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Dutch Golden Age

Introduction :

This was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.

The first period is characterized by the Thirty Years’ War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

The transition by the Netherlands to the foremost maritime and economic power in the world has been called the “Dutch Miracle”.


Spanish Rule and Charles V

The King of Spain  for the first half of the 16th century ,Charles the 1st , was also the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles  the V, ruling over vast swathes of Europe including Southern Italy, Austria and the Low Countries of the Netherlands and Belgium.

A product of dynastic  intermarriage , focused on extending the European ambitions of the Habsburg dynasty , Charles was actually born in Ghent . He was raised here and in fact spent half his life here , as well as travelliing extensively in his European territories throughout his reign .

Charles Flemish origins and the wealth of the Low Countties and the importance of mercantile port cities such as Antwerp to the Spanish treasury , meant it played a central time in the affairs of the Spanish Crown.

When his son, Phillip 2, also a devout Catholic , assumed the throne in 1560 at the end of Charles’half century  long reign , he was not easily going to forget his fathers legacy or the importance role of the Low Countries in the giant Spanish Empire



Throughout the 16th century Northern Europe has been in the grip of the Reformation centuries in the teachings of Martin Luther and his followers .

Charles the V had been relatively tolerant of this Growing Protestant movement but when this impacted on the call for independence for the Low Countries from Spain it unleashed a long period of conflict which became known as the 80 years war



Antwerp is on the River Scheldt, linked to the North Sea by the river’s Westerschelde estuary. It is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Brussels, and about 15 kilometres (9 mi) south of the Dutch border.

The Port of Antwerp is one of the biggest in the world, ranking second in Europe. and within the top 20 globally. The city is also known for its diamond industry and trade. Both economically and culturally, Antwerp is and has long been an important city in the Low Countries,

After the silting-up of the Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, grew in importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp, Antwerp became the sugar capital of Europe, importing the raw commodity from Portuguese and Spanish plantations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The city attracted Italian and German sugar refiners by 1550, and shipped their refined product to Germany, especially Cologne.

Antwerp’s Golden Age is tightly linked to the “Age of Exploration”. During the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps.

Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2,000 carts entered the city each week.

Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo.”It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Spanish colonization of the Americas”

Dutch Golden Age - Rubens Statue, Antwerp
Dutch Golden Age – Rubens Statue, Antwerp

By 1504, the Portuguese had established Antwerp as one of their main shipping bases, bringing in spices from Asia and trading them for textiles and metal goods.

The city’s trade expanded to include cloth from England, Italy and Germany, wines from Germany, France and Spain, salt from France, and wheat from the Baltic. The city’s skilled workers processed soap, fish, sugar, and especially cloth.

The Bourse, Antwerp

Dutch Golden Age - Bourse, Antwerp
Dutch Golden Age – Bourse, Antwerp

The Bourse of Antwerp, originally built in 1531 and re-built in 1872, was the world’s first purpose-built commodity exchange. It was founded before stocks and shares existed, so was not strictly a stock exchange.

Moneylenders and financiers developed a large business lending money all over Europe. Antwerp had a highly efficient bourse that itself attracted rich bankers from around Europe.

Antwerp became “the centre of the entire international economy, something Bruges had never been even at its height.”Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time.

The economy of Antwerp was foreigner-controlled, which made the city very cosmopolitan, with merchants and traders from Venetian Republic, Republic of Genoa, Republic of Ragusa, Spain and Portugal. Antwerp had a policy of toleration, which attracted a large crypto-Jewish community composed of migrants from Spain and Portugal.

Banks helped finance the trade, the merchants, and the manufacturers. The city was a cosmopolitan center; its bourse opened in 1531, “To the merchants of all nations.”

Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age: the first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559, based on the textiles industry. At the beginning of the 16th century Antwerp accounted for 40% of world trade.

Amsterdam replaced Antwerp as the major trading center for the region.

Dutch Golden Age - Grote Markt, Antwerp
Dutch Golden Age – Grote Markt, Antwerp


Reformation era

The northern part of Belgica Regia, comprising seven provinces and eventually forming the Dutch Republic, became increasingly Protestant (specifically, Calvinist), while the larger part, comprising the ten southern provinces, remained primarily Catholic.

When Philip II ascended the Spanish throne he tried to abolish all Protestantism.


The Eighty Years War

The Eighty Years’ War or Dutch War of Independence (1566–1648)was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces.

