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The First Anglo-Dutch War - History

The First Anglo-Dutch War - History

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The First Anglo-Dutch War
The British and the Dutch were natural maritime rivals both having developed an international trading system that spanned the globe. The first Anglo Dutch War broke out on 1651 after the English passage of the Navigation Act. The Navigation Act limited trading to the British colonies to English or colonial vessels. The English forces succeeded in blockading Dutch ports. There were a number of fleet encounters the last of which is depicted here at Scheveningen, where the Dutch were soundly defeated. They were forced to accept the Navigation Acts under the terms of the Treaty of Westminister.

Anglo-Dutch Wars

The Anglo-Dutch Wars (Dutch: Engels–Nederlandse Oorlogen or Engelse Zeeoorlogen) were a series of wars fought between the Dutch Republic and first the Kingdom of England and then the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries. The nations fought for control over trade routes on the seas. All of the wars were mostly fought by naval warfare.

The First War (1652–1654) took place during the Interregnum in England, the period after the Civil War when England did not have a king or queen. The war was fought between the navies of England and the Dutch Republic (also known as the United Provinces). It mainly took place in the English Channel and the North Sea. It ended with the Royal Navy of England gaining control of these seas and a monopoly over trade with the English colonies. [1]

The second (1665–1667) and third (1672–1674) wars happened after the English Restoration of the monarchy. England tried to end the Dutch monopoly over world trade. Most of the fighting in both wars was done in the North Sea. In the Third War, England fought alongside France. Both of these wars ended in strong victories for the Dutch. They confirmed the Dutch Republic's position as the leading maritime power of the 17th century. The English took New Netherland and the Dutch let them keep it in return for Suriname.

The Fourth War (1780–1784) took place after the Acts of Union 1707 in Great Britain, and involved the Dutch Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain. It mainly started because Britain disagreed with the Dutch trading with the United States during the American Revolutionary War. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris (1784). It ended with a very bad defeat for the Dutch. [2] They lost parts of their Dutch Empire.

The First Anglo-Dutch War - History

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History

In Oct. 1651 England passed the Navigation Act, requiring that goods imported to England could only be transported on either English ships or on ships of the country of origin - an act directly formulated and directed against Dutch trade (the Dutch at that time enjoyed a huge trade surplus).

B.) The Military Course of Events

When a British fleet harrassed a Dutch merchant convoy (May 1652), Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp was ordered to attack the English fleet on July 6th. In August 1652 M.A. de Ruyter defeated the English in the Battle of Duins in October the Dutch fleet suffered a defeat by the English at Kentish Knock in Feb. 1653 Tromp lost the Three Days' Battle on March 14th 1653 Johan van Galen defeated an English fleet at Livorno (Tuscany, Italy). In Aug. Tromp fell when attempting to break the English blockade. With the regents in charge in the Dutch Republic, and the moderates in England, on April 15th 1654 the Peace of Westminster was signed ending the war.

The English had Ships-of-the-line, vessels which, because of their size and layout, were designed for naval warfare. The Dutch, for the larger part, depended on merchant vessels which had been converted to warships.
The English, under commanders Robert Blake and George Monck, applied new naval strategies, such as fighting in-line-of-battle.

The Dutch Republic, the world's leading merchant marine nation, regarded the war a defeat, as they did not succeed in getting the Navigation Act repealed. The Dutch trade surplus would provide the cause for future wars, the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667, 1672-1674).


Portrait of Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter. Ferdinand Bol, 1667

Admiral Michiel de Ruyter also played a part in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674). This war centred on the French intention to invade the Dutch Republic. Various German princes had joined the alliance, and so too the English. The English navy supported the French fleet at sea. However, Michiel de Ruyter was more than a match. He managed to inflict enormous damage in a series of four engagements. That prevented the French from landing an army by sea. In fact the Dutch navy was not even at full strength. A major contribution to the Dutch success was the lack of trust and cooperation between the French and English.

