Kiliaen van Rensselaer (1586-1643): Designing a New World
A biography of Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company and a leading figure in the establishment of the New Netherland colony.
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 this 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. 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. In this engrossing biography, Janny 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.