Beeldenstorm in Dutch (roughly “image storm” or “statue storm”), and Bildersturm in German (“image/statue storm”) are terms used for outbreaks of destruction of religious images that occurred in Europe in the 16th century, known in English as the Great Iconoclasm or Iconoclastic Fury.

During these spates of iconoclasm, Catholic art and many forms of church fittings and decoration were destroyed in unofficial or mob actions by Calvinist Protestants crowds as part of the Protestant Reformation. Most of the destruction was of art in churches and public places.

Similar outbreaks of iconoclasm took place in other parts of Europe, especially in Switzerland and the Holy Roman Empire in the period between 1522 and 1566, notably Zürich (in 1523), Copenhagen (1530), Münster (1534), Geneva(1535), and Augsburg (1537).

After the Iconoclastic Fury of 1566, Spanish authorities were able to largely gain control of the Low Countries. The most notable event of this period was the Battle of Oosterweel, in which Spanish forces destroyed an army of Dutch Calvinists. King Philip II sent in Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, as Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands from 1567 to 1573. Alba established a special court called the Council of Troubles (nicknamed the “Council of Blood”).

The Blood Council’s reign of terror saw it condemn thousands of people to death without due process and drive the nobles into exile while seizing their property. Alba boasted that he had burned or executed 18,600 persons in the Netherlands, in addition to the far greater number he massacred during the war, many of them women and children; 8,000 persons were burned or hanged in one year, and the total number of Alba’s Flemish victims can not have fallen short of 50,000.

Under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They eventually were able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in 1581 they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.


Antwerp  and the War

The initial battle broke out the 13th of March 1567, near the old Church in Osterweel, in the northern area of Antwerp. Indeed, Some see the battle of Oosterweel as the historical start of the Eighty Years War.

Today the church is standing in the middle of the Port of Antwerp. It is completely restored and is registered as UNESCO world heritage site.

When the Eighty Years’ War broke out in 1568, commercial trading between Antwerp and the Spanish port of Bilbao collapsed and became impossible.


Spanish Fury

On 4 November 1576, Spanish soldiers sacked the city during the so-called Spanish Fury: 7,000 citizens were massacred, 800 houses were burnt down, and over £2 million sterling of damage was donne. The Grote Market was almost destroyed.

War between England and Spain, the Anglo-Spanish War  broke out, forcing Spanish troops to halt their advances and leaving them in control of the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent, but without control of Antwerp, which was then arguably the most important port in the world

Antwerp fell on August 17, 1585, after a siege, and the division between the Northern and Southern Netherlands (the latter mostly modern Belgium) was established.

In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and as part of the terms of surrender its Protestant citizens were given two years to settle their affairs before quitting the city.

Most went to the United Provinces in the north, starting the Dutch Golden Age. Antwerp’s banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa, and Amsterdam became the new trading centre.


Reconquest of Antwerp

Antwerp was one of the richest cities in northern Europe and a rebel stronghold ever since Spanish and Walloon troops sacked it in 1576. The city was open to the sea, strongly fortified, and well defended under the leadership of Marnix van St. Aldegonde. Engineer Sebastian Baroccio cut off all access to the sea by constructing a bridge of boats across the Scheldt.

The Dutch sailed fireships, called Hellburners, against the bridge and one of the exploding infernal machines blew up a 200-foot-long span and killed 800 Spaniards. The besiegers repaired the damage, however, and pressed the investment. The city surrendered in 1585 as 60,000 Antwerp citizens (60% of the pre-siege population) fled north. Brussels, Mechelen and Geertruidenberg fell the same year.

In a war composed mostly of sieges rather than battles, Farnese proved his mettle. His strategy was to offer generous terms for surrender: there would be no massacres or looting; historic urban privileges were retained; there was a full pardon and amnesty; return to the Catholic Church would be gradual.

Meanwhile, Catholic refugees from the North regrouped in Cologne and Douai and developed a more militant, tridentine identity. They became the mobilizing forces of a popular Counter-Reformation in the South, thereby facilitating the eventual emergence of the state of Belgium.

In 1601, the Spanish besieged Ostend. The three-year-long siege produced more than 100,000 casualties before Ostend finally fell to the Spanish in 1604.

While the former northern part of Belgica Regia, the Seven United Provinces, gained independence, Southern Belgica Regia remained under the rule of Spain (1556–1713). The Walloons spoke French and were distinguished from the Flemish who used Dutch. Yet court accounts were kept in Spanish.