The second war (1665–1667) [ edit | edit source ]

"The Second Day of the Four Day Battle of 1666"

After the English Restoration in 1660, Charles II tried to serve his dynastic interests by attempting to make Prince William III of Orange, his nephew, stadtholder of The Republic, using some military pressure. This led to a surge of patriotism in England, the country being, as Samuel Pepys put it, "mad for war". King Charles promoted a series of anti-Dutch mercantilist policies, expecting that advancing British trade and shipping would strengthen their political and financial position. British merchants and chartered companies, such as the East India Company, Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa, and Levant Company, calculated that economic primacy could be seized from the Dutch. They figured that a combination of English naval force and privateering would cripple the Dutch Republic and force the States General to agree to a favourable peace. Ώ]

This war, provoked in 1664, contained quite a few great English victories in battle such as James II's taking of the Dutch colony of New Netherland (present day New York), but also Dutch victories, such as the capture of the Prince Royal during the Four Days Battle in 1666 which was the subject of a famous painting by Willem van de Velde. However, the Raid on the Medway, in June 1667, ended the war with a Dutch victory. A flotilla of ships led by Admiral de Ruyter broke through the defensive chains guarding the Medway, burned part of the English fleet docked at Chatham and towed away the Unity and the Royal Charles, pride and normal flagship of the English fleet. The greatly expanded Dutch navy was for numerous years after the world's strongest. The Dutch Republic was at the zenith of its power.

The British managed to capture about 450 Dutch merchantmen, far fewer than they expected. In 1665 many Dutch ships were intercepted, and Dutch trade and industry was hurt. The Dutch soon recovered as Dutch traders took precautions and benefited from the absence of the English fleet. Dutch maritime trade recovered from 1666 onward, but English commercial interests were badly hurt and King Charles faced virtual bankruptcy. ΐ] The Dutch success made a major psychological impact throughout England, with London feeling especially vulnerable just a year after the Great Fire (which was generally interpreted in the Dutch Republic as divine retribution for Holmes's Bonfire). This, together with the cost of the war, of the Great Plague and the extravagant spending of Charles's court, produced a rebellious atmosphere in London. Clarendon ordered the English envoys at Breda to sign a peace quickly, as Charles feared an open revolt.

Military conflicts similar to or like First Anglo-Dutch War

The naval Battle of Dungeness took place on 30 November 1652 (10 December Gregorian calendar), during the First Anglo-Dutch War near the cape of Dungeness in Kent. In September 1652 the government of the Commonwealth of England, the Council of State, mistakenly believing that the United Provinces after their defeat at the Battle of the Kentish Knock would desist from bringing out a fleet so late in the season, sent away ships to the Mediterranean and the Baltic. Wikipedia

The naval Battle of the Gabbard, also known as the Battle of Gabbard Bank, the Battle of the North Foreland or the Second Battle of Nieuwpoort took place on 2–3 June 1653 (12–13 June 1653 Gregorian calendar). during the First Anglo-Dutch War near the Gabbard shoal off the coast of Suffolk, England between fleets of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces. Wikipedia

The first engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The English Parliament had passed the first of the Navigation Acts in October 1651, aimed at hampering the shipping of the highly trade-dependent Dutch. Wikipedia

Naval battle between the fleets of the Dutch Republic and England, fought on 28 September 1652 (8 October Gregorian calendar), during the First Anglo-Dutch War near the shoal called the Kentish Knock in the North Sea about thirty kilometres east of the mouth of the river Thames. Soon forced to withdraw, losing two ships and many casualties. Wikipedia

Conflict between England and the Dutch Republic partly for control over the seas and trade routes, where England tried to end the Dutch domination of world trade during a period of intense European commercial rivalry, but also as a result of political tensions. After initial English successes, the war ended in a Dutch victory. Wikipedia

The naval Battle of Leghorn took place on 4 March 1653 (14 March Gregorian calendar), during the First Anglo-Dutch War, near Leghorn (Livorno), Italy. Wikipedia

Conduct of the war

The States of Holland sent their highest official, the Grand Pensionary Adriaan Pauw, to London in a last desperate attempt to prevent war, but in vain: English demands had become so extreme that no self-respecting state could meet them. War was declared by the English Parliament on 10 July 1652. The Dutch diplomats realised what was at stake: one of the departing ambassadors said, "The English are about to attack a mountain of gold we are about to attack a mountain of iron." The Dutch Orangists were jubilant however they expected that either victory or defeat would bring them to power.

