Dutch Wars

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Dutch Wars

Dutch Wars, series of conflicts between the English and Dutch during the mid to late 17th cent. The wars had their roots in the Anglo-Dutch commercial rivalry, although the last of the three wars was a wider conflict in which French interests played a primary role.

War of 1652–54

The 1652–54 war between the English and the Dutch marked a crisis in the long-standing rivalry between the two nations as leaders in world trade. The crisis was precipitated by English search and seizure of Dutch merchant ships in the course of an unofficial Anglo-Dutch maritime war and, secondarily, by the English Navigation Act of 1651, which was directed against Dutch trade with British possessions. Hostilities were opened (May, 1652) by a sea fight between the British and Dutch admirals, Robert Blake and Maarten Tromp. At the beginning of the war Blake broke up the Dutch herring fleet, while George Ayscue successfully waylaid Dutch ships in the English Channel. However, the victory of Tromp over Blake off Dungeness (Nov., 1652) gave the Dutch command of the Channel, and in Jan., 1653, a Dutch treaty with Denmark closed the Baltic to English trade. Meanwhile reforms were introduced into the British navy for greater efficiency, and generals Richard Deane and George Monck were associated with the naval command. Tromp's fleet was forced to retire after an engagement off Portland (Feb., 1653), and the English regained control of the Channel. After Blake's succeeding victory off Gabbard's Shoal (June, 1653) the British were able to blockade the Dutch coast. While Dutch trade was thus effectively cut off, England itself was approaching financial exhaustion. Negotiations were undertaken but failed. On July 31, 1653, Tromp attacked the blockading fleet; he was defeated and killed, but the English ships were forced to return home for refitting. Peace was finally signed in Apr., 1654. The Dutch agreed to salute the British flag in British seas, to pay compensation for English losses, and to submit territorial claims to arbitration.

War of 1664–67

The years 1664–67 saw another war between the English and the Dutch. The first war had humbled, but had not crushed, the Dutch power, which continued to challenge English commercial supremacy, especially in the East Indian trade and in the West African slave trade. In 1664, Robert Holmes raided the Dutch colonies on the coast of Africa, and Richard Nicolls took the Dutch colony of New Netherland (later New York and New Jersey) in North America. War was officially declared by England in Mar., 1665. The duke of York (later James II) won the battle off Lowestoft (June, 1665), and in September the bishop of Munster, an ally of the English, overran the eastern province of the Netherlands; he was, however, soon expelled. In Jan., 1666, Louis XIV of France declared war on England, yet his interests did not lie on the side of the Dutch, and he took little part in the war. The British fleet under Monck and Prince Rupert was defeated in the Four Days Battle or Battle of the Downs (June 1–4, 1666) by Michiel de Ruyter and Cornelis Tromp, but in August they inflicted a severe defeat on the Dutch and destroyed shipping along the Dutch coast. The plague, the great fire, and disaffection in Scotland made England anxious for peace, and negotiations were undertaken, while Charles II let the fleet fall into a state of unpreparedness that enabled De Ruyter to attack the British ships in the Thames and inflict heavy losses (1667). By the Treaty of Breda (July, 1667) the trade laws were modified in favor of the Dutch, and all conquests of war were retained, with the English receiving New Netherland and Delaware and the Dutch keeping Suriname. At the same time the English and French both gave up their conquered territories. The Treaty of Breda was a blow to English prestige but proved in the long run to English advantage.

War of 1672–78

The war of 1672–78 was the first of the great wars of Louis XIV of France. It was fought to end Dutch competition with French trade and to extend Louis XIV's empire. Having obtained the support of Charles II of England by the secret Treaty of Dover (1670) and allied himself with Sweden (see Charles XI) and several German states, Louis overran the southern provinces of the Netherlands (May, 1672). The Dutch stopped his advance on Amsterdam by opening the dikes; about the same time, under the command of De Ruyter, the Dutch defeated the English and French fleets at Southwold Bay. When Dutch peace proposals made at this juncture were spurned by the French, a revolution broke out, and William of Orange (later William III of England) took over Dutch leadership from the ill-fated Jan de Witt (July, 1672). William's attempt to divide the French lines and enter France was countered by the French seizure of Maastricht (1673). By the end of the year the French were forced to retreat, and Spain, the Holy Roman emperor, Brandenburg, Denmark, and other powers entered the war on the side of the Dutch. In 1674, England made peace with the Dutch. Nevertheless, the military situation changed in favor of France. In 1674, Louis II de Condé won the battle of Seneff, while Turenne was victorious at Sinzheim. The defeats Créquy suffered in 1675 were balanced by the successful naval campaign of Abraham Duquesne in 1676, and in 1677 the French defeated William at Cassel and took Freiburg. Peace was negotiated at Nijmegen in 1678. Maastricht was ceded to the Dutch and a trade treaty modified the French restrictive tariffs in favor of the Dutch. By a subsequent treaty with Spain, Louis received Franche-Comté and a chain of border fortresses in return for evacuating the Spanish Netherlands. By a treaty with the Holy Roman emperor (1679), France was confirmed in possession of Freiburg and a part of Lorraine.


See C. H. Wilson, Profit and Power (1957); P. Geyl, Orange and Stuart, 1641–1672 (1970).

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