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The Reformed Church and the Regulation of Religious Literature in the Early Dutch Atlantic World

  • D. L. Noorlander
Abstract

Catechisms, Bibles, and other printed works were critical for the successful plantation and growth of Dutch religion and culture in the seventeenth-century Atlantic world. This essay examines the provision, regulation, and various controversies surrounding religious books and pamphlets in that period. Under the joint supervision of the West India Company and the Dutch Reformed churches of the Netherlands, colonial clergy were supposed to teach everyone from Company soldiers and officers to European settlers, from Africans and African slaves to Native Americans. And the clergy certainly had some missionary achievements, especially where the Company’s power was greatest. However, colonial clergy and churches also faced tremendous difficulties and fell short of their original plans and goals. Studying the different tools they had at their disposal—studying the creation (and destruction) of their printed materials—helps us see the church’s own culpability in these difficulties and failures. Early seventeenth-century Dutch Calvinism was restrictive enough and the churches of the Netherlands worried enough about deviance and heterodoxy that they unintentionally undermined their own mission and reduced the Dutch footprint overseas.

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D. L. Noorlander teaches colonial American history, the Atlantic world, and European expansion at the State University of New York at Oneonta. His research and publications cover various aspects of the seventeenth-century Dutch experience in America and around the world.

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Unpublished Primary Sources
Gemeentearchief Rotterdam:
- Archive of the Rotterdam consistory
Nationaal Archief, The Hague (NA):
- Archive of the Dordrecht classis
- Archive of the old West India Company (OWIC)
- Archive of the States General II
- Archive of the Teding van Berkhout family
Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem:
- Archive of the Alkmaar classis
- Archive of the North Holland synod
Stadsarchief Amsterdam (SAA):
- Archive of the Amsterdam classis (ACA)
- Archive of the Amsterdam consistory (AKA)
Utrechts Archief:
- Archive of the Utrecht synod
- Old synodal archive
Westfries Archief, Hoorn:
- Archive of the Enkhuizen classis
- Archive of the Hoorn consistory
Zeeuwsarchief, Middelburg (ZA):
- Archive of the Walcheren classis (ACW)
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Itinerario
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