The first months of the war saw English attacks against the Dutch convoys. Blake was sent with 60 ships to disrupt Dutch fishing in the North Sea and Dutch trade with the Baltic, leaving Ayscue with a small force to guard the Channel. On 12 July 1652, Ayscue intercepted a Dutch convoy returning from Portugal, capturing seven merchantmen and destroying three. Tromp gathered a fleet of 96 ships to attack Ayscue, but southerly winds kept him in the North Sea. Turning north to pursue Blake, Tromp caught up with the English fleet off the Shetland Islands, but a storm scattered his ships and there was no battle. On 26 August 1652, an outward-bound Dutch convoy with an escort of director's ships from Zeeland commanded by Michiel de Ruyter, who held the rank of commandeur, broadly equivalent to commodore was sighted by Ayscue, with a more numerous squadron of warships and armed merchant ships. Ayscue attempted to attack the convoy with around nine of his strongest and fastest warships, but De Ruyter counter-attacked and, in the Battle of Plymouth, surrounded the English warships which were not supported by their armed merchant ships. The convoy escaped, Ayscue was relieved of his command and de Ruyter gained prestige in his first independent command. [70] [71]

Tromp had also been suspended after the failure in Shetland, and Vice-Admiral Witte de With was given command. The Dutch convoys being at the time safe from English attack, De With saw an opportunity to concentrate his forces and gain control of the seas. At the Battle of the Kentish Knock on 8 October 1652 the Dutch attacked the English fleet near the mouth of the River Thames, but were beaten back with many casualties. [72] [73] The English Parliament, believing the Dutch to be near defeat, sent away twenty ships to strengthen the position in the Mediterranean. This division of forces left Blake with only 42 men of war by November, while the Dutch were making every effort to reinforce their fleet. This division led to an English defeat by Tromp in the Battle of Dungeness in December, while it failed to save the English Mediterranean fleet, largely destroyed at the Battle of Leghorn in March 1653. [74]

The Dutch had effective control of the Channel, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean, with English ships blockaded in port. As a result, Cromwell convinced Parliament to begin secret peace negotiations with the Dutch. In February 1653, Adriaan Pauw responded favourably, sending a letter from the States of Holland indicating their sincere desire to reach a peace agreement. However, these discussions, which were only supported by a bare majority of members of the Rump parliament, dragged on without much progress for almost a year. [75] [76]

Despite its successes, the Dutch Republic was unable to sustain a prolonged naval war as English privateers inflicted serious damage on Dutch shipping. It is estimated that the Dutch lost between 1,000 and 1,700 vessels of all sizes to privateers in this war, up to four times as many as the English lost, and more than the total Dutch losses for the other two Anglo-Dutch war. [77] In addition, as press-ganging was forbidden, enormous sums had to be paid to attract enough sailors to man the fleet. [78] The Dutch were unable to defend all of their colonies and it had too few colonists or troops in Dutch Brazil to prevent the more numerous Portuguese, dissatisfied by Dutch rule, from reconquest. [79]

Though the politicians were close to ending the conflict, the naval war continued and, over the winter of 1652–53, the English fleet repaired its ships and considered its tactics. All of the sea battles fought in 1652 were chaotic, with boarding and capturing enemy ships a favoured tactic, particularly of the Dutch. Squadrons or even individual ships fought without regard to the rest of the fleet, although the English fleet instructions of 1650 emphasised the importance of supporting other ships of the same squadron, particularly the flagship. [80] In the first major battle of 1653, the English fleet challenged the Dutch in the three-day Battle of Portland, which began in 28 February. They captured at least 20 Dutch merchant ships, captured or destroyed at least eight and possibly twelve warships and drove the Dutch from the Channel. [81] Like the battles of 1652, this was chaotic, but the most notable tactical events happened in the first day, when Tromp led the whole Dutch fleet against about two dozen English ships at the rear of the fleet, hoping to overpower them before the bulk of the English fleet could come to their aid. However, the outnumbered English ships extemporised a line ahead formation and managed to keep the Dutch at bay through coordinated heavy gunfire. [82]

