The Voyages of Adriaan van Berkel to Guiana Amerindian-Dutch Relationships in 17th Century Guyana

November 2014

This sounds like a really fantastic project. Please spread the word! The book will be published in print, but as the publishers say: ‘we will also provide free full access to the book online via the e-library at our website ( as well as Google Books and Google Scholar. It is our belief that academic information should be available to everyone, everywhere.’ –


The Voyages of Adriaan van Berkel to Guiana
Amerindian-Dutch Relationships in 17th Century Guyana

Edited by Martijn van den Bel, Lodewijk Hulsman & Lodewijk Wagenaar

This book is a reissue of the travelogue of Adriaan van Berkel, first published in 1695 by Johan ten Hoorn in Amsterdam. The first part deals with Van Berkel’s adventures in the Dutch colony located on the Berbice River in the Guianas; the second part is a description of Surinam, the adjacent colony the Dutch took over from the British in 1667.

This reissue, edited by Martijn van de Bel, Lodewijk Hulsman and Lodewijk Wagenaar, contains a new annotated English translation as well as an integral rendition of the original Dutch text. In addition, an in-depth introduction contextualizing Adriaan van Berkel and his travels is included. What was the raison d’être of the Dutch presence in the Guianas? Who was this young man who, at age 23, left the Netherlands to serve as a colonial secretary in Berbice? His four-year stay and fascinating encounters with local Amerindians are commented on by two specialists in Amerindian history: Van den Bel and Hulsman.

During the 17th century the inhabitants of Netherlands knew little about the Dutch colonies in the Guianas, the area between Brazil and Venezuela. By studying newspapers, published between 1667 and 1695, Lodewijk Wagenaar (former Senior Curator of the Amsterdam Museum) discovered surprising news items. Van Berkel’s account of the armed conflict with the Indians for example closely matched the contemporary newspaper reports.

The second part of Van Berkel’s book contains a description of his travels to Surinam. It was already known from research by Walter E. Roth that this part was largely based on a literal translation of a 1667 publication entitled An Impartial Description of Surinam by George Warren. Wagenaar’s recent research, however, proves that the final chapters of this section too were copied from other sources. Van Berkel’s ‘eye-witness-reports’ of the murder of Governor Cornelis van Aerssen in 1688, and the French raid of 1689, were in fact copied from Dutch newspapers. This second journey to Surinam was concocted by the publisher Johan ten Hoorn!


Dr. Lodewijk Hulsman is a researcher affiliated to the University of Amsterdam where he defended his PhD study on Amerindian and European trade connections in Dutch Amazonia in 2009. He has published several articles on the Amerindians in Dutch Amazonia based on non-published original source material retrieved from archives in the Netherlands. Hulsman is currently engaged in the research project Atlas Dutch Brazil of the New Holland Foundation and the Atlas Mutual Heritage. He is also affiliated to the Núcleo de Pesquisas Eleitorais e Políticas da Amazônia of the Universidade Federal de Roraima.


Drs. Martijn van den Bel has been living and working over a decade as an archaeologist for Inrap in Cayenne (French Guiana) and directs public excavations in the latter French Department as well as the French Antilles. At the moment he is finishing his PhD at the University of Leiden directed by Corinne Hofman and Arie Boomert, discussing the prehistory of the coastal area of French Guiana between the Cayenne and the Maroni Rivers.


Dr. Lodewijk Wagenaar received his PhD in Leiden (1994) on a study of the Dutch Period history of Sri Lanka. As curator of the Amsterdam Museum he was involved in the exhibition of the 18th-century history of Amsterdam, in which he included the history of Surinam and slavery. He was also involved in the 2005 exhibition on Sugar in the 17th and 18th century with special attention to the consumption of sugar in the Netherlands and its production in the West and East Dutch Indies.

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