The Dutch Republic

The devastation also caused Antwerp’s decline as the leading city in the region and paved the way for Amsterdam’s rise.The city joined the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and became the capital of the Dutch Revolt

The United Provinces (roughly today’s Netherlands) fought on until the Twelve Years’ Truce, which did not end the hostilities. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Eighty Years’ War between the Dutch Republic and Spain and the Thirty Years’ War between other European superpowers, brought the Dutch Republic formal recognition and independence from the Spanish crown.



The Dutch Revolt spread to the south in the mid-1570s after the Army of Flanders mutinied for lack of pay and went on the rampage in several cities. At the Battle of Gembloux, on January 31, 1578, the Dutch, who were retiring from Namur, were followed by Don Juan of Austria, who sent forward a picked force of 1,600 men, under Gonzaga and Mondragón in pursuit; they attacked the rearguard, under Philip Egmont, and dispersed it, and then, falling suddenly upon the main body, utterly routed it, killing at least 10,000 rebels.

The Spaniards lost 10 or 11 at most. Don Juan of Austria died on October 1, 1578, and was succeeded by Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma.

With the arrival of large numbers of troops from Spain, Farnese began a campaign of reconquest in the south. He took advantage of the divisions in the ranks of his opponents between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Walloons to foment growing discord.By doing so he was able to bring back the Walloon provinces to an allegiance to the king. By the treaty of Arras in 1579, he secured the support of the “Malcontents”, as the Catholic nobles of the south were styled.

The seven northern provinces, controlled by Calvinists, responded with the Union of Utrecht, where they resolved to stick together to fight Spain. Farnese secured his base in Hainaut and Artois, then moved against Brabant and Flanders.

He captured many rebel towns in the south: Maastricht (1579), Tournai (1581), Oudenaarde (1582), Dunkirk (1583), Bruges (1584), and Ghent (1584). On August 17, 1585, Farnese laid siege to the great seaport of Antwerp.



3)      WILLIAM OF ORANGE, Delft 

William of Orange was the Dutch Noble that led the resistance and was credited with the eventual victory .

On March 15, 1580, the Spanish king Phillip 11 declared Dutch freedom fighter William of Orange an outlaw. He survived several attempted murders. William’s final days were spent in Delft, in what is now the Prinsenhof. He felt relatively safe there, but a Frenchmen, Balthasar Gerards, managed to force his way in, and shot William at close range.

The Prinsenhof is an urban palace built in the Middle Ages as a monastery. Later it served as a residence for William, also known as William the Silent. The holes in the wall made by the bullets at the main stairs are still visible.

New Church, Delft

William is buried in the New Church built in 1386.In the centuries since other Dutch royals descended from the line of their founder freedom fighter .. the House of Orange..have chosen to be interned here too.

Despite its impressive stained glass windows, Delft’s New Church sets a tone common to many Dutch churches. Devoid of lavish decoration , the interiors are almost austere, a reaction to the grand ornamentation of many Catholic Churches. After the Spanish were defeated many Catholic Churches had been sacked and ornamentation removed as a sign of protest. Dutch protestants stripped previously Catholic Churches such as the New Church, of their icons  regarding them as  symbols as idolatry.

The tower of the New Church has been a recognisable landmark in Delft for centuries.
Formerly the church of St. Ursula (14th century), it’s now the burial place of the princes of Orange, and members of the Dutch Royal family. It reaches 108.75 metres (356.79 feet), making it the second tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

The church is remarkable for its fine tower and chime of bells, indeed the mechanical clock has 18 bells from 1659 and 30 modern bells. The largest one, is from 1662 by Francois Hemony and has a diameter of 104 centimetres.

The church is so tall, that back in 1586, Flemish scientist Simon Stevin used the church’s tower to conduct an experiment on gravitational forces



Migration of skilled workers to Netherlands

Under the terms of the surrender of Antwerp in 1585, the Protestant population (if unwilling to reconvert) were given four years to settle their affairs before leaving the city and Habsburg territory.

Similar arrangements were made in other places. Protestants were especially well-represented among the skilled craftsmen and rich merchants of the port cities of Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp.


Many of those moving north settled in Amsterdam, transforming what was a small port into what would soon  become one of the most important ports and commercial centres in the world by 1630.

In addition to the mass migration  from the Southern Netherlands, there were also significant influxes of non-native refugees who had previously fled from religious persecution, particularly Sephardi Jews from Portugal and Spain, and later Huguenots from France. The Pilgrim Fathers also spent time there before their voyage to the New World.