Whether as a direct result of the Battle of Portland or the accumulation of experience gained over some years, in March 1653, Robert Blake wrote the Sailing and Fighting Instructions, a major overhaul of English naval tactics, containing the first formal description of the line of battle. [83] The success of this new formation was evident in the Battle of the Gabbard in June 1653, when the English fleet not only defeated the Dutch in a long-range artillery duel but suffered so little damage that it could maintain a blockade rather than sending many ships to port for repairs. [84] The Dutch, in contrast, relied less on linear tactics, preferring to close with English ships to board and capture then as late as the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, and they also retained numbers of slow and badly armed hired merchant ships in their fleet as late as that battle, when the English fleet was already questioning their use. [85]

In mid-March 1653, the States of Holland sent a detailed peace proposal to the English Rump Parliament, where it generated a fierce debate and a slim majority for a response to be made. The response made first to the States of Holland and then to the States General in April was critical of the Dutch proposals, but at least allowed discussions to start. [86] Little was achieved until both the Rump Parliament and its short-lived successor the Nominated Parliament had been dissolved, the latter in December 1653. [86] On 30 April 1654, the States General asked for negotiations to be restarted and in May Cromwell agreed to receive Dutch envoys in London. [87] In mid June, Johan de Witt persuaded the States General to send commissioners to London to negotiate peace terms and Cromwell was receptive, although he was insistent that the Dutch republic must ensure the House of Orange would not become dominant again, and declined to repeal the Navigation Act. [88]

Cromwell again put forward his plan for a political union between the two nations to the four Dutch envoys who had arrived in London in late June, but they emphatically rejected this. [89] He then proposed a military alliance against Spain, promising to repeal the Navigation Act in return for Dutch assistance in the conquest of Spanish America: this too was rejected. [90] Cromwell then fell back on a proposal of 27 articles, two of which were unacceptable to the Dutch: that all Royalists had to be expelled, and that Denmark, the ally of the Republic, should be abandoned in its war against Sweden. [91] In the end Cromwell accepted that the 25 agreed articles would form the basis for peace. Hostilities largely ended until the conclusion of peace.

Meanwhile, the English navy tried to gain control over the North Sea, and in the two-day Battle of the Gabbard in June drove the Dutch back to their home ports with the loss of 17 warships captured or destroyed, starting a blockade of the Dutch coast, which led to a crippling of the Dutch economy. [92] [93] The Dutch were unable to feed their dense urban population without a regular supply of Baltic wheat and rye prices of these commodities soared and the poor were soon unable to buy food, and starvation ensued.

The final battle of the war was the hard-fought and bloody Battle of Scheveningen in August, fought because the Dutch were desperate to break the English blockade. This was a tactical victory for the English fleet, which captured or destroyed at least a dozen and possibly 27 Dutch warships for the loss of two or three English ones, and captured or killed some 2,000 men including Tromp, who was killed early in the battle, for a loss of 500 English dead. [93] However, despite their heavy losses of men and ships, the Dutch fleet was able to retreat to the Texel, and the English had to abandon their blockade, so the Dutch achieved their aim. [94] The death of Tromp was a blow to Dutch morale, which increased the Dutch desire to end the war: similar feelings arose in England. "The Dutch fleet in the late C17th was between 3000 to 4000 ships in total with half over 100 tons" [95] trade as a whole had suffered.

