Dutch Colonial Empire Map

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The Dutch colonial empire (Dutch: Het Nederlandse Koloniale Rijk) comprised the overseas territories and trading posts controlled and administered by Dutch chartered companies (mainly the Dutch West India and the Dutch East India Company) and subsequently by the Dutch Republic (1581–1795), and by the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands after 1815. It was initially a trade-based system which derived most of its influence from merchant enterprise and from Dutch control of international maritime shipping routes through strategically placed outposts, rather than from expansive territorial ventures. With a few notable exceptions, the majority of the Dutch colonial empire's overseas holdings consisted of coastal forts, factories, and port settlements with varying degrees of incorporation of their hinterlands and surrounding regions. Dutch chartered companies often dictated that their possessions be kept as confined as possible in order to avoid unnecessary expense, and while some such as the Dutch Cape Colony (modern South Africa) and Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia) expanded anyway (due to the pressure of independent-minded Dutch colonists), others remained undeveloped, isolated trading centres dependent on an indigenous host-nation. This reflected the primary purpose of the Dutch colonial empire: commercial exchange as opposed to sovereignty over homogeneous landmasses.