Kiliaen van Rensselaer (1586-1643)
Designing a New World
Janny Venema
352 pp, € 39,-
isbn/issn: 9789087041960

Kiliaen van Rensselaer (1586-1643)

(recensie: Gwendolyn E. van Essen)
Janny Venema has written a biography of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, who was one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony. The author is discussing rather vividly the times and surroundings of how Kiliaen van Rensselaer lived within his family network during his life in Amsterdam and at the same time was exploring his ideas how to develop a North-American colony. What was his motivation to do so? The rapidly growing and changing town of Amsterdam is on the background, while Van Rensselaer is learning from his wealthy relatives how to become a jeweller and merchant and the war between Spain and the Dutch Republic, the so-called eighty years war (1568-1648) continues. The development of the Republic was very much influenced by the many thousands of immigrants who had fled to Amsterdam. Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a young man who came from a small eastern town on the war front to the city of Amsterdam, became soon part of its culture that was rapidly developing. He would work within his family network for the rest of his life, to great success. Van Rensselaer was one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and was instrumental in the establishment of the New Netherland colony on the East Coast of North America, becoming one of its first patroons. But he never left the Netherlands nor actually visited the New World or his patroon settlement, called Rensselaerswyck. This Rensselaerswyck enclosed much of what is the present New York State Capital District and which has survived as a legal entity up until the 1840s.
The book opens with acknowledgements and a glossary and in the following preface is described which source materials were used and in what way. The book consists of nine chapters followed by a list of abbreviations, three appendices (consisting of a description of inventories, maps and genealogical information), a list of archival sources and a bibliography. There are also coloured and black and white illustrations, on which maps, portraits and important historical events are to be seen.
Janny Venema is assistant director of the New Netherland Research Centre, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony. The Centre is also doing the promotion of the awareness of the Dutch role in American history. Janny Venema is also the author of Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664, which book was published as her doctoral dissertation at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam 2003 by SUNY Press in cooperation with Uitgeverij Verloren as well. The main reason of writing this book was not to provide the reader with new material about the New Netherland colony Rensselaerswijck, nor to write a complete biography of Van Rensselaer. The purpose of this book is to give more insight into Kiliaen van Rensselaer as a driving force behind the peopling of the New Netherland colony Rensselaerswijck. Janny Venema wishes to offer a better understanding of his motivation for colonization in the hope that this may contribute to a broader view.
Gwendolyn E. van Essen
The Netherlands, Modern History, Cultural History, Overseas Expansion, New Netherland,
Nederland, Nieuwe tijd, Cultuurgeschiedenis, Overzeese expansie, Nieuw Nederland