However, after Scheveningen, the Dutch turned to using smaller warships and privateering with the result that, by November Cromwell was anxious to make peace as the Dutch were capturing numerous English merchant ships. [96]

As a result, the English made no significant gains out of the peace treaty: not Cromwell's original political aim of a union that would subordinate the Dutch and certainly no commercial ones, as there was massive economic damage to the English maritime economy. [97] The Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell wished to avoid further conflict with the Dutch Republic, as it was planning war with Spain, which began as the Anglo-Spanish War of 1654–1660 after the Treaty of Westminster was signed. [98]

Ladysmith and Mafeking

Boer artillery at Ladysmith, South Africa, circa 1899 © The first five months of the war consisted mainly of set-piece battles. The Boers besieged Ladysmith in Natal and Kimberley and Mafeking in the Cape Colony, while the British forces strove to relieve their beleaguered garrisons in these towns – Lord Methuen in the west and General Redvers Buller in Natal.

From their camouflaged positions, the Boers scored impressive victories at Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso in mid-December 1899 (called 'Black Week' in Britain), and Spioenkop in January 1900.

The relief of Mafeking caused tumultuous joy in Britain, making Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, commander of the garrison, an instant hero.

But by late February 1900 there was a definite change in their fortunes. Kimberley and Ladysmith were relieved and Piet Cronjé surrendered at Paardeberg with 4,000 burghers. All Boer fronts collapsed.

The next six months was a period of great confusion for the Boers. Everywhere they were compelled to retreat. On 13 March 1900, Lord Roberts, the British commander in chief, occupied Bloemfontein and on 5 June 1900 he took Pretoria.

With both republican capitals in British hands, he annexed the Free State as the Orange River Colony on 24 May 1900 and the Transvaal on 1 September 1900. The relief of Mafeking on 17 May 1900 caused tumultuous joy in Britain, making the commander of the relieved garrison, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, an instant hero throughout the British empire.

Lured by British promises of peace and protection, many burghers surrendered. They were called hendsoppers(having 'hands-upped') by the men remaining in the field. By the end of the war they totalled 20,000 men – a third of the original Boer numbers.

In the last six months of the war, 5,400 of them joined the British Army as collaborators ('joiners'), with General Piet de Wet becoming one of the leaders of the Orange River Colony Volunteers.

Meanwhile, there was a revival in the Boer military effort. In the Free State, General Christiaan de Wet, brother of Piet de Wet, led the recovery of Boer resistance with surprise attacks on Roberts’ vulnerable lines of communication.

After Roberts dispersed the Transvaal forces in the last pitched battle of the war at Bergendal (Dalmanutha), in August 1900, General Louis Botha’s officers, similarly to De Wet in the Free State and General Koos de la Rey in the Western Transvaal, applied the tactic of swiftly gathering their scattered commandos whenever the occasion arose, attacking isolated British columns and then disappearing into thin air.

In this way the resistance of about 20,000 Boer bitter-enders was to continue for almost two more years, in what is known as the guerrilla phase of the war.

Anglo-Dutch Wars

The Anglo𠄽utch Wars (Dutch: Engels–Nederlandse Oorlogen or Engelse Zeeoorlogen) were a series of wars fought between the English (later British) and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries for control over the seas and trade routes. The first war took place during the English Interregnum, and was fought between the Commonwealth of England and the Dutch Republic (also known as the United Provinces). The second war and third war took place after the Restoration, and involved the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic. The fourth war took place after the Acts of Union, and involved the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Dutch Republic.

The second and third Anglo-Dutch wars confirmed the Dutch Republic's position as the leading maritime state of the seventeenth century.


During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, neither England nor the main maritime provinces of the Low Countries, Flanders and Holland, had been major European sea powers on par with Venice, Genoa, Portugal, Castile or Aragon. During the Wars of Religion in the 16th century between the Catholic Habsburg Dynasty and the newly Protestant states, England under Elizabeth I built up a strong naval force, designed to carry out long range privateering or piracy missions against the Spanish Empire, exemplified by the exploits of Francis Drake. These raids, financed by the Crown or high nobility, were initially immensely profitable, until the overhaul of Spain's naval and intelligence systems led to a series of costly failures. Partly to provide a pretext for such hostilities against Spain, Elizabeth assisted the Dutch Revolt by signing in 1585 the Treaty of Nonsuch with the new Dutch state of the United Provinces. In the resulting Anglo–Spanish War the Dutch played only a secondary role as they were fully occupied in fighting Habsburg armies at home.

