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Colonial Experiments, Dutch Settlements

Fort Orange, Algonquins, New Netherland, Henry Hudson, New France

Another contender for influence in North America was the Dutch, inhabitants of the leading commercial nation in the early 17th century. Sailing for the Dutch in 1609, Henry Hudson explored the river that now bears his name. The Dutch established a string of agricultural settlements between New Amsterdam (New York City) and Fort Orange (Albany, New York) after 1614. They became the chief European traders with the Iroquois, supplying them with firearms, blankets, metal tools, and other European trade goods in exchange for furs. The Iroquois used those goods to nearly destroy the Huron and to push the Algonquins into Illinois and Michigan. As a result, the Iroquois gained control of the Native American side of the fur trade.

The Dutch settlements, known as New Netherland, grew slowly at first and became more urban as trade with the indigenous peoples outdistanced agriculture as a source of income. The colony was prosperous and tolerated different religions. As a result, it attracted a steady and diverse stream of European immigrants. In the 1640s the 450 inhabitants of New Amsterdam spoke 18 different languages. The colony had grown to a European population of 6,000 (double that of New France) on the eve of its takeover by England in 1664.



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