On a Reason for War

We don’t really think of it, but the UK and The Netherlands are essentially neighbors less than 200 miles apart. And these two nations have, in the past, fought wars against each other despite the fact that they are fast friends and allies today. Such was not the case in the 1600s when at least three major wars were fought between the two nations.

Few centuries were as bloody and filled with wars as the 17th Century was. England saw its civil war and wars against much of Europe. The period was a time of colonialism and trade, and the world proved to be smaller and smaller as the European countries carved up the globe into spheres of influence. We don’t think of The Netherlands of being a great power, but remember that they once had Caribbean colonies (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) and other American possessions like Suriname, southern African lands, and eventually much of the East Indies (Indonesia and others). All of this overseas land required a large fleet of ships both for trade and for war. And, in that era, the nation that boasted the best and most up-to-date navy had the edge in that race for trade goods. The expression became, “He who rules the waves waves the rules.”

Thus, the navies of England and Holland clashed during that century over their desires for trade goods. The Second Anglo-Dutch War was unique in that it centered around the Dutch wish for a specific good in what is known as the Dutch East Indies. Most of this second conflict that took place in the 1660s occurred in the North Sea that lies between the two lands despite the global ramifications of the conflict.

To summarize this three-plus year long war, the Dutch won. England had its issues and had other situations ongoing such as the restitution of the monarchy and wars with Hapsburg Spain and France on the horizon. But, for the Dutch, this war was a massive victory. The treaty that ended the war in 1667, the Treaty of Breda, gave Holland the exclusive rights to harvest the trade goods of the islands off the coast of southeast Asia. England could not interfere. In a concession to England, the Dutch relinquished rights to some land in North America, but that was nothing to the Dutch.

Holland won, and with the treaty, scored a major victory in securing access to a valuable resource that, up to that point, was found only in the East Indies: Nutmeg. In fact, the conflict is known colloquially as the Nutmeg War.

Sadly for Holland, England and the rest of the world soon found other places where nutmeg could be easily grown.

And that land that England received in recompense for losing the rights to the nutmeg, the land that the Dutch didn’t mind giving up?