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Journal > Volumes > 44 (2013) / 1 (Spring)
“For the maintenance of the true religion”: Calvinism and the Directors of the Dutch West India Company
D. L. Noorlander
Beloit College

The directors of the Dutch West India Company have often been at the center of debates about religion and tolerance in Dutch colonies. Using the first comprehensive list of names from the most powerful company chambers, this essay examines the directors’ religious affiliations and activity in the Netherlands and the impact of both on the company. Most were full members of the Reformed Church and many participated as elders and deacons on Reformed councils. They did not have as much control over their territories as some have assumed, but their religion matters for several reasons: It involved the company in the international Calvinist community, whose very existence may have fostered a cosmopolitan worldview that was amenable to empire. Their religion shaped their views of the company’s aims and achievements and facilitated a great deal of business with the church as the two worked together to meet religious needs abroad. Reformed beliefs about religious authority also allowed them to influence the clergy’s interpretation of imperial activity. The purported divide between church and company, minister and merchant, is inconsistent with Reformed doctrines and practices.

Pages: 73 - 95