Around the turn of the century however, Anglo–Spanish relations began to improve, resulting in the peace of 1605, ending most privateering actions and leading to a neglect of the Royal Navy. The unsuccessful Anglo–Spanish War of 1625 was only a temporary change in policy. In the same period the Dutch, continuing their conflict with the Habsburgs, began to carry out long distance actions in addition to their great success in privateering. In 1628 Admiral Piet Heyn was the only one to successfully capture a large Spanish treasure fleet. Thus, the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as the main European traders in Asia.

The Dutch, taking over most of Portugal's trade posts in the East Indies, gained control over the hugely profitable trade in spices. This coincided with an enormous growth of the Dutch merchant fleet, made possible by the cheap mass production of fluyts. Soon the Dutch had the largest mercantile fleet of Europe, and a dominant position in European, especially Baltic, trade. Though less spectacularly so, gradually the Dutch navy also grew in power.

From January 1631 Charles I of England engaged in a number of secret agreements with Spain, directed against Dutch sea power. He also embarked on a major program of naval construction, enforcing ship money to build such prestige vessels as HMS Sovereign of the Seas. Charles's policy was not very successful however. Fearing to endanger his good relations with the powerful Dutch stadtholder Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, his assistance to Spain limited itself to allowing Habsburg troops on their way to Dunkirk to employ neutral English shipping in 1636 and 1637 he made some halfhearted attempts to extort North Sea herring rights from Dutch fishermen until intervention by the Dutch navy made an end to such practices. When in 1639 a large Spanish transport fleet sought refuge in the English Downs moorage, Charles did not dare to protect it against a Dutch attack the resulting Battle of the Downs undermined both Spanish sea power and Charles's reputation.

The English Civil War, commencing soon hereafter, severely weakened England's naval position. Its navy was as internally divided as the country as a whole the Dutch, as superior on land as they were at sea, even took over much of England's maritime trade with her North American colonies. Between 1648 and 1651 however the situation reversed completely. In 1648 the United Provinces concluded the Peace of Münster with Spain most of the Dutch army and navy was decommissioned. This led to a conflict between the major Dutch cities and the new stadtholder William II of Orange, bringing the Republic to the brink of civil war the stadtholder's unexpected death in 1650 only added to the political tensions. Meanwhile Oliver Cromwell united his country into the Commonwealth of England and in a few years created a powerful navy, expanding the number of ships and greatly improving organisation and discipline. England was ready to challenge Dutch trade dominance.

The mood in England was rather belligerent towards the Dutch. This partly stemmed from old perceived slights: the Dutch were considered to have shown themselves ungrateful for the aid they had received against the Spanish by growing stronger than their former British protectors they caught most of the herring off the English east coast they had driven the English out of the East Indies committing presumed atrocities such as the Amboyna Massacre while vociferously appealing to the principle of free trade to circumvent taxation in the English colonies. But there were also new points of conflict: the decline of Spanish power at the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the colonial possessions of Portugal (already in the midst of Portuguese Restoration War), and perhaps even of a beleaguered Spain, were up for grabs. The Dutch had after 1648 quickly replaced the English in their traditional Iberian trade. Cromwell feared the influence of the Orangist faction and English exiles in the Republic because the stadtholders had always supported the Stuarts the Dutch abhorred the decapitation of Charles I.

Early in 1651 Cromwell tried to ease tensions by sending a delegation to The Hague proposing that the Dutch Republic join the Commonwealth and the Dutch would assist the English in conquering most of Spanish America. This barely veiled attempt to end Dutch sovereignty ended in war. The ruling peace faction in the States of Holland was unable to formulate an answer to the unexpected and far-reaching offer. The pro-Stuart Orangists incited mobs to harass the envoys. When the delegation returned, the English Parliament, feeling deeply offended by the Dutch attitude, decided to pursue a policy of confrontation.

