Friday, December 28, 2007

Netherlands USA - part 1

I am now reading a very interesting book written by a Dutch journalist, Max Westerman, who lived and worked in the USA for 25 years as a reporter for Dutch TV stations and as a correspondent for several newspapers and magazines. (He also wrote articles for Business Week, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal).
In 13 essays Westerman gives an overview and description of the American society and way of life (the American dream), politics, economics etc. He also dedicated one chapter to Dutch immigrants in the USA and the Dutch background of 'American' places, ideas and words. This chapter is called: 'You Ain't Much If You Ain't Dutch' - I would never say that, of course! :-)

Westerman writes that many things - like free entrepreneurship, religious and political tolerance, and the basis for the American constitution are inspired by the Dutch immigrants. He also writes that the American history books often neglect these facts and that they all focus on the English Pilgrim fathers and 13 British colonies - without mentioning the biggest one: Nieuw Nederland which was taken over by British soldiers in 1664. Westerman mentions the research by Charles Gehring about the Dutch history in the USA - fascinating stuff. Check this article and have a look at this web site.

This book inspired me to search the Internet for some more information about the Dutch influence on American history. Of course I welcome everyone's thoughts, questions and opinions on this subject - just leave a comment or send me an e-mail.


Carol L. Douglas said...

Hey, I am a New Yorker...

Our pre-Colonial history is wonderfully Dutch, with places like Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, the city of Amsterdam and Rensselaer County to the north, and the ubiquitous presence of Dutch Reformed churches. Peekskill is only one of many places using the Dutch form for "creek" in its name. And I assume (but don't know) that the name of Dutchess County is a corruption of "Dutch". That's where the Roosevelts come from, by the way.

In grade school we all learn that the island of Manhattan was purchased by Peter Minuet for $24 worth of glass beads. (Some killjoys say this is not actually true.) But you Dutch did in fact trade away your colony here to the English for some tiny island in Indonesia called Run.

See "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" or "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving for the most famous evocations of the old Dutch spirit of New York.

Carol L. Douglas said...

Oh, one more thing. Western New York was settled under the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of investors based in Amsterdam who controlled a land grant running from slightly west of the Genesee River to the western edge of New York State, about 3,250,000 acres.

This was after the Revolution (1796) and long after the Netherlands ceded their interest in the New World to the British. So it's unrelated to the earlier Dutch settlement, except (I presume) through amiability between Old and New World cousins.

The Holland Land Company's offices here were based in a little town called Batavia after your own Betuwe.

Said company's investors never traveled to the New World but I assume they were successful entrepreneurs since the company ran on until 1846, when the western part of the state was completely settled.