Then Henry Hudson had been hired by the Dutch East India Company to once again find an easy route to Asia. His ship sailed across the uncharted waters he hoped would bring them to Asia, but they came unstuck north of Norway. The crew was not happy and threatened mutiny, so Hudson wisely decided to go along the tried and tested passage instead, a la John Smith and Samuel de Champlain of the New World settlements of Jamestown and Quebec.
Imagine the crew's excitement in 1609 when they sailed into the mouth of a large river just off the coast of Cape Cod (Massachusetts). And imagine how delighted they were to find a majestic harbour surrounded by wide, easily navigable rivers and land rich with natural resources. In 1614 the New Netherland Co. was established and they soon created a second fur trading post in Fort Nassau, today called Albany.
Hudson returned to The Netherlands with the maps and reports; this was followed by a flood of Dutch citizens who flocked to this new land with its wonderful river, now called the Hudson River.
Peter Stuyvesant become the Director-General of the New Netherland colony in 1647.
Merchants from Amsterdam began sending agents to the area to act in their financial interests. These agents collected food, tobacco, fur and timber, sending shiploads back to Amsterdam, which was then Europe’s leading trade city. In order to secure for themselves the rich trade that the new land seemed to promise, the Dutch decided to colonise the area and name it Nieuw Nederlandt. New Netherland was the first Dutch colony in the New World, extending from Delaware to Albany New York and included parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey. Some colonists came for the prospect of owning their own land or to capitalise on the fur trade. Others came as servants or hunters, or to escape religious persecution.
New Netherland was populated mostly by Native Americans, traders and employees of the Dutch East India Company. Eventually, farmers and tradesmen arrived, often with their wives and children. Slaves were brought in from Africa. Soldiers were shipped over to protect the colony. Officials were appointed to govern and maintain order. There were shipbuilders, teachers, millers, butchers, brewers, blacksmiths, carpenters and bakers, some Dutch but others from other parts of Western Europe.
The written history of New York City properly began with the Dutch settlement of Walloon families in 1624, when State General Peter Minuit formally bought the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans! That town, at the southern tip of Manhattan, was called Nieuw Amsterdam, and was the main city of the Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland. To defend New Amsterdam, Minuit built Fort Amsterdam on the water’s edge.
The date 1625 appeared on New York City's corporate seal; the year of Dutch incorporation as a city. And we can track the Dutch origins in many names in New York City today e.g Brooklyn came from Breukelen, Harlem was Haarlem, the Bronx was once Pieter Bronck, Flushing was Vlissingen and Staten Island came from Staaten Eylandt.
In 1646, Peter Stuyvesant was selected by the Dutch East India Co. to become the Director-General of the New Netherland colony. Stuyvesant organised the colonists in projects, draining marshes and digging canals. In September 1647, he appointed an advisory council of nine men as representatives of the colonists on New Amsterdam.
The City of New Amsterdam in 1660
By the mid 17th century, New Amsterdam was doing very well commercially. Alas for the Netherlands, their biggest competitor for ship-building and overseas trade were the English who persuaded King Charles II to "give" the successful Dutch colony to his brother, the Duke of York, in 1664.
In the same year, English ships entered the harbour and troops marched to capture the East River to the city, with minimal resistance from the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant. The English really wanted Manhattan Island with its fine natural harbour and two impressive rivers. But we still have to ask why Nieuw Amsterdam was ceded by the Dutch to the English so passively?
The best explanation I can find is that after the second Anglo-Dutch Sea War 1665-7, the English agreed to transfer sovereignty of Surinam to the Dutch in The Treaty of Breda in 1667, in exchange for New Amsterdam. Perhaps the coffee and sugar cane plantations of Suriname looked better to the Dutch than the fur trade of northern USA. Or perhaps Peter Stuyvesant had made little effort to endear himself to the good burghers of New Amsterdam since he arrived in 1646, so when they were asked to defend the city against a fleet of British warships, the citizens simply refused to risk their lives.
The Dutch had done very well for 50+ years (1609-67), but their idyll was over. The newly English city grew northward, and became the largest city in the colony!
2014 is exactly the 350th anniversary of the year in which the English took over the Dutch colony and called it New York. But the Dutch legacy remains - in holiday traditions, food, place names, architecture and even politics. For detailed information, see New Netherlands Institute, Exploring America's Dutch Heritage.