The Dutch in the Caribbean

Topics: Caribbean, Slavery, British Empire Pages: 6 (2193 words) Published: March 11, 2012
Assess the contributions of the Dutch to the development of the Caribbean.

The incorporation of the Dutch into the Caribbean during the latter half of the 16th century and early 17th century came on the heels of them seeing the prosperous economic opportunities at the time dominated by the Spanish. In the Caribbean, the Dutch concentrated on wrestling from Portugal its grip on the sugar and slave trade through attacks on the Spanish treasure fleets on their homeward bound voyages. Though the prime and most active time for the Dutch in the Caribbean lasted for about one hundred years, they were able to damage the monopoly the Spanish blissfully enjoyed by their; privateering attacks this created a diversion so that the English and French could settle the Lesser Antilles. They provided these British and French colonies with estate supplies, cultivation knowledge particularly on sugar and were a major influential factor to the gravitation of British and French colonists towards sugar cultivation, slave labor via the Atlantic slave trade and the transportation of raw materials from the tobacco and sugar plantations. As Spain's power declined in Caribbean history, more and more of the islands were colonized not only by the Dutch but also by the British and the French. The Dutch contributed enormously to the development of the Caribbean so much so that they were referred to as the ‘’foster fathers’’ of the Caribbean, mainly because of the roles they played assisting the British and French colonists. Additionally, the Dutch owned colonies in Brazil however for only a short period of time until it was recaptured by the Portuguese whilst there they converted the colony through trade and capital into a prosperous tropical crop producing colony. Sugar was the premier crop of choice, following the Portuguese recapture of Brazil the Dutch ventured to the eastern Caribbean taking with them their developed expertise in sugar production which in time played a major role in transforming Caribbean colonies and economies. The Dutch also settled in territories such as Tobago and St. Eustatius in 1632, Aruba in 1636 and Saba in 1640. These Dutch territories acted as centers for trade and as warehouses for the storage of goods to be traded and transported. Moreover, it must be noted that unlike their European counterparts they pursued a much different agenda; they were not centered on the colonization and religious conversion aspects while embarking on journeys of conquest in the New World. Their main concerns were mainly trade, entrepreneurship, ship-building, and maritime endeavors. By the mid 17th century the Dutch controlled and owned 60% of the ships involved in maritime trade amounting to a total of 15,000 ships out of approximately 25,000 ships. By 1648 the Dutch were indisputably the greatest trading nation in the world. The contributions of the Dutch to the Caribbean vary from technical to financial in the following each of these contributions are discussed and assessed to show how they perpetuated the development of the Caribbean. To begin, in the mid 17th century sugar cane was brought into the British West Indies by the Dutch from Brazil. The Dutch had taught the colonists the technical knowhow of cultivating the sugar cane crop. University of Kansas economic historian Richard B. Sheridan in describing the Dutch says, “they were masters of sugar technology and taught the English the art of sugar making." Upon landing in Barbados and other islands, the Dutch quickly urged local farmers to change their main crops from cotton and tobacco to sugar cane and with declining prices of cotton and tobacco due mainly to stiff competition from the North American colonies. This option seemed quite enticing to British planters. Robert Greenwood, S. Hamber and Brian Dyde in their book Amerindians to Africans described the Dutch contribution to be so great in that they believed...
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