The New World had already reached the Low Countries well before the Dutch went to the New World. Since the beginning of the sixteenth century, Dutch printers had begun producing the books, pamphlets, poems and maps that depicted the magical continent on the other side of the ocean.
A land of plenty?
The first Dutch merchants appeared in the area in 1614 in the wake of Henry Hudson and began calling it New Netherland. There they encountered the region's original inhabitants, the Indian tribes, who warmly welcomed them at first. From the Indians they bought the furs that were transformed into clothing in Europe.
In 1621, ownership of the region was transferred to the West India Company by the States General. The first Dutch and Walloon (Belgian) colonists arrived in 1624. They settled in several places, including the island that the Indians called 'Manna-Hattan'. Two years later, the merchant Pieter Schagen wrote to the directors of the Company telling them that governor Peter Minuit had bought the island from the Indians. With the help of enslaved Africans the colonists built a fort and a small city that they called New Amsterdam.
A difficult business
In order to attract new colonists the Dutch developed the Patroonship system, but it was not able to bring prosperity to the colony. Economic restraints and lingering conflicts with the British and the Indians led to a steady decline. When British warships demanded the surrender of the city in 1664, governor Peter Stuyvesant gave in without any resistance. The city was immediately renamed New York.