12. Trade rather than conquest built the Dutch Colonial Empire
Although there were some exceptions (America’s New Amsterdam comes to mind) the global Dutch Colonial Empire was built to facilitate trade with other nations, rather than to establish permanent settlement colonies. Dutch colonies usually consisted of a fort and trading post, a small garrison, and the business facilities of the traders. Shipbuilding and rigging facilities, and wharves and warehouses, added to the brisk appearance of Dutch ports. Beginning in the 16th century, the colonies were established and administered by the Dutch East Indies and Dutch West Indies Companies, which competed against similar organizations in Britain and France. Colonies were, in essence, company towns.
The commerce minded Dutch were more interested in trade than in establishing hegemony over the indigenous people of other lands. This model continued through and after the Napoleonic Wars, though by then controlled by the Dutch Government rather than the commercial companies. During the late 18th century, the British seized many of the overseas Dutch posts, especially when the Dutch provided support for the rebellious colonists during the American Revolution. Still, throughout the 19th and 20th century, Dutch posts in the Southwest Pacific and in the Caribbean traded in pepper, tea, molasses, sugarcane, silks, spices, and other goods.
By the time of the Second World War, the Netherlands East Indies in the Pacific produced some of the finest oil in the world, as well as latex, making them prime targets for the Japanese. Japanese occupation during the war led to an Indonesian independence movement in its aftermath. The Dutch attempted to retain control of the economically valuable colony. A guerilla war erupted, and Dutch officials bowed to international pressure and recognized Indonesian Independence in 1949. Six islands in the Caribbean, including Aruba and Sint Maarten, are today considered part of the Netherlands, though no longer in a colonial status.