Monday, 22 December 2008

Hudson, New York and The Land Swap

I've been reading Nathaniels Nutmeg by Giles Milton, an account of trade and exploration by Europeans in Asia and the Americas in the 17th century. Its full of interesting stories, some a bit grizzly. In one particularly notable chapter Henry Hudson searched North America in 1609 looking for a route to Asia. Its quite a depressing read, 'realising the Indians were powerless to defend themselves ...they rowed ashore, drove the 'savages' from their homes...'etc. Natives were viewed as treacherous, approaching canoes were often fired upon, kindness returned by theft.

Another episode details the torture and execution of English merchants by the Dutch in Amboyna, in order to extract confessions to conspiracy. It is a horrible reminder of the not so distant past, but a lesson that still hasn't been learned. People will confess to anything under those circumstances so the 'evidence' is worthless.

The conclusion of the book is the swap between colonial powers of Manhatten for a small spice island (Run) with the Dutch in the Pacific, the treaty of Breda. It occurs after periodic wars between the two countries, and this made peace between them. Needless to say the local residents weren't consulted or considered.

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