Anglo-Dutch Relations Essay, Research Paper
The geographical proximity that England has historically enjoyed with the Netherlands created the condition that naturally resulted in the ability of each of these nations to profoundly affect the other in a number of ways. The 17th century showcases the dynamic and contradictory nature of Anglo-Dutch relations so well, that the precise relationship between the two countries in this century needs to be defined so that the oscillation between amity and hostility coalesces into a more sensible, and understandable form. As we proceed, it will become evident that the oscillatory history of Anglo-Dutch relations can be clearly visualized and interpreted through the divergent lenses of economics and politico-strategy.
Although the 17th century is of primary interest for us, it is interesting, and in fact necessary, to examine the state of Anglo-Dutch relations from at least the latter part of Henry VIII s reign to the beginnings of the Dutch Revolt. It is interesting to note that there was a long history of English importation of Dutch ideas, skills, and artisans from before the Conqueror s advent on English soil. This importation was admittedly minor in nature until Henry VIII made it a common practice to improve a wide variety of English industries and trades. This trend continued and indeed expanded upon the accession of Elizabeth I to the English throne. Politically, England had traditionally been allied with the Netherlands in the form of friendship with Burgundy that was sustained by a mutual mistrust of France and Spain. Upon the collapse of Burgundy, and the transfer of the Netherlands into Habsburg hands, England was at a loss. Paramount in consideration was the vulnerability of England from the Netherlands, and the loss of this buffer to Spain. It was clear to England that the easiest safe guard was to occupy bridgeheads in the Netherlands so as to be able to give chase to an invading armada by taking advantage of the same prevailing wind. Thus, we can see that on the eve of the Dutch Revolt, England and the Netherlands were bound tightly together socially and politically.
As we shall see, the Dutch Revolt, and the subsequent birth of a nation became the point of divergence for Anglo-Dutch relations. Ultimately, this divergence can be ascribed to the inherent conflict of interest between the newly independent Netherlands and established English foreign policy. The conflict can clearly be seen in the political maneuvering of Oldenbarnevelt against Leicester and vice versa. Elizabeth I was willing to overtly support the nascent Republic only when it seemed to be in imminent danger of collapse, and even then, only enough to ensure the maintenance of the buffer. The Republic however, wanted earnest support since their goal was complete independence. It is interesting to note that despite this political conflict, the English people wholeheartedly supported the Dutch, and contributed mightily to the Revolt, by volunteering militarily without the support of Elizabeth I. This serves to further indicate the degree of social amity between the two countries. Thus, it is evident that the foreign policy split between the two countries was new, and not popularly supported. We shall see that this contrast between political necessity on England s part, and the inherent closeness of the two nations socially, forms the nucleus around which the contradictory nature of Anglo-Dutch relations coalesces in the 17th century.
The most salient features and events of the 17th century insofar as they pertain to Anglo-Dutch relations must be summarized for the sake of brevity. Throughout the first half of the 17th century, there existed for the most part a close alliance between England and the Netherlands. Economically, the Netherlands vastly outstripped England in commerce, but the Spanish blockades effectively closed the Dutch from lucrative trade in the Levant, Mediterranean, and Spain. The English were thus able to prosper in the south. In the Baltic, Germany, Russia, and Scandinavia however, the Netherlands were completely dominant. Thus, both countries prospered commercially, and were for the most part, in close political alliance as well. The dominance of Dutch commerce allowed the Republic to finance its way through a revolt that lasted eighty years. When peace was signed at Westphalia, the artificially supported trade balance between the two nations ceased to exist. As a result, the Dutch very quickly undercut the English in the southern markets. Largely as a result of Hugo Grotius masterful establishment of international maritime law, the English had no legal recourse to protest this new development. This set the stage for the 1st Anglo-Dutch war, which was precipitated by Cromwell s Navigation Act and the seizure of Dutch ships by the English Navy and privateers. Although the English had the superior navy, and won the battles, Dutch economic primacy strangled the English ability to continue to fund the war, and terms were made. The 2nd Anglo-Dutch war was caused by almost identical reasons, and ended once again with the Dutch maintaining their hegemony. So great was the English drive to recapture the commerce they had lost, that in 1672, England allied with France in an attack on the Netherlands. By 1667, a turning point was reached in which many of the colonial disputes that had fueled the Anglo-Dutch conflicts were settled and international events began to clear the way for the resumption of friendly relations between the two nations. Beginning in 1689 with William III s accession to the English throne, and continuing under Marlborough and Heinsius, England entered into and alliance with the Netherlands that was stronger and more powerful than any heretofore.
We can now clearly perceive the basis for the rift in relations between the two nations, and indeed the reason for the oscillation