The Dutch West India Company

On this day in Caribbean History, June 3, 1621, The Dutch West India Companybetter known as the West India Company was founded. The company was founded to carry out economic warfare against Spain and Portugal by striking at their colonies in the West Indies and South America and on the west coast of Africa. While attaining its greatest success against the Portuguese in Brazil in the 1630s and 1640s, the company depleted its resources and thereafter declined in power dissolving in 1794.

The company, governed by a board representing different regions of the Netherlands, was granted monopoly of the trade with the Americas and Africa and the Atlantic regions in-between. With military and financial support from the States General, the company acquired ports on the West African coast to supply slaves for plantations in the West Indies and South America. The company’s trade was never sufficient to finance operations against Spain, Portugal, and England in areas where the latter were well equipped to defend themselves.

The company also established several colonies in the West Indies and Guyana between 1634 and 1648, including Aruba, Curaçao, and Saint Maartin, but lost many of them to the French. The Dutch colony in North America, New Netherland, now known as New York, became a province of the company in 1623. A combination of low Dutch immigration, autocratic administration, and under-investment damaged the ability of New Netherland to compete with the neighboring English colonies, and it was conceded to the English in 1667.

The Dutch West India Company was much less successful than the Dutch East Indian Company, its counterpart in Southeast Asia. The West India Company was taken over by the state in 1791 and was disbanded in the wake of the French invasion of the Dutch Republic in 1794.


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