Protestant work ethic

Economists attribute part of the Dutch ascendancy to its Protestant work ethic based on Calvinism, which promoted thrift and education. This contributed to the lowest interest rates and the highest literacy rates in Europe.

The abundance of capital made it possible to maintain an impressive stock of wealth, embodied not only in the large fleet but in the plentiful stocks of an array of commodities that were used to stabilize prices and take advantage of profit opportunities.


Cheap energy sources

A necessary condition was a supply of cheap energy from windmills and from peat, easily transported by canal to the cities.

The invention of the wind-powered sawmill enabled the construction of a massive fleet of ships for worldwide trading and for military defence of the republic’s economic interests.




Zaanse Schans 

Unlike the Kinderdijk windmills, the Zaanse Schans windmills weren’t used for draining water. In the Dutch Golden age, the Zaanse Schans was a gigantic industrial area with thousands of windmills sawing wood from Scandinavia and making paper. There are still 16 windmills left.

De Kat, meaning “The Cat was built in 1664 and even now it produces paints and pigments of high quality. These are supplied to artists and restorers across the world. Apart from paint, the mill also produces chalk, pigments and oils. When you enter the mill, the entire building vibrates with the milling. The primal strength of the building is also the reason that the mill has been in existence for such a long time.




Geography also favoured the Dutch Republic, contributing to its wealth. The foundations were laid by taking advantage of location, midway between the Bay of Biscay and the Baltic. Seville and Lisbon and the Baltic ports were too far apart for direct trade between the two terminal points, enabling the Dutch to provide profitable intermediation, carrying salt, wine, and cloth and later silver, spices, and colonial products eastward while bringing Baltic grains, fish, and naval stores to the west.

The Dutch share of European shipping tonnage was enormous, well over half during most of the period of their ascendancy.

The coastal provinces of Holland and Zeeland had been important hubs of the European maritime trade network for centuries prior to Spanish rule.

Their geographical location provided convenient access to the markets of France, Scotland, Germany, England and the Baltic.

The war with Spain led many financiers and traders to emigrate from Antwerp, a major city in Flanders and then one of Europe’s most important commercial centers, to Dutch cities, particularly Amsterdam, which became Europe’s foremost centre for shipping, banking, and insurance. Efficient access to capital enabled the Dutch in the 1580s to extend their trade routes beyond northern Europe to new markets in the Mediterranean and the Levant.



Dutch foreign adventures

In the 1590s, Dutch ships began to trade with Brazil and the Dutch Gold Coast of Africa, towards the Indian Ocean, and the source of the lucrative spice trade. This brought the Dutch into direct competition with Portugal, which had dominated these trade routes for several decades, and had established colonial outposts on the coasts of Brazil, Africa and the Indian Ocean to facilitate them.

The rivalry with Portugal, however, was not entirely economic: from 1580, the Portuguese crown had been joined to that of Spain in an “Iberian Union” under the heir of Emperor Charles V, Philip II of Spain.

By attacking Portuguese overseas possessions, the Dutch forced Spain to divert financial and military resources away from its attempt to quell Dutch independence. Thus began the several decade-long Dutch-Portuguese War.

In 1594, the Compagnie van Verre (“Company of Far Lands”) was founded in Amsterdam, with the aim of sending two fleets to the spice islands of Maluku. The first fleet sailed in 1596 and returned in 1597 with a cargo of pepper, which more than covered the costs of the voyage.

The second voyage (1598–1599), returned its investors a 400% profit. The success of these voyages led to the founding of a number of companies competing for the trade. The competition was counterproductive to the companies’ interests as it threatened to drive up the price of spices at their source in Indonesia whilst driving them down in Europe.



Birth and wealth of corporate finance

In 1602 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was founded. It was the first-ever multinational corporation, financed by shares that established the first modern stock exchange. The Company received a Dutch monopoly on Asian trade, which it would keep for two centuries, and it became the world’s largest commercial enterprise of the 17th century.

Spices were imported in bulk and brought huge profits due to the efforts and risks involved and seemingly insatiable demand. This is remembered to this day in the Dutch word peperduur (as expensive as pepper), meaning something is very expensive, reflecting the prices of spices at the time. To finance the growing trade within the region, the Bank of Amsterdam was established in 1609, the precursor to, if not the first true central bank.