The first war (1652�)

In order to protect its position in North America, in October 1651 the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England passed the first of the Navigation Acts, which mandated that all goods imported into England must be carried by English ships or vessels from the exporting countries, thus excluding (mostly Dutch) middlemen. This typical mercantilist measure as such did not hurt the Dutch much as the English trade was relatively unimportant to them, but it was used by the many pirates operating from British territory as an ideal pretext to legally take any Dutch ship they encountered. The Dutch responded to the growing intimidation by enlisting large numbers of armed merchantmen into their navy. The English, trying to revive an ancient right they perceived they had to be recognised as the 'lords of the seas', demanded that other ships strike their flags in salute to their ships, even in foreign ports. On 29 May 1652, Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp refused to show the respectful haste expected in lowering his flag to salute an encountered English fleet. This resulted in a skirmish, the Battle of Goodwin Sands, after which the Commonwealth declared war on 10 July.

After some inconclusive minor fights the English were successful in the first major battle, General at Sea Robert Blake defeating the Dutch Vice-Admiral Witte de With in the Battle of the Kentish Knock in October 1652. Believing that the war was all but over, the English divided their forces and in December were routed by the fleet of Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp at the Battle of Dungeness in the English Channel. The Dutch were also victorious in March 1653 at the Battle of Leghorn near Italy and had gained effective control of both the Mediterranean and the English Channel. Blake, recovering from an injury, rethought, together with George Monck, the whole system of naval tactics, and after the winter of 1653 used the line of battle, first to drive the Dutch navy out of the English Channel in the Battle of Portland and then out of the North Sea in the Battle of the Gabbard. The Dutch were unable to effectively resist as the States-General of the Netherlands had not in time heeded the warnings of their admirals that much larger warships were needed. In the final Battle of Scheveningen on 10 August 1653 Tromp was killed, a blow to Dutch morale, but the English had to end their blockade of the Dutch coast. As both nations were by now exhausted and Cromwell had dissolved the warlike Rump Parliament, ongoing peace negotiations could be brought to fruition, albeit after many months of slow diplomatic exchanges.

The war ended on 5 April 1654 with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster (ratified by the States-General on 8 May), but the commercial rivalry was not resolved, the English having failed to replace the Dutch as the world's dominant trade nation. The treaty contained a secret annex, the Act of Seclusion, forbidding the infant Prince William III of Orange from becoming stadtholder of the province of Holland, which would prove to be a future cause of discontent. In 1653 the Dutch had started a major naval expansion programme, building sixty larger vessels, partly closing the qualitative gap with the English fleet. Cromwell, having started the war against Spain without Dutch help, during his rule avoided a new conflict with the Republic, even though the Dutch in the same period defeated his Portuguese and Swedish allies.

The second war (1665�)

After the English Restoration, Charles II tried to serve his dynastic interests by attempting to make Prince William III of Orange, his nephew, stadtholder of The Republic, using some military pressure. This led to a surge of patriotism in England, the country being, as Samuel Pepys put it, "mad for war". This war, provoked in 1664, contained quite a few great English victories in battle such as James II's taking of the Dutch colony of New Netherland (present day New York), but also Dutch victories, such as the capture of the Prince Royal during the Four Days Battle in 1666 which was the subject of a famous painting by Willem van de Velde. However, the Raid on the Medway, in June 1667, ended the war with a Dutch victory. A flotilla of ships led by Admiral de Ruyter broke through the defensive chains guarding the Medway, burned part of the English fleet docked at Chatham and towed away the Unity and the Royal Charles, pride and normal flagship of the English fleet. The greatly expanded Dutch navy was for numerous years after the world's strongest. The Dutch Republic was at the zenith of its power.

The Dutch success made a major psychological impact throughout England, with London feeling especially vulnerable just a year after the Great Fire (which was generally interpreted in the Dutch Republic as divine retribution for Holmes's Bonfire). This, together with the cost of the war, of the Great Plague and the extravagant spending of Charles's court, produced a rebellious atmosphere in London. Clarendon ordered the English envoys at Breda to sign a peace quickly, as Charles feared an open revolt.

