Take Four: Another Perspective on Dutch Colonisation in New York

Christopher Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Expanding on methodological issues raised in output 2, this article presents an original examination of the built environment of Dutch colonial New York City. Building on tentative initiatives broached in Joyce Goodfriend, ed., Revisiting New Netherland: Perspectives on Early Dutch America (2005), Pierce presents evidence of literary and visual scientific opportunism unique to Dutch colonialism in North America and, through his emphasis on the influence of technology in New Amsterdam, further overcomes the prevalent narrow focus of literature on the subject. Broadening the discourse on the period, Pierce’s output alters the conventional image of the colony, and distinguishes Dutch colonial developments from British ones. His fresh perspective on Manhattan Island’s seventeenth-century history is constructed by connecting three radical sixteenth-century views of the city: Sebastiano Serlio's Architettura, Libro de prospettiva (1545), Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), and Sir Francis Bacon's Gesta Grayorum (1594). Essentially, Serlio pinpoints the colonial subject, More addresses the utopian aspects of settling, and Bacon supplies a methodology for viewing the colonial construction. Alongside these interpretations, Pierce’s article re-examines primary period sources, including Dutch West India Company records, individual accounts, and pertinent scientific and architectural treatises. His approach introduces new material to demonstrate how the general concepts of colonisation, and particular representations of city and building, were subject to an approach that privileged the new (early modern) science. He also examines the ways in which utopian discourse and European scientific enquiry contribute to fundamental aspects of seventeenth-century Dutch colonialism. First written as 'Take Four: The Influence of Scientific Rationalism in New Amsterdam, 1624–1637' for the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Annual Meeting (2001), this research was subsequently expanded and revised for publication by the Zentrum zur Erforschung der Frühen Neuzeit in Frankfurt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472-502
Number of pages31
JournalZeitsprünge. Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Built Environment
  • Early Dutch America
  • 17th Century


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