What Was New Netherland?

An Introduction to the People and Places of Dutch North America

These classroom-tested questions are designed to improve reading comprehension and to prompt analysis of What Was New Netherland.

Welcome to New Netherland

All students learn the story of the Pilgrims and of the colony of Jamestown. Fewer are familiar with the Dutch colony of New Netherland.

Henry Hudson first explored the area that would become New Netherland. Although he was English, Hudson worked for a private corporation, the Dutch East India Company. In 1609, he sailed from the Netherlands to North America and up what the Dutch called the North River. Later the North River became known as the Hudson River in honor of his explorations.

The Dutch began arriving in North America soon after Hudson's voyage--a decade before the Pilgrims first disembarked in Plymouth. The first Europeans to come to New Netherland were traders. Their goal was to purchase beaver pelts and other furs from Indian hunters. In the 1620s and 1630s, farmers and tradesmen began to arrive; unlike the traders, these settlers often brought along their wives and children. They established new homes in an area that was already inhabited Indians. It is difficult to know how many Indians lived on land claimed by the Dutch--but scholars think that the Indian population was roughly 20,000 in 1609.

Let's travel back in time to the early 1600s and see what life in New Netherland was like.

Exhibit text by Lana Holden, a teacher of World and U.S. History at Sweet Home Jr. High School in Oregon. Lana stumbled into the colony of New Netherland while earning her masters degree in World History and has not left it. She enjoys writing for the New Netherland Institute and on her history blog at www.ahistoricalslant.blogspot.com. She is interested in corresponding with other teachers and anyone else interested in the colony of New Netherland. Feel free to contact Lana at lwholden@comcast.net.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


Subscribe Now

Subscribe to NNI's  e-Marcurius and DAG to receive information about New Netherland-related events, activities, conferences, and research. 


Support NNI

By supporting NNI you help increase awareness of the 17th century Dutch colony of New Netherland and its legacy in America.