NWO VENI: Investing in Dutch Brazil: Credit, Debt and the Sugar-Cycle in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic world

Project Details


Who financed the Early Modern sugar boom? One of the crucial developments in the process of Early Modern globalization was the sprad of sugar cultivation in the America's, which brought slavery in its wake. But our understanding of the financial interests behind seventeenth-century sugar production, the drivers of this development, are poorly understood. This project will zoom in on a specific set of investors for whom detailed financial accounts are available: the investors in Dutch Brazil. The accounts were recently discovered by the applicant in the archives in Den Bosch and allow for a detailed reconstruction of the credit network of the colonial economy in Dutch Brazil.
The Dutch colony in Brazil (1630-1654) was at the heart of what recent scholarship has described as "the Dutch moment in Atlantic history". The attempt to conquer the Portuguese South Atlantic empire showed the Dutch West India Company in its most imperial guise. But even during this period, private investors furnished most of the capital invested into the colony's economy. In all, private individuals and firms claimed to have lost some eleven million guilders when the colony fell in 1654. Making the "Dutch moment" work, relied on private capital, primarily invested in the colony's sugar production. By mapping the credit networks of the colony, this project will provide a benchmark study in the finances of Early Modern sugar production, made accessible to all through an open-access database and network model. Knowing who invested in Brazil will serve as a starting off point to ask whether these individuals shifted their interests to the Caribbean after the fall of Brazil. This has long been a topic of debate. By focusing on the investors and their activities, rather than distinct colonies where some of them ended up, I can resolve this debate.
Short titleInvesting in Dutch Brazil
Effective start/end date16/08/202115/08/2025


  • Atlantic History
  • economic history
  • Business History
  • Dutch West India Company
  • Dutch Brazil
  • Investment
  • Slavery
  • Slave trade
  • Sugar cultivation
  • Brazil
  • Dutch Republic
  • Barbados
  • Martinique
  • Cayenne
  • Surinam


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