Arthur Weststeijn

Machiavelli in Dutch colonial ideology. Caspar Barlaeus, Johan Maurits of Nassau, and the imperial prince

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What was the impact of Machiavelli's political thought on early-modern Dutch colonialism? This article zooms in on Dutch Brazil between 1630 and 1654 to argue that the Dutch employed a distinctive notion of Machiavellian reason of state to theorize and legitimize their expansion overseas. Discussing the work of the prominent humanist scholar Caspar Barlaeus and his presentation of governor-general Johan Maurits of Nassau as a colonial prince, the article shows that the period of Dutch rule in Brazil provided the setting where Machiavelli was adapted to the concerns of a modern commercial empire.


  • Machiavelli
  • Dutch Republic
  • Imperialism
  • Brazil
  • Commerce


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