In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Dutch in South America and the Caribbean

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dutch Atlantic World
  • Dutch in Brazil: The Colony of New Holland
  • Dutch in Brazil: Legacy in Europe
  • Dutch in the Guianas and the Caribbean through 1800
  • Dutch in the Guianas and the Caribbean since 1800
  • Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Abolition
  • Slave Resistance, Marronage, and Culture
  • Jews in the Dutch Atlantic World
  • Printed Primary Sources

Latin American Studies The Dutch in South America and the Caribbean
Christopher Ebert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 March 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0214


The concept of “Latin America” gained currency only in modern times, and its use as an organizing concept for the early modern period is limited. The best way to understand the involvement of the Dutch Republic in overseas colonizing efforts is through the idea of Atlantic history. This involvement was part and parcel of the fitful consolidation of the Republic in the latter decades of the 16th century, as the “rebellious provinces” took their war with Habsburg Spain to Spanish Atlantic possessions. A more sustained assault on the Iberian Atlantic began with the chartering of the first Dutch West India Company (WIC) in 1621. A short-lived invasion of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil’s colonial capital, was followed by a successful occupation of the rich sugar-producing captaincy of Pernambuco from 1630 to 1654. Dutch New York, by way of comparison, was a small venture. Grand schemes for large Dutch colonies in territories claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies came to nothing, and the WIC was reorganized in 1674 with more modest ambitions. The Dutch subsequently established a vigorous presence in Suriname, Curaçao, and a handful of islands in the Lesser Antilles embracing plantation agriculture, trade, and financial services. This bibliography examines Dutch Atlantic world historiography with a focus on competition with the Iberian empires, especially in Brazil. It also discusses works on other Dutch outposts, which are considered collectively as a “Caribbean zone,” whether mainland or island. Administered only loosely by the second WIC, these colonies became sites of vigorous interaction with all the other European Atlantic powers throughout the 18th century. Other sections list works on the Dutch in the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in Dutch colonies, the history of Portuguese Jews in the Dutch Atlantic world, and published primary sources relevant to Dutch Atlantic history.

General Overviews

Histories of the Dutch Republic (Boxer 1965, Israel 1995, and Prak 2009) set the stage for Dutch Atlantic expansion. De Vries and van der Woude 1997 is the most comprehensive economic history, while Antunes and Gommans 2015 decenters Dutch expansion and partly takes it out of an imperial framework.

  • Antunes, Cátia A. P., and Jos L. L. Gommans, eds. Exploring the Dutch Empire: Agents, Networks and Institutions, 1600–2000. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

    Cutting-edge essays that deal with Dutch empire and trade, incorporating actor/network theory and New Institutional Economics approaches.

  • Boxer, C. R. The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 1600–1800. New York: Knopf, 1965.

    Overview of Dutch colonial expansion after 1600 includes both Atlantic and Indian Ocean dimensions.

  • Cook, Harold. Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300117967.001.0001

    Posits, not without controversy, a central role for Dutch overseas expansion in fostering the growth of scientific knowledge in the Republic.

  • de Vries, Jan, and Ad van der Woude. The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500–1815. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    Comprehensive overview of Dutch economic history under the Republic contains a chapter on the Dutch Atlantic and the West India Company.

  • Israel, Jonathan I. Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585–1740. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Somewhat dated series of essays that look at the rise of the Dutch Republic as a global trading empire, but with a useful focus on Dutch interactions with the Iberian empires.

  • Israel, Jonathan I. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

    Comprehensive and detailed synthesis of the history of the Dutch Republic.

  • Prak, Maarten Roy. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century: The Golden Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    Concise but excellent synthesis of recent research on the early history of the Republic; also deals with overseas expansion; accessible to a nonspecialist reader.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.