Dutch colonies: The rise and fall throughout the centuries

The Dutch Empire, known in Dutch as Het Nederlandse Koloniale Rijk, comprised of overseas colonies, enclaves, and outposts controlled and administered by Dutch chartered companies and eventually by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

All colonial ventures were initially trade-based merchant enterprises because the Dutch controlled many of international maritime shipping routes. This was done through strategically placed outposts, rather than acquiring territory.

Because small European trading companies often lacked the capital or the manpower for large-scale operations, the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th century were able to dominate global commerce. This became known as the Dutch Golden Age.

Despite the steady loss of colonies as a result of the Anglo-Dutch wars with the British Empire, some of the empire, for example, the East Indies and Dutch Guiana, survived until after World War II when global decolonisation began.

Former colonies that have chosen to retain their membership to the Kingdom of the Netherlands include Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. People of these islands are entitled to the same rights as those who hold a Dutch passport

Kiri Scully


Kiri Scully

Raised a global citizen, to an Irish father and American mother, Kiri has lived and worked in five countries over three continents. Fuelled by culture curiosity at an early age,...

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