If you pay too much attention to our own region, you won’t understand its history.
There were things happening in other places as well.
For instance, Jamestown was founded two years before Champlain and Hudson even set foot here, and, by then the city of St. Augustine, Florida, had been a Spanish settlement for more than 40 years.
And when the Dutch settled New Amsterdam in 1626, the Pilgrims had already been living in Massachusetts for six years.
History is a little like sports that way: You have to keep your eye on the ball, but you also need to watch what else is happening on the field, or you won’t understand the game.
While the Iroquois, Mahican, French and Dutch were finding ways to get along in our region, there were several wars going on far away in Europe. In 1664, one of them suddenly made a big difference here.
The days of knights in armor were gone by 1600, but Europe was still a land of kings and queens and their quarrels. Looking back, it seems as if Europe was constantly at war throughout the 1600s. Some wars were about religion, some wars were about trade and territory and some wars were about who should be on the throne of a particular country.
France, the Netherlands, England and Spain had several wars in which two or three of them would be on one side, and then, a few years later, another war with different nations on different sides.
Fortunately, most of these wars seemed to stay in Europe, but, halfway through the century, a war between the Netherlands and England reached the New World and, when the Netherlands lost, England took over New Netherland.
There was no fighting on this side of the Atlantic: The English ships simply arrived and soldiers took down the Dutch flags.
The settlers were unhappy with the Dutch government anyway.
When Governor Kieft’s war and other quarrels with the Algonquins and Iroquois became a problem, the settlers had asked for military protection. But the government in Holland did not respond, and so, when the English sailed in, the settlers were happy to see someone who might pay more attention to their problems.
The only real violence happened along the Delaware River, where it was unclear whether the territory was Dutch and should be part of this colony, or was part of what would become New Jersey. There was little actual fighting, but a great deal of destruction by the English army, some killing or enslaving of settlers and several years of quarrelling over which English colony should control the land.
Elsewhere, things remained quiet, and the new English government let the Dutch laws and even the local Dutch government officials remain in place. They also signed a law to make sure that the religious freedom the Dutch colony already enjoyed would remain.
The English raised their flag and changed the name of the colony to “New York,” to honor the Duke of York and, a few weeks later, Fort Orange and the town of Beverwyck became Fort Albany and Albany, named for the duke who would later become king.
Seven years later, during another war between England and the Netherlands, a Dutch fleet sailed in, took down the English flags and changed the names back. But when Holland lost that war, the English returned and, again, there was no fighting.
English rule meant more in the area around the small city of New York than it did farther up the Hudson River, although, after a few years, more of the government officials were English.
But most of the fur trading was still done by the Dutch settlers, many of whom by now had been born in the colony and had grown up alongside the Mohawk and Mahican and understood their cultures and how they liked to do business.
The Netherlands lost its wealth and power in the European wars, however, and now nearly all of the northeastern quarter of North America was claimed either by the French or the English.
For several years, in addition to trading with the Dutch at Fort Orange, the Iroquois had sometimes gone north to trade with the French or east into New England to trade with the English there.
This did not change very much, because New England remained separate from New York, and the Iroquois kept track of whenever one group was paying more for furs or offering better trade goods.
The Mahicans had started to move into New England, and, despite the frequent wars there, the Algonquin people felt closer to the English there than to Albany, while the Mohawk and other Iroquois began to concentrate more on Albany and Montreal in their trade.
But even though traders in Montreal almost always offered better prices and higher quality trade goods than those in Albany, the Iroquois and French were still not on friendly terms, and there were outbreaks of warfare between them.
What the Iroquois wanted from the English was to continue the Covenant Chain they had made with the Dutch, and they wanted to trade for guns and ammunition to protect themselves from the French.
They also wished that their new partners in the Covenant Chain would come help them in their battles.
But while England and France did not like each other, it would be nearly a century before their armies would clash in the New World.