During the seventeenth century the Dutch built a global economic system that depended on contact and trade with many different peoples and cultures. To create those connections, Dutch writers particularized and described those cultures to elaborate the role local peoples might play in Atlantic and Indian Ocean trade networks. Yet in southern Africa travelers who encountered Khoekhoe people often described them simply as wilden, or savages. Their choice to employ this catchall category of otherness at the Cape of Good Hope and several other sites around the world correlated with a failure to penetrate these locales commercially and could signal a desire to implement a model of colonization based on production by imported unfree or migrant populations. Scholars of the Dutch North American settlements, where the word wilden was the most common term for indigenous Americans, should be aware of the word's global usage and history.

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