Dutch Empire Timeline



The Dutch empire was successful in many of their eastern and western colonial endeavours. Controlling the African slave trade and monopolizing sugar production in Brazil, the Dutch also assumed a monopoly on the spice trade in Asia. Beginning their colonization efforts somewhat later than other empires, the Dutch empire typically followed pre-established routes into colonies already settled by the Portuguese or Spanish, often taking them by force from these competing empires. The Dutch empire’s primary motivation for colonization was the economic success that global expansion made possible. Although all European empires used violence at times in their global expansion, the Dutch empire perhaps has one of the most violent colonial histories, using unrelenting military force in numerous encounters in both the east and west. They were also one of the most active slave trading countries in history


1595:The Dutch reach the Java Islands and establish trading agreements.

1602:The Dutch East India Company is founded and attains a monopoly on eastern trade for over two decades.

1603and 1610: The Dutch unsuccessfully attack Goa, the capital of the Eastern Portuguese empire.

1619:Dutch military leader Jan Pieterszoon Coen destroys the town of Jakarta on the Java coast and rebuilds it as a Dutch trading centre, calling it Batavia.

1621:The Dutch West India Company is established and begins expansion and trade along the American coast, focusing their efforts on sugar-manufacturing.

c.1624:This is the first time that the Dutch infiltrate Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Brazil. Although they were not entirely successful, they did manage to occupy the Portuguese’s sugar plantation colony in Pernambuco (1630-1631) along with the slave trading port in Elmina.

c.1625:The Dutch begin to dominate the spice trade in the Moluccas, slowing excluding the Portuguese from the trade of these lucrative commodities.

1626:The Island of Manhattan – what will later become New York in the Unites States –  is purchased by the Dutch and is named New Amsterdam.

c.1630:The Dutch establish a colony in Guiana (present-day Suriname) alongside rival French and English colonies.

1641:The Dutch expel the Portuguese from the trading posts in Malacca (present-day Malaysia) and also capture their posts in Angola.

1646:The Dutch attempt to gain control of the Philippines by taking Manila from the Spanish, but are ultimately unsuccessful.

1650s:Suriname is colonized and the Dutch establish sugar plantations here, which are worked by African slaves.

1650:In order to protect their monopoly on the trade of clove – a product that is increasingly in demand in Europe – the Dutch destroy nearly all of the clove trees not in their possession in the Moluccas.

1652:A Dutch settlement is established at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.

1656:The Dutch capture Colombo, Sri Lanka, from the Portuguese. Two years later in 1658, the Portuguese would be expelled entirely from Sri Lanka.

1657:The Dutch begin to establish what would become one of the largest slave trades by purchasing slaves from South Africa and sending them to work in plantations and mines in their colonies.

1664:The British take New Amsterdam from the Dutch without any conflict. Two years later, New Amsterdam is renamed New York.

1722:The Dutch reach Easter Island and begin expanding further in the Pacific.

c. 1795:A fight for the Cape begins between the British and the Dutch. In this year, Britain takes the Cape colony from the Dutch, which is restored to the Netherlands in 1802, and again taken by the British in 1806.

1836:The Portuguese ban the shipping of slaves from Angola; a step toward stopping the ruthless slave trade perpetuated by the Dutch empire. By 1863, slavery was finally abolished in Dutch colonies, though it took some time for this to fully come into effect. The Dutch were one of the last European colonies to abolish slavery.

1945:Indonesia declares independence and struggles against the Dutch to attain freedom.  Dutch finally concede to Indonesian independence in 1949.

1949:Batavia reassumes the name Jakarta and becomes the capital of Indonesia.

1975:Surinam gains independence from the Dutch.