Although the trade with the Far East was the more famous of the VOC’s exploits, the main source of wealth for the Republic was in fact its trade with the Baltic states and Poland. Called the “Mothertrade” , the Dutch imported enormous amounts of bulk resources like grain and wood, stockpiling them in Amsterdam so Holland would never lack for basic goods, as well as being able sell them on for profit.

This meant that unlike their main rivals the Republic wouldn’t face the dire repercussions of a bad harvest and the starvation it accompanied, instead profiting when this happened in other states (bad harvests were commonplace in France and England in the 17th century, which also contributed to the Republic’s success in that time). In time the Dutch traders gained such a dominant position in Poland and the Baltic they all but turned into de facto satellite states.



Dutch East India Company. The Rise of Dutch economic hegemony (1602–1652)

As a result of the problems caused by inter-company rivalry, the Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602. The charter awarded to the Company by the States-General granted it sole rights, for an initial period of 21 years, to Dutch trade and navigation east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan.

The company was given the legal authority to establish “fortresses and strongholds”, to sign treaties, to enlist both an army and a navy, and to wage defensive war. The company itself was founded as a joint stock company, similarly to its English rival that had been founded two years earlier, the English East India Company.

In 1621, the Dutch West India Company (WIC) was set up and given a 25-year monopoly to those parts of the world not controlled by its East India counterpart: the Atlantic, the Americas and the west coast of Africa. The Dutch also established a trading post in Thailand in 1604.

The Spanish-Dutch War was for the Dutch also conducted against Phillip II’s overseas territories, including Spanish colonies and the Portuguese metropoles, colonies, trading posts and forts belonging at that time to the King of Spain and Portugal..

The Dutch  began the invasion and looting of Spanish (and, later, Portuguese) colonies in the Americas and of Asia, including an attempted invasion of the Philippines (then part of the Spanish East Indies).

The port of Lisbon in Portugal had been  the main European market for products from India . But as a result of Portugal’s incorporation in the Iberian Union with Spain by Philip II in 1580, all Portuguese territories were thereafter Spanish Habsburg branch territory, and thus all Portuguese markets were closed to the United Provinces.

Thus, in 1595, the Dutch decided to set sail on their own to acquire products for themselves, making use of the “secret” knowledge of the Portuguese trade routes.

Pursuing their quest for alternative routes to Asia for trade, the Dutch were disrupting the Spanish-Portuguese trade, and they eventually ranged as far afield as the Philippines.

The Dutch sought to dominate the commercial sea trade in Southeast Asia, going so far in pursuit of this goal as to engage in what other nations and powers considered to be little more than piratical activities.

The Portuguese victory at the Battle of Guararapes, ended Dutch presence in Brazil.

War with the Dutch led to attacks on most of Portugal’s far-flung trading network in and around Asia, including Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), and Goa, as well as attacks upon her commercial interests in Japan, Africa (especially Mina), and South America.



Portugal’s South American colony, Brazil, was partially conquered by both France and the United Provinces.

In the 17th Century, the “Grand Design” of the West India Company involved attempting to corner the international trade in sugar by attacking Portuguese colonies in Brazil and Africa, seizing both the sugarcane plantations and the slave ports needed to resupply their labour.

the Portuguese were able to fight off the initial assault before the Battle of Matanzas Bay provided the WIC with the funds needed for a successful operation.

Johan Maurits was appointed governor of “New Holland” and landed at Recife in January 1637. In a series of successful expeditions, he gradually extended the Dutch possessions .

The WIC also succeeded in conquering Goree, Elmina Castle, Saint Thomas, and Luanda on the west coast of Africa. Both regions were also used as bases for Dutch privateers plundering Portuguese and Spanish trade routes.

The Dutch were finally overcome during the 1650s but managed to receive (63 metric tons of gold) in exchange for extinguishing their claims over Brazil in the 1661 Treaty of the Hague.





Dejima, Japan: Monopoly on trade with Japan

Dejima is a small island in the port of Nagasaki which served as a Dutch trading post between 1641 and 1843, and was the only official place of trade between Japan and the outside world during the country’s 200-year period of isolation.

Amsterdam’s dominant position as a trade centre was strengthened in 1640 with a monopoly for the Dutch East India Company for trade with Japan through its trading post on Dejima, an island in the bay of Nagasaki. From here the Dutch traded between China and Japan and paid tribute to the shōgun.

The Dutch were watched by a number of Japanese officials, gatekeepers, night watchmen, and a supervisor with about fifty subordinates. Numerous merchants supplied goods and catering, and about 150 interpreters served. They all had to be paid by the VOC.

