Constructing the Empire: English Governors, Imperial Policy, and Inter-imperial Trade in New York City and the Leeward Islands, 1650–1689

Christian J. Koot*


This article uses a comparative perspective to consider the role that English governors played in facilitating inter-imperial trade with the Dutch in New York City and the ports of the English Leeward Islands, including Bridgetown, Barbados, during the seventeenth century. As governors struggled to establish viable colonies these men worked to supply needed trade goods, often allowing their colonists to turn to Dutch colonies and the Netherlands as trading partners, understanding the ways in which these executives negotiated between imperial policies, primarily the Navigation Acts, and the needs of their charges is crucial to understanding how colonies developed. Further, investigating the ways in which governors fostered, regulated, or prevented inter-imperial trade with the Dutch illustrates how governors and colonists implemented and adapted mercantile policy in different colonies, places that depended upon the transfer of culture, goods and entrepreneurial activities across imperial boundaries. Complementing recent scholarship describing the extent of inter-imperial and cross-national trade in the seventeenth-century Atlantic, this article examines the impact English governors had on local merchant communities and their efforts to trade with the Dutch.


* Christian J. Koot is a Visiting Professor of History at Colgate University. His research concentrates on the history of the Atlantic World ( I wish to thank the Program of Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies for financial and institutional support in crafting this article as well as Cathy Matson, Howard Johnson, Stuart Semmel, and Matthew Mulcahy for reading it in various incarnations. Finally I would like to thank the audience at the Fifth Biennial FEEGI Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, 19–21 February 2004, where this paper was first presented.