Administrative History

The records in this series document the seventeenth-century Dutch administration of the Caribbean islands of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire and the beginnings of the development of trans-Atlantic trade routes linking North America, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Western Europe.

The Dutch took control of Curaçao in 1634 intending to make it a source of salt, which at the time was vital for food preservation. The records were created by the Dutch West India Company (WIC) during its administration of the trading post on Curaçao, as well as shipping and trade on the islands of Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. They represent the earliest records of territories still administered by the Netherlands. The Dutch islands became a major trading center under Petrus Stuyvesant and Matthias Beck's administrations as directors-general. Trade also developed between New Netherland and the islands; New Netherland provided building materials, provisions, and merchandise and received dyewood and slaves from Curaçao, horses from Aruba, and salt from Bonaire. Salt was critical to the herring industry, in that preserving fish in a brine solution allowed the Dutch to stay at sea longer.

The Curaçao records represent two distinct time periods relating to Petrus Stuyvesant's association with the Caribbean: first, as director of Curaçao, 1643-1644; and later as a visitor to the Caribbean in 1655 while director-general of New Netherland, Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba (1646-1664).