Every ship that arrived in Dejima was inspected. Its sails were held by the Japanese until they released the ship to leave. They confiscated religious books and weapons. The Dutch were not allowed to hold any religious services on the island.

Until 1854, the Dutch were Japan’s sole window to the western world. The collection of scientific learning introduced from Europe became known in Japan as Rangaku or Dutch Learning.

The Dutch were instrumental in transmitting to Japan some knowledge of the industrial and scientific revolution then occurring in Europe.

The Japanese purchased and translated numerous scientific books from the Dutch, obtained from them Western curiosities and manufactures (such as clocks) and received demonstrations of various Western innovations (such as electric phenomena, and the flight of a hot air balloon in the early 19th century).

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch were arguably the most economically wealthy and scientifically advanced of all European nations, which put them in a privileged position to transfer Western knowledge to Japan.

With the exception of Jakarta and Deshima, all had been captured by the Dutch East India Company from Portugal.

Malacca finally succumbed in 1641 (after a second attempt to capture it), Colombo in 1656, Ceylon in 1658, Nagappattinam in 1662 and Cranganore and Cochin in 1662.

Goa, the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East, was unsuccessfully attacked by the Dutch in 1603 and 1610. Whilst the Dutch were unable in four attempts to capture Macau from where Portugal monopolized the lucrative China-Japan trade, the Japanese shogunate’sincreasing suspicion of the intentions of the Catholic Portuguese led to their expulsion in 1639.



The Dutch established a colony  in the south of Taiwan, an island then largely dominated by Portuguese traders and known as Formosa; and in 1642 the Dutch took northern Formosa from the Spanish by force.

In 1661, amidst the Qing conquest of China, Ming general Koxinga led a fleet to invade Formosa. The Dutch defense, led by governor Frederick Coyett, held out for nine months. However, after Koxinga defeated Dutch reinforcements from Java, Coyett surrendered Formosa. The Dutch Empire would never rule Formosa again.

In 1646, the Dutch tried to take the Spanish colony in the Philippines.

After this defeat, the Dutch abandoned their efforts to take Manila and the Philippines.



Amsterdam -The Golden Age Capital

Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, has more than 100 kilometers (62 mi) of (canals), about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges.

The three main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht), dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city.

Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings.The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site contributing to Amsterdam’s fame as the “Venice of the North”.

Many of the canal houses in the Amsterdam Canal District are from the Dutch Golden Age, 17th century. Many of these buildings, however, have undergone restoration or reconstruction since meaning thebuilding now display many different architectural styles and facades.

From about 1660, the canals were extended to the Amstel; these extensions bear the names: Nieuwe Herengracht, Nieuwe Keizersgracht and Nieuwe Prinsengracht. With this expansion, the city formed its iconic crescent shape.


CANAL TRADE, Amsterdam

Trade exploded in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Golden Age. In one very ambitious expansion project that took 50 years, the 3 main canals of the city were dug and the houses around them were built. Completed around 1660, it made the city grow to 4 times its size and gave it the most intricate and efficient system of navigable waterways in the world. A maze of connecting canals brought merchandise from all over the world to the doorstep of every canalside merchant.


Canal traffic

A fleet of thousands of small barges carried the goods from the big ships in the harbour to every corner of the city. More than a thousand warehouses on the canal-sides were supplied by these man-powered barges.


Pics houses

These houses served as both homes and workplaces for many of the merchants, and you can still see evidence of this today in the fact that the basement floors of many canal houses include large doors used as entranceways to the shop or for storage. The workplace and storage for the merchants would be downstairs, while their residential quarters would be up a series of steps. The elevated steps helped to protect the residence from potential flooding.

If you look up, you will see many of the gables are adorned with a hook.  Not a decoration, the hook is there to enable residents to pull large, bulky objects up and into a window at the proper floor.  Most homes in Amsterdam have narrow, steep, often winding staircases that make it difficult to bring large, bulky objects

The Trip brothers, arms traders, built the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam, currently the seat of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is a typical example of 17th-century architecture.


Dutch Golden Age painting followed many of the tendencies that dominated Baroque art in other parts of Europe, such as Caravaggesque and naturalism, but was the leader in developing the subjects of still life, landscape, and genre painting. Portraiture was also popular, but history painting – traditionally the most-elevated genre – struggled to find buyers.

Church art was virtually non-existent, and little sculpture of any kind was produced. While art collecting and painting for the open market was also common elsewhere, art historians point to the growing number of wealthy Dutch middle-class and successful mercantile patrons as driving forces in the popularity of certain pictorial subjects.


