Alternative History
Anglo-Dutch War
Date 10 June 1664 – 5 August 1670
(6 years, 1 month and 26 days)
Location New Netherland
New Zealand
English Channel
Result British victory
  • Treaty of Westminster
  • Cession of New Zealand and New Netherland to Britain
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Dutch Republic
Commanders and leaders
  • Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Charles II
  • Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Duke of York
  • Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Earl of Sandwich
  • Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Jean II d'Estrées
  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg Michiel de Ruyter
  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg Adriaen Banckert
  • Flag of the Netherlands.svg Willem Joseph van Ghent

The Anglo-Dutch War (Dutch: Engels–Nederlandse Oorlog) was a military conflict between the United Kingdom of Great Britain, France and Ireland and the Dutch Republic. It was fought between 1664 and 1670 over the control of trade routes and colonies, and resulted in significant territorial changes in North America and Australasia.


During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, neither England-France nor the main maritime provinces of the Low Countries, Flanders and Holland, had been major European sea powers on par with the commerce driven sea powers such as Venice, Genoa, Portugal, Castile or Aragon. As the Age of Exploration stimulated trade, the Dutch and Anglo-French – both influenced by mercantilism and centuries of commerce with the other state – were independently compelled to the need to look for colonies and wealth in the newly exposed New Worlds in the Americas and Australasia. Led by the Dutch invention of the Joint Stock Company and spurred by rivalry with the rapidly growing Spanish Empire, the Dutch financed expeditions to the orient with stock subscriptions sold in the United Provinces and in London. Thanks to fisheries, the wool trade, and Baltic ships stores, the two regions had long standing relationships.

In the second half of the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion between the fanatically-Catholic Habsburg Dynasty and the various (newly formed or converted) Protestant states each were embroiled in the greater Catholic versus Protestant conflicts, diplomatically, if not directly.

During these struggles, Elizabeth of England and France built up a strong naval force, designed a harassment strategy to carry out long range privateering or piracy missions against the Spanish Empire's worldwide interests, 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 (1581) against the strongly Catholic Kingdom of Spain by signing the Treaty of Nonsuch in 1585 with the new Dutch state of the United Provinces. In the resulting naval actions of the Anglo-Spanish War, the Dutch played only a secondary role as they were fully occupied in fighting Habsburg armies and defending their frontiers at home from troops coming up the Spanish Road, and their coast from invasion attempts. The era's naval battles did not yet involve large numbers of purpose-built warships, but instead relied upon converted merchant vessels, mostly Galleons and ocean-going caravels – armed cargo vessel classes dragooned into service to the state on which extra cannons were mounted and whose manpower was augmented for boarding actions.

Around the turn of the 17th century Anglo-Spanish relations began to improve, resulting in the Peace of 1604, ending most privateering actions. As was usual for the times, paltry funding by Parliament again led to neglect of the Royal Navy. England-France had not yet built its self-image as a sea-power whose seaborne trade fueled its economy and had to be protected.

The unsuccessful Anglo-Spanish War of 1625 was only a temporary change in policy influenced by manoeuvres of international politics. Gradually, as the British observed the accumulating wealth of the Dutch, covetous men of influence under the spell of theories of mercantilism became focused on colonialism as a means of creating both personal and national wealth. In the process, parliamentarily governed Britain found a capitalistic need within parliament's reasoning to develop and build naval capabilities of its own. These efforts also resulted in competition and frictions that often put the capitalistic energies of fthe two Protestant nations at odds; adding to the frictions between their competing views of religious orthodoxy.

In the same early-1600s period the Dutch, continuing their conflict with the Habsburgs, began to carry out long distance actions such as exploration expeditions, the founding of colonies in Australasia (1606), North America (1608) and India in addition to their continued great successes in privateering. With the many long voyages by Dutch East Indiamen, their society consequently built an officer class and institutional knowledge; skill sets and experience that later the British would have to duplicate and overcome. In 1628, Admiral Piet Heyn became the only commander to successfully capture a large Spanish treasure fleet. Thus, the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as the main European traders in Asia. News of the captures and success in the early stock markets however whetted the appetites of many a British capitalist.

The Dutch, taking over most of Portugal's trading posts in the East Indies, gained control over the hugely profitable trade in spices. This coincided with the enormous growth of the Dutch merchant fleet, made possible by the cheap mass production of the fluyt sailing ship types. Soon the Dutch had Europe's largest mercantile fleet, with more merchant ships than all other nations combined, and a dominant position in European (especially Baltic) trade. Though less spectacularly so, the Dutch navy also grew in power, for in the era, most naval warfare was still conducted by adding cannons to cargo ships – a strategy Britain would challenge and beat by introducing purpose built warships.

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' policy was not very successful, however, as he was fearful of endangering his good relations with the powerful Dutch stadtholder, Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. In 1636 and 1637 he made some halfhearted attempts to extort North Sea herring rights from Dutch fishermen until intervention by the Dutch navy put an end to such practices. In the New World, the New Netherlands and Massachusetts Bay Colony contested the mid-Atlantic coast and most of Southern New England. 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' already abysmal reputation.

Between 1648 and 1651, Britain's fortunes began to change. In 1648, the United Provinces concluded the Peace of Münster with Spain. Due to the division of powers in the Dutch Republic, the army and navy were the main base of power of the stadtholder, although the budget allocated to the military was set by the States General. With the war gone, the States General decided to decommission most of the Dutch army and navy. This led to conflict between the major Dutch cities and the new stadtholder, William II of Orange, bring the Republic to the brink of civil war; the stadtholder's unexpected death in 1650 only added to the political tensions.

Meanwhile, Charles I's assassination resulted in his replacement by his son, Charles II. In a few years, he had created a powerful navy, expanding the number of ships and greatly improving organisation and discipline, positioning Britain to mount a global challenge to Dutch trade dominance.

The mood in Britain 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 Spanish by growing stronger than their former English protectors; they caught most of the herring off the English east coast; they had driven the British 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 British colonies. There were also new points of conflict: with 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 the Portuguese Restoration War), and perhaps even of a beleaguered Spain, were up for grabs. The Dutch had after 1648 quickly replaced the British in their traditional Iberian trade. in 1650, the British had established a new colony at Christstone.

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 Britain, 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. In response, Charles II ordered the establishment of a new colony at Carnarvon, as well as for British authorities in Christstone to declare Britain's claim over all of Australasia. Provoked, the Dutch declared war on 10 July.


The war contained significant victories for both the British and the Dutch. The British successfully took the Dutch colony of New Zeeland (present day New Zealand, New Albion, Victoria and Tasmania), as well as New Netherland, establishing British supremacy in North America. The Dutch also managed to capture the Prince Royal during the Four Days Battle in 1666 which was the subject of a famous painting by Willem van de Velde.

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. Although Dutch maritime trade began to recover from 1667 onward, the Dutch began to lose money, and the government faced virtual bankruptcy. In 1668, the Dutch sued for peace, and the resulting Treaty of Westminster ended the war in Britain's favour.