The third war (1672�)

Soon the English navy was rebuilt. After the embarrassing events in the previous war, English public opinion was unenthusiastic about starting a new one. However, as he was bound by the secret Treaty of Dover, Charles II was obliged to assist Louis XIV in his attack on The Republic in the Franco-Dutch War. When the French army was halted by floods, an attempt was made to invade The Republic by sea. De Ruyter gained four strategic victories against the Anglo𠄿rench fleet and prevented invasion. After these failures the English parliament forced Charles to make peace.

The fourth war (1780�)

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 ended the 17th century conflict by placing Prince William III of Orange on the English throne as co-ruler with his wife Mary. The Dutch merchant elite began to use London as a new operational base. Dutch economic growth slowed. William ordered that any Anglo𠄽utch fleet be under English command, with the Dutch navy having 60% of the strength of the English. From about 1720 Dutch wealth ceased to grow. Around 1780 the per capita gross national product of the Kingdom of Great Britain surpassed that of the Dutch Republic. Whereas in the 17th century the commercial success of the Dutch had fuelled English resentment, in the late 18th century the growth of British power led to Dutch resentment. When the Dutch began to support the American rebels, this led to the fourth war, and the loss of the alliance made the Dutch Republic fatally vulnerable to the French. Soon it would be subject to regime change itself.

The Dutch navy was by now only a shadow of its former self, having only about twenty ships of the line, so there were no large fleet battles. The British tried to reduce the Republic to the status of a British protectorate, using Prussian military pressure and gaining factual control over the Dutch colonies, those conquered during the war given back at war's end. The Dutch then still held some key positions in the European trade with Asia, such as the Cape Colony, Ceylon and Malacca. The war sparked a new round of Dutch ship building (95 warships in the last quarter of the 18th century), but the British kept their absolute numerical superiority by doubling their fleet in the same time.

Although this war is technically an Anglo𠄽utch war (as it was between Britain and the Netherlands), many respectable historians, such as Steven Pincus, argue that this later war stemmed from completely different causes and therefore should not be included in a discussion of these earlier wars.

Later wars

In the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1793�, France reduced the Netherlands to a satellite and finally annexed the country in 1810. In 1797 the Dutch fleet was defeated by the British in the Battle of Camperdown. France considered both the extant Dutch fleet and the large Dutch shipbuilding capacity very important assets, but after the Battle of Trafalgar gave up its attempt to match the British fleet, despite a strong Dutch lobby to this effect. Britain took over most of the Dutch colonies, with the exception of Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), Suriname (which they had captured in May 1804), the Dutch Antilles and the trading post at Deshima in Japan.

Some historians count the wars between Britain and the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of Holland during the Napoleonic era as the Fifth and Sixth Anglo𠄽utch wars.

Principal Sources

Barbour, Violet “Dutch and English Shipping in the Seventeenth Century” in Economic History Review, Vol.2, Issue 2, 1930

Brewer, John The Sinews of Power:War, Money and the English State 1688-1783 (1989, Unwin Hyman, London)

Brien, Patrick “Did Europe’s Mercantilist Empires Pay?” in History Today, Feb 1996, Vol.46, Issue 3

Coward, Barry The Stuart Age (1st ed, 1980, Pearson, Harlow)

Farnell, JE “The Navigation Act of 1651, the First Dutch War and the London Merchant Community” in Economic History Review, Vol.16, Issue 3, 1964

Israel, Jonathan “Competing Cousins – Anglo-Dutch Trade Rivalry” in History Today, Jun 1998, Vol.38, Issue 7

Ogg, David England in the Reign of Charles II (1967, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford)

Schama, Simon The Embarrassment of Riches (2004, Harper, London)

Wallerstein, Immanuel The Modern World System, Vol.2 (1980, Academic Press, New York)

Wilson, Charles Profit and Power: A Study of England and the Dutch Wars (1957, Longmans, London)