9/25/09 - henry hudson

In today's excerpt - English sea captain Henry Hudson confiscates a Dutch trading ship and discovers New York (New Amsterdam). In 1609, the Dutch were the wealthiest and most successful traders on earth and their country, the Netherlands, among the most powerful:

"On Tuesday, September 1, 1609, seventeen of the most powerful and affluent merchants in the world gathered in Amsterdam. They were the directors of the ... General United Chartered East-Indian Company, better known by its [Dutch] initials as the VOC and to the English as the Dutch East India Company. However one referred to it, the VOC was the most powerful and profitable commercial entity in the world, the main engine of prosperity for the United Northern Provinces, or Dutch Republic [now known as the Netherlands]. It held the country's monopoly on trade to the Far East on the proven ocean trade routes: around Africa, and through the Strait of Magellan at the tip of South America.

"The enormous profits from porcelain, textiles, coffee, tea, and spices made the little nation a colossus of global trade. Perpetuating that wealth was the responsibility of the VOC's board, the Here Sewentien or Lords Seventeen. ...

"Henry Hudson, [was] an Englishman who had made two arctic voyages aboard a little ship called the Hopewell for commercial interests in his own country in 1607 and 1608. The first voyage had tried and failed to prove the feasibility of a midsummer passage to the Orient over the North Pole. The second had tried and failed to prove the feasibility of a midsummer passage to the Orient over the top of Russia. Thanks to the Amsterdam [merchants], Hudson had been hired to again try the route over Russia, this time by the VOC. The Hopewell voyages, despite their failure, had made Henry Hudson the leading international figure in efforts, however sporadic and unproductive, to prove a northerly passage to the Orient. ...

"A viable route would reduce a round-trip trading voyage to the Far East from two years or more to about six months. Returns on capital would be far quicker, and risks could be greatly reduced. About one ship in five never came back from the round-Africa route. A northern passage could avoid, among other hazards, battles with the Spanish and Portuguese devastating diseases, hulls that rotted during lengthy stays in tropical waters, and the mysterious, debilitating scourge of scurvy, which cut down men by the score on lengthy ocean passages. ...

"Hudson might have been forty years old when he received his invitation in the autumn of 1608 to come to Amsterdam and chat about arctic passage-making. [He was hired and began his voyage however] the truth about [Hudson] and his ship the Half Moon would have astonished and enraged the VOC's highly pragmatic directors. ...

"The Half Moon [by September 1, 1609] was steering north-northwest, with the lead line tickling the plunge of the continental shelf. ... Henry Hudson was in command of a Dutch ship he had effectively stolen and was skirting the east coast of North America, about a hundred miles off present-day Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"Hudson had turned a basic assignment to assess the Northeast Passage route into a rogue voyage of discovery. He had wandered thousands of miles in defiance of his employers across the northern hemisphere, commanding a voyage whose exact purpose defied explanation."


Douglas Hunter


Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World


Bloomsbury Press


Copyright 2009 by Douglas Hunter


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment