19 February 1674: Treaty of Westminster gives New Amsterdam to England

The Treaty of Westminster, signed on this day in 1674, gave New Netherland – and its capital New Amsterdam – to England.

In the early days of European exploration in North America, lots of mini-me territories sprung up. Many, such as New Sweden, New France and New Netherland, didn't last.

New Netherland occupied much of what is today New York state, all the way down to the Delaware river in the south. It began life at about the same time as English emigrants were setting up colonies in Virginia and Plymouth, having been “discovered” in 1609 and claimed by Henry Hudson, looking for a passage to India on behalf of the Dutch East India company.

In 1621 the Dutch West India Company was given a monopoly on trade in the colony, and the Dutch began to settle there. In 1624 it became a province of the Dutch Republic, and a year later Fort Amsterdam was built on the tip of Manhattan Island. In 1653, it officially became a city.

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Unfortunately for New Netherland, Europeans had a penchant for war. England and the Netherlands had been engaged in spats for a while as they vied to dominate world trade and become the world's pre-eminent maritime power.

In 1664, however, England and the Netherlands were at peace – the first Anglo-Dutch war had been over for nine years. But that didn't stop a small English fleet turning up and demanding that governor Peter Stuyvesant surrender New Amsterdam. He did. And the city was renamed New York.

Soon, the two countries were at war again. And after the end of the second Anglo-Dutch war, the Treaty of Breda allowed England to keep New Netherland. England wanted to trade it for Dutch sugar plantations in Surinam, but the canny Dutch weren't having any of that – sugar was a hugely valuable commodity. And that appeared to be the end of the matter.

Nine years later, however, two “grim old sea-dogs”, the Admirals Evertsen and Binckes, took the town back. But not for long. The wars ended, and the Treaty of Westminster, signed on this day in 1674, ceded New Netherland to England for good. Or at least, till the USA came into being.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.