How did Reformed Christianity, the public faith of the Netherlands, influence the Dutch experience abroad? How did the Reformed Church and the West India Company (WIC) interact in each setting? What effect did the major religious issues and divisions of the period have on the WIC and its directors, merchants, employees, settlers, and indigenous allies? Conversely, what effect did expansion have on Dutch Calvinism?
In answering these and other questions, D. L. Noorlander argues against prevailing understandings of the role of religion in the Dutch colonial enterprise, finding that the Dutch Reformed Church was integral to Dutch colonialism. The stereotype of the Dutch merchant is a man unconcerned with differences in theological doctrine and political ideology so long as business was brisk. Although this has some merit in the history of New Amsterdam, the broader colonial effort in the Atlantic and, indeed, around the globe was far more closely connected to religious institutions, doctrine, authority, and practice. So whereas the easy answer regarding the failure of the Dutch to set up a durable empire in North America supposes a causal connection between dominant commercial interest and the lack of concern for the settlements and religious missions that animated other European colonization efforts, Noorlander shows that one needs to look elsewhere for the causes of that failure. In so doing, he revises some core notions about the organization and aims of Dutch empire, the culture of the West India Company, and the very shape of Dutch society.
D.L. Noorlander is assistant professor of history at the State University of New York, Oneonta. He is coeditor of the journal New York History.
Co-publication with Cornell University Press. For distribution in the Netherlands and Belgium only.
“This is an impressive, ambitious study that will change the conversation about religion, trade, and imperial expansion in the case of the Dutch. Heaven's Wrath exceeds all other work on the topic.”
“Heaven's Wrath shows Dr. Noorlander is absolutely qualified to tackle the theme of WIC and the Reformed Church, and is of the highest quality.”