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From Olinda to the Netherlands: the circulation of objects and knowledge in the Dutch Atlantic, 1600-1700


This book focuses on the circulation of people, objects and knowledge between Portuguese America and The Netherlands during the seventeenth century. Its aim is to understand the production of knowledge about the New World in seventeenth-century Holland. The process of producing colonial knowledge had already begun in the sixteenth century, when Flemish and Dutch merchants traded sugar and other goods in South American coasts. It gained momentum, however, after the establishment of a Dutch colony in the northeastern coast of Brazil in 1630. In order to understand how the colonial encounters and the exchange of objects helped to create and shape Dutch knowledge about the New World, this book presents an analysis of the collection of curiosities owned by count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), who was governor-general to the Dutch colony in Brazil between 1637 and 1644. In that period, Nassau assembled a private collection that included natural species, artifacts, and visual representations of the colony's natural world, landscape, and inhabitants. This book locates and identifies the objects that composed the collection, explains how Nassau acquired them and, more importantly, discusses the meanings and usages ascribed to the count's collection. The very objects that comprised Nassau's collection, which are at present spread throughout a number of European museums and libraries, were part of the main sources of this research. Other sources were the books about the New World published in Holland; journals and reports written by employees of the Dutch West India Company; and correspondence and narratives by members of the Dutch court. The conclusions presented in this book refer to the way through which Nassau conducted his political carrier in Europe after and because of his experience in Brazil, as well as to the dynamic nature of the construction of colonial knowledge, composed of layers of experiences. (AU)

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