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Bill Thayer

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History of Dutch Brazil and Guyana

Today we naturally think of Brazil as having been explored, colonized, and peopled by the Portuguese, as indeed most of it was: but in the first half of the 17c, the Dutch were active in the northern areas of Brazil, and for three hundred years did hold the part of Guyana we now know as Suriname.

Those wishing to explore the subject fully should start with a copy of Charles R. Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 1624‑1654 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1957). Copyright limitations are such that we won't be seeing it onsite for a while: it only enters the public domain in 2074, one hundred and seventeen years after it was published.


[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

[ 183 printed pages
presented in 8 webpages ]

For the moment, the material on Dutch Brazil to be found onsite consists for the most part of a series of journal articles by George Edmundson, a leading expert on the subject, for which his work is still among the most cited. Taken together, his articles provide a good overall view, constituting in essence a small book on the history of the Dutch exploration and colonization in this part of the world.

The Dutch Power in Brazil: Parts I • IIa • IIb — A series covering the early‑17c contest between the Portuguese and the Dutch for the coastal area of Bahia, in which the great Dutch admiral Piet Hein first made a name for himself.

The Dutch in Western Guiana — For a long time, historians were not aware of how deep the Dutch presence in Guyana went: there were excellent reasons for that, and our author takes us on a fascinating detective ride.

The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro in the Seventeenth Century: Parts I • II — In the interior, Dutch outposts on the Amazon were much shakier, never really prospering, and soon coming to an end; but in the Rio Negro basin Dutch trade continued under the radar, usually thru the intermediary of the Caribs.

The Number of Jews in Dutch Brazil

The Caribbean rather than Brazil or Guyana, and not exactly history, White Settlement in Saba Island, Dutch West Indies was meant as a contemporary description when it was written in 1934: but it's now a curious source document recording a vanished world. Includes maps and 15 photographs.

Joden op het eiland Curaçao (De West-Indische Gids 8:69‑84, 1926)



[image ALT: A rectangular field of three equal horizontal stripes; the central stripe bears a monogram that can be described as the three letters DID, the first D of which is reversed, and the I of which is connected to each D by a diagonal stroke from the middle of the I to the top of the downstroke of the D. The flag was that of Nieuw Holland — the Dutch outposts in northern Brazil — and serves to represent the section of my site on the history of Dutch Brazil and Guyana.]

The icon I use for this subsite is a flag that seems to have been flown by the Dutch in the Brazilian outposts of Nieuw Holland: it was that of the Dutch West India Company with the added monogram we see here. The letters of the monogram and their meaning are uncertain; details may be read in Colonial Flags of Brazil at Flags of the World.


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Page updated: 14 Nov 12