20,000 Europeans, many more than in the
Dutch Atlantic World, even in the heydays of New Holland and New Netherland. It had
never been company policy, however, to establish settlements overseas, although over
time at the Cape an agricultural colony of so-called vrije boeren (free farmers) came into
being, and major towns developed, like Batavia and Colombo on Java and Ceylon (now Sri
Lanka).99
The Dutch East Indiamen were among the largest wooden merchant ships ever,
averaging 130 /170 feet in length, and weighing from 200 /450 last . Ships used in the
Atlantic were much smaller, especially during the eighteenth century. In all the VOC
equipped 4,721 outward and 3,354 homebound voyages. Therefore, 1,367 ships did not
return. 246 were wrecked by storms, fog, faulty navigation or un-seaworthiness, and 64
were captured by pirates and enemy ships. Overall, only 6.6% of all Dutch East Indiamen
were lost. The rest were declared unfit and scrapped. The number of discarded ships was
higher than in the Atlantic because the VOC used the East Indiamen intensively in the
intra-Asiatic trades, while in the intra-Caribbean trade the Dutch predominately used small
local craft. The West Indiamen were almost exclusively used for bilateral shipping.100
98
99
100

Public Record Office, Kew Colonial Office 116:20, 21 and 28.


Wet, Die vrijliede ; Biewenga, De Kaap de Goede Hoop ; and Raben, Batavia and Colombo.
Klooster, Illicit Riches , 124; and Goslinga, The Dutch in the Caribbean, 1680 /1791 , 189 ff.

169

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VICTOR ENTHOVEN

The average mortality rate on board VOC ships was four percent, comparable with
Atlantic shipping.101 The death rate in Asia, however, was as high as 12.5% for sailors and
26.5% for soldiers. The average mortality rate in the Dutch Asiatic settlements was 17%.102
VOC officials, including sailors and soldiers, had all contracted to stay in Asia for five years.
The majority of them died during their stay abroad. In the Dutch Atlantic world, however,
by far the largest group to cross the ocean were sailors, almost 1.2 million of them. They
made mainly bilateral trips, without long tenures overseas and therefore subject to the
consequent high risk of dying. This is one of the main differences in human terms between
East and West.
Around half of the soldiers, sailors and artisans in the service of the VOC came from
outside the territory of the Dutch Republic, predominantly from the German territories.103
In this respect, there was no difference with the Dutch Atlantic World.

The Balance Sheet


Over time, the volume of Dutch demographic weight in the Atlantic was rather
limited. In the 17th century, with the colonies of New Holland in Brazil and New
Netherland in North America, the number of people living overseas was no more than
25,000. By 1800, this number has risen to some 175,000, including 150,000 slaves. The
European element of the Dutch Atlantic was unique, however, because of the relatively
high numbers of non-Dutch such as Sephardim, Ashkenazi and Germans. First in New
Holland, and later in Suriname and on the island of Curacao relatively large Jewish
communities developed. The Dutch were also instrumental in peopling North America, by
shipping some 100,000 Pennsylvania Dutch to the New World.
The number of Europeans living overseas in Dutch Atlantic settlements has always
been less than the 20,000 or so Europeans employed by the VOC in Asia. In the Atlantic,
the Dutch had an active policy in establishing overseas settlements, while in Asia this had
never been the case. Nonetheless, the human demands for the Atlantic region were much
higher than those for Asia where some 1.9 million people were sent overseas to the West,
of whom almost two-thirds returned. The VOC did send a million people to the East, of
whom a mere 40% came back alive. This means that the average annual demands for the
Atlantic and for Asia were 9,300 and 4,800 people respectively, of which 6,000 and 1,800
individuals returned. In other words, every year some 3,300 and 3,000, respectively, did not
return to Europe. Therefore, the drain on the Dutch population caused by
the Atlantic compared to the VOC was only slightly higher, although due to the open
labour market in the Dutch Republic most of the young men who did not return were
German.
Although the average annual human shortfall for the Dutch Republic was for the
Atlantic perhaps some ten percent higher than for Asia, to conclude, as Emmer did, that
the Atlantic was a drain on the Dutch population is, to say the least, misleading. Moreover,
in economic terms Atlantic commerce was far more important to the Dutch Republic than
trade with Asia. For the cost of a few hundred people more involved in the venture than in
101

Bruijn, Gaastra and Schoffer, Dutch-Asiatic Shipping , 3:162.


Brug, Malaria en malaise , 29 and 174.
103
Bruijn and Lucassen, Op de schepen , 140; Opper, Dutch East India Company , 172 /4; and
Gelder, Het Oost-Indisch avontuur , 53 /70.
102

DUTCH CROSSINGS

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the VOC, the Dutch Atlantic World generated much higher proceeds. The estimated
annual turnover for the Atlantic was 30 million guilders, compared to 20 million for the
VOC.104
Especially after the loss of New Holland in 1654 and New Netherland 10 years later,
the Dutch presence in the Atlantic became lean and mean */no inefficient and costly
apparatus, especially in human terms, but small-scale privately run operations supported
by a relatively small infrastructure, provided by the WIC, the Societeit van Suriname and
the Societeit van Berbice.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
Victor Enthoven (Ph.D. Leiden University, 1996) was affiliated for several years with
the Institute for the History of European Expansion (IGEER) at Leiden University. At present,
he is associate Professor of History and Political Science at the Royal Netherlands Naval
College at Den Helder, Netherlands. He is the co-editor of two recent collections, Riches
from Atlantic Commerce. Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585 /1817 (2003) and
Een saluut van 26 schoten. Liber amicorum aangeboden aan Ger Teitler (2005).

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RENKEMA, WILLEM E.

Victor Enthoven, Department of International Security Studies, Royal Netherlands Naval


College, Het Nieuwe Diep 8, 1781 AC, Den Helder, The Netherlands,
Email: v.enthoven@kim.nl