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Pen Your Pride

13 | international trade

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                    “Remember our debate on whether the Dutch traded (what is now) New York for Surinam? Well, my current research suggests the Caribbean sugar colonies were so lucrative at the time, colonial powers began neglecting their newer colonies… and it’s plausible, the Dutch relinquished control of, then New Amsterdam, in favour of Surinam. So, perhaps there was a degree of accuracy to your version of history…?”

It came up in conversation during a business lunch in Kuala Lumpur… asking about my years living and working in New York. When he threw out a quip about how the Dutch traded New York for Surinam, I immediately disputed it. With a view of New York history tinged with the lens of two friends — both native New Yorkers and history majors — I recalled the New York anals of history, as they had been relayed to me. My boss, sitting next to me, commented simply that I didn’t know much about history… a conclusion based on our many lunch discussions, and my inquiries about Japanese history while trying to understand a Japanese perspective on it — at the time we all worked in the company of two Japanese multinationals.

I began looking for material to support my version, which surprisingly wasn’t difficult to find despite the occasion having pre-dated wikipedia. I attached a note saying, “I wonder who’s version of history is right… maybe we’ll never know,” and presented it to him in our next meeting. He was elated. Years later, I realized his version might actually be right.

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