3d ser., 73, no. 2 April 2016
By Susanah Shaw Romney
Gender relationships fundamentally supported the Dutch seaborne mercantile empire. In the seventeenth-century Netherlands, housewives and households anchored the civic world on which commerce depended. As Dutch traders, planners, and merchants sought to build profitable footholds around the world, they repeatedly turned to the idea that colonial outposts needed female inhabitants; transatlantic migrants similarly sought to further their own interests through family settlement and individual territorial claims. On the mid-Atlantic coast of North America, these ideas created an early and consistent emphasis on female migration and the creation of homes and villages along contested frontiers. The consequent creation of New Netherland’s physical “gender frontier” gave martial significance to women’s presence and family homes. Indigenous women’s agricultural fields became principal targets of Dutch forces as the colony expanded by relying on the establishment of immigrant households and villages. The women of New Netherland thus provide the opportunity to assess the key role of gender in the establishment of early modern settler colonies and the extension of imperial land claims.
By Justin Roberts
Before 1667, Surinam was the next major frontier for Barbadians who wanted to expand the sugar plantation complex. A proprietary colony under the control of Francis Willoughby, governor of Barbados, Surinam was occupied by the Dutch during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The English Crown, in a key moment of metropolitan intervention in the design of the empire, turned its back on the Surinam colony in the Treaty of Breda, trading it to the Dutch for Manhattan. The Willoughby family recaptured Surinam after the treaty was signed and encouraged the English state to retain it as a royal colony, but Charles II insisted on its surrender. The loss of Surinam changed the trajectory of English expansion in the Americas. Surinam’s English planters with capital for investment and agricultural expertise in sugar planting were redirected toward Jamaica, the colony favored by the crown. These planters faced labor shortages under Dutch rule and the vast majority left for Jamaica in 1671 and 1675. An increasing supply of slaves from the Royal African Company had made Jamaica a more attractive option. These Surinam migrants spurred the growth of the Jamaican sugar economy.
By Jonathan Barth
Mercantilism is a term that has withstood enormous scrutiny from historians since the middle of the twentieth century. The fact that economic thinkers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries so ardently disagreed on a wide range of policy proposals has led many historians to question whether we can truly speak of a coherent mercantilist ideology. This historiographical turn, though usefully reminding historians of the diversity of economic thought, has regrettably obscured the distinctive elements that united most early modern economic thinkers. Mercantilist diversity was grounded on a common consensus that assigned a particular importance to the quantity of money. This specie objective contributed in turn to a mercantilist fixation on the balance of trade, provoking fervent debate over the most effective means to ensure a general trade surplus. Mercantilism crumbled only after a new generation of economic writers in the latter half of the eighteenth century insisted that the quantity of money bore no relation to power and plenty. Until then, the cardinal philosophy of empire was mercantilism, a diverse system of thought founded upon a meaningful consensus about money and trade.
By Daniel Robinson
As William Pepperrell, the famed commander of New England’s expedition against Louisbourg, was laid to rest at Kittery Point in 1759, his eulogist praised the departed general for giving peace to Europe. This sermon spoke to an influential yet scarcely studied strand of British North American public discourse, in which colonists meditated upon the workings of the eighteenth-century European state system and the developing role of the British Empire as a great power. During the tumultuous global conflicts from 1739 to 1763, British American geopolitical thinking exerted a profound influence on colonial political culture, fostering support for the Hanoverian monarchy as the “arbiter” of Europe while inspiring commensurate discourses of royalism and colonial British nationalism. However, British Americans participated in this transatlantic debate over British foreign policy on their own terms, fashioning distinctively colonial conceptions of intervention, allegiance, and nationality. These subtle expressions of Americanization, which would come to have a major impact on the imperial crisis after 1763, present a starting point for reconsidering the historical importance of this rich but little-quarried vein of colonial political culture.