Popular Works

In the Netherlands in the 17th century, social status was largely determined by income. The landed nobility had relatively little importance,  It  was the urban merchant class that dominated Dutch society.

The clergy did not have much worldly influence either: the Roman Catholic Church had been more or less suppressed since the onset of the Eighty Years’ War with Spain. The new Protestant movement was divided, although exercising social control in many areas to an even greater extent than under the Catholic Church.

Workers and labourers were generally paid better than in most of Europe, and enjoyed relatively high living standards, although they also paid higher than normal taxes. Farmers prospered from mainly cash crops needed to support the urban and seafaring population.

This trend, along with the lack of Counter-Reformation church patronage that dominated the arts in Catholic Europe, resulted in the great number of “scenes of everyday life” or genre paintings, and other secular subjects.

Landscapes and seascapes, for example, reflect the land reclaimed from the sea and the sources of trade and naval power that mark the Republic’s Golden Age.

Where rich aristocrats often became patrons of art in other countries, because of their comparative absence in the Netherlands this role was played by wealthy merchants and other patricians.

Centres of cultural activity were town militia and chambers of rhetoric. The former were created for town defence and policing, but also served as a meeting-place for the well-to-do, who were proud to play a prominent part and paid well to see this preserved for posterity by means of a group portrait. The latter were associations at a city level that fostered literary activities, like poetry, drama and discussions, often through contests. Cities took pride in their associations and promoted them.

One subject that is quite characteristic of Dutch Baroque painting is the large group portrait, especially of civic and militia guilds, such as Rembrandt van Rijn’s Night Watch. A special genre of still life was the so-called pronkstilleven (Dutch for ‘ostentatious still life’). This style of ornate still-life painting was developed in the 1640s in Antwerp by Flemish artists such as Frans Snyders, Osias Beert, Adriaen van Utrecht and a whole generation of Dutch Golden Age painters. They painted still lives that emphasized abundance by depicting a diversity of objects, fruits, flowers and dead game, often together with living people and animals. The style was soon adopted by artists from the Dutch Republic.

Today, the best-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age are the period’s most dominant figure Rembrandt, the Delft master of genre Johannes Vermeer, the innovative landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael, and Frans Hals, who infused new life into portraiture. Some notable artistic styles and trends include Haarlem Mannerism, Utrecht Caravaggism, the School of Delft, the Leiden fijnschilders, and Dutch classicism.

A number of Amsterdam’s famous residents have had their homes preserved and turned into museums, most notably the Rembrandt Van Rijn.


Rembrandt House, Amsterdam

Rembrandt lived and worked in the house between 1639 and 1656. The 17th-century interior has been reconstructed. The collection contains Rembrandt’s etchings and paintings of his contemporaries.

Rembrandt lived here until he went bankrupt in 1656, when all his belongings went on auction. The auction list enabled the reconstructions of all his belongings which are also on display in the house.


The Night Watch

The Night Watch is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings. It depicts the eponymous company moving out, led by Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash).  Captain Frans Banninck Cocq  He became captain of the militia after returning to Amsterdam. In 1630 he married Maria Overlander van Purmerland, the only surviving child of Volkert Overlander, merchant and one of the founders of the Dutch East Trading Company, and a few times burgemeester of Amsterdam. When his father-in-law died, Banninck Cocq inherited his properties.



Amsterdam in the 17th century was enjoying its Golden Age. Freed from Spanish Catholic rule  after a bitter war, the new Protestant nation had become a major European force thanks to its sea and trading power.

The Rijksmuseum holds many of the treasures from this era of boom ,and eventually bust, symbolised by the work of great master artists such as Rembrandt.

His masterpiece, the Night Watch, remains one of the defining works from the Age.

The Golden Age masters made their reputations in portraiture. Their representations of society players in newly independent Protestant Holland is among their  best known work. But they also dabbled in landscapes, still life, and everyday life.

From Amsterdam, a picturesque ride through the back routes and canals along bike trails which avoid the traffic take you to nearby Haarlem, home to a museum which exhibits the work of Frans Hals, another master painter from the Golden Age.

Hals is overshadowed by Rembrandt but as a portrait painter he is seen by some critics as his equal . Hals too painted some exquisite portraits of members of Dutch Society in the 17th century.


*Meeting of the Officers and Sergeants  of the Calivermen Civic Guard, 1633

* Banquet of the Officers of the St George Civic Guard , 1616

* Regents of St Elizabeth’s  Hospital 1641

Another two pics on my phone )

Hals lived and painted into his 80s and the museum is located in a poor house in Haarlem where he produced a lot of his later work.

*The Traveller, 1650

*Regents of the Old Men’s Alms House 1664


Delft, like many Dutch cities, then  grew rich during the Golden Age as trade and business soared. Delft became famous for its reproduction of Chinese porcelain, which provided the foundation for Delft’s pottery businesses.

Wealth created the demand for art and Vermeer, like Rembrandt and Hals, was sort after as a portrait artist although he is best known  for his exquisite use of light and as a painter of daily life and ordinary people.

The Little Street 1637

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, 1663

The Milkmaid 1658

The Astronomer 1668

Young Wiman with a Water Jug 1665



A Great European Power

The Dutch also continued to dominatetrade between European countries. The Low Countries were favourably positioned at a crossing of east-west and north-south trade routes, and connected to a large German hinterland through the Rhine River. Dutch traders shipped wine from France and Portugal to the Baltic lands and returned with grain for countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

By the 1680s, an average of nearly 1000 Dutch ships entered the Baltic Sea each year, to trade with markets. The Dutch were able to gain control of much of the trade with the nascent English colonies in North America; and after the end of war with Spain in 1648, Dutch trade with that country also flourished.


Other industries

National industries expanded as well. Shipyards and sugar refineries are prime examples. As more and more land was utilized, partially through transforming lakes into polders such as the Beemster, Schermer and Purmer, local grain production and dairy farming soared.


National consciousness

The outcome of the revolt against Spain, better known as the Eighty Years’ War, almost certainly would have boosted national morale. Already in 1609 much of this was accomplished, when a temporary truce was signed with Spain, which would last for 12 years.



Calvinism was the state religion in the Dutch Republic, Although the Netherlands was a tolerant nation compared to neighbouring states, wealth and social status belonged almost exclusively to Protestants.

The cities with a predominantly Catholic background, such as Utrecht and Gouda, did not enjoy the benefits of the Golden Age. As for the Protestant towns, in the beginning of the century bitter controversies between strict Calvinists and more permissive Protestants, known as Remonstrants, split the country.

The Remonstrants denied predestination and championed freedom of conscience, while their more dogmatic adversaries (known as Contra-Remonstrants) gained a major victory at the Synod of Dort(1618–19). The variety of sects may well have worked to make religious intolerance impractical.

Renaissance Humanism, of which Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466–1536) was an important advocate, had also gained a firm foothold and was partially responsible for a climate of tolerance.

Tolerance towards Catholics was not so easy to uphold,

Thus Catholics could buy the privilege of holding ceremonies in a conventicle (a house doubling inconspicuously as a church), but public offices were out of the question. Catholics tended to keep to themselves in their own section of each town, even though they were one of the largest single denominations: for example, the Catholic painter Johannes Vermeer lived in the “Papist corner” of the town of Delft. The same applied to Anabaptists and Jews.

Overall, the country was tolerant enough to attract religious refugees from other countries, notably Jewish merchants from Portugal who brought much wealth with them. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France in 1685 resulted in the immigration of many French Huguenots, many of whom were shopkeepers or scientists.

Amsterdam Canal
Amsterdam Canal

The Jews in Amsterdam

The Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga, or  Snoge, is a late 17th-century Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam, completed in 1675. Esnoga is the word for synagogue in Ladino, the traditional Judaeo-Spanish language of Sephardic Jews.

The Amsterdam Sephardic community was one of the largest and richest Jewish communities in Europe during the Dutch Golden Age, and their very large synagogue reflected this. The synagogue remains an active place of worship and is also a popular tourist attraction.



The Kaaswaag (Cheese Weigh House) in Gouda, finished in 1667, was designed by architect Pieter Post (1608–1669), as was the Waag in Leiden.

Dutch architecture was taken to a new height in the Golden Age. Cities expanded greatly as the economy thrived. New town halls, weighhouses and storehouses were built.

Merchants who had made their fortune ordered a new house along one of the many new canals that were dug out in and around many cities (for defence and transport purposes), a house with an ornamented façade that befitted their new status. In the countryside, many new castles and stately homes were built; but most of them have not survived.

From 1585, many reformed churches were commissioned .



Leiden was the Birthplace of Rembrandt. It’s also famous for its windmill, one of the oldest in the Netherlands dating back to 1723 . It  was