Killaen van Rensselaer: Designing a New World


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A biography by New Netherland scholar Janny Venema of one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony Kiliaen van Rensselaer has been published by SUNY Press.

As one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company, he was instrumental in the establishment of the New Netherland colony on the East Coast of North America, becoming one of its first patroons. Although he never actually set foot in the New World, his patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, encompassed much of what is now New York State’s Capital District and survived as a legal entity up until the 1840s.

During the early 1600s, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was locked in a war with Spain that would last for eighty years, thousands of immigrants came to Amsterdam and greatly influenced the development of the Republic. Among them was Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a young man from a small eastern town on the war front.

Young Kiliaen quickly became part of the culture of the rapidly developing city, where he was trained as a jeweler and merchant by wealthy relatives. He would work within this family network for the rest of his life, to great success.

In this biography, Venema examines the time in which Kiliaen van Rensselaer lived, his surroundings, the rapidly expanding city of Amsterdam, the great trading companies, the jewelry business, and the people in his network. Along the way, she explores his motivations and the powerful role he played in helping to establish a Dutch presence in the New World.

Janny Venema is Assistant Director of the New Netherland Research Center, which is responsible for translating the official records of the Dutch colony and promoting awareness of the Dutch role in American history. She is the author of Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652–1664, also published by SUNY Press in cooperation with Uitgeverij Verloren.

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