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The Dutch Overseas Empire, 1600–1800

How did the Dutch Empire compare with other imperial enterprises? And how was it experienced by the indigenous peoples who became part of this colonial power?

Pieter C. Emmer and Jos J.L. Gommans
21 October 2020
Cambridge University Press

At the start of the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic emerged as the centre of a global empire that stretched along the edges of continents and connected societies surrounding the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In the Dutch Empire, ideas of religious tolerance and scientific curiosity went hand in hand with severe political and economic exploitation of the local populations through violence, monopoly and slavery. This pioneering history of the early modern Dutch Empire, over two centuries, for the first time provides a comparative and indigenous perspective on Dutch overseas expansion. Apart from discussing the impact of the Empire on the economy and society at home in the Dutch Republic, it also offers a fascinating window into the contemporary societies of Asia, Africa and the Americas and, through their interactions, on processes of early modern globalisation.


The Dutch Overseas Empire sets out, in its own words, to understand the Dutch Empire as fully as possible “from the inside out and from the outside in”, a goal it admirably achieves. A wide-ranging, detailed and thought-provoking exploration of everything from military expansion to medicine, philology to painting, and early consumerism to comparative colonialisms, this is a fascinating, lucidly-written study that sheds new light on the past as well as on the world as we now know it.
Ronit Ricci, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Emmer and Gommans’ remarkable new history is bristling with fresh ideas, approaches and conclusions about how we should understand Dutch overseas expansion and commercial empire. It impressively covers the entirety of Dutch imperial history, East and West, and it analyses, likewise expertly, the several political, economic and cultural angles of early modern empire. It is sure to become the standard reference in the field.
Benjamin Schmidt, University of Washington

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