Dutch Wars of the 17th Century

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dutch Wars of the 17th Century


(in Russian, Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th century), wars caused by the commercial and colonial rivalry of the two most economically developed states of the 17th century—the bourgeois republic of the United Provinces (the Dutch Republic) which predominated in intermediate sea trade and in international colonial expansion of the first half of the 17th century, and England, whose bourgeoisie had, with the triumph of the revolution, embarked upon active struggle against its main trade and colonial rival. The interests of the two countries clashed in Southeast Asia, America, Africa, and the European, especially the Russian, market.

The first Dutch War (1652–54) was declared by the Dutch Republic in response to the British Parliament’s adoption of the Navigation Act of 1651 directed against Dutch intermediate trade. Military operations were conducted not only in the waters touching England and Holland, but in the Mediterranean Sea, in the straits joining the Baltic and North seas, and in the Indian Ocean. Naval battles (the largest were at Plymouth in 1652, the Newport battles of 1652 and 1653, and the Portland battle of 1653) were waged with varying success. Gradually the preponderance of force inclined toward England, which had a strong navy and which blockaded the Dutch coast. The actions of the British on the trade routes inflicted great damage to Holland. By the Treaty of Westminster (Apr. 14, 1654), Holland was in effect to be reconciled with the Navigation Act.

The second Dutch War (1665–67) was declared by Holland in January 1665, but it had actually begun as early as 1664 with the seizure by a British naval expedition of New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony in North America. The Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Ruyter was victorious at Dunkirk (June 1666) but suffered defeat at the Cape of North Foreland (August 1666). In June 1667 a Dutch squadron blockaded the mouth of the Thames. By the peace concluded at Breda (July 31, 1667), New Amsterdam was transferred to England, and Surinam, which had been conquered by England during the war, was returned to the Dutch.

The third Dutch War (1672–74) was closely interwoven with the so-called Dutch War of 1672–78, in which France was the main enemy of the Dutch Republic. Charles II of England, who was secretly allied with Louis XIV, entered this war. Ruyter’s victory over the Anglo-French fleet at Texel (August 1673), the formation of an anti-French coalition, and the war’s unpopularity among the English bourgeoisie at a time when Anglo-French, and not Anglo-Dutch, contradictions were decisive, impelled England to leave the war. The Westminster Peace Treaty (Feb. 19, 1674) left the 1667 Treaty of Breda in force. The Dutch Wars of the 17th century accelerated Holland’s decline and the shift of commercial and colonial hegemony to England, which was more advanced industrially.

The Dutch Wars, which were waged mainly at sea, played an important role in the development of navies and naval art. From the experience gained in these wars, a new classification of ships was worked out according to which they were divided into battleships, frigates, and so forth. A permanent organization was established for the fleets according to which they were divided into squadrons, which in turn were divided into so-called divisions—vanguard, center, and rear guard. Naval battle tactics also changed considerably. The absence of a definite military order was charactersitic of the first Dutch War: the battle began with artillery fire and moved to duels by individual ships, in which the outcome was decided by artillery fire and boarding operations; the use of fire ships had some importance. In the second and especially the third Dutch War, the basic battle structure was the line-ahead formation and the basic battle tactic was the use of artillery fire, although boarding and fire-ship attacks continued to be of some importance.


Angliiskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVII v, vol. 1 (pp. 457–67), vol. 2 (pp. 47–51, 133–36). Moscow, 1954.
Ballhausen, C. Die drei Englisch-Holländische Seekriege. The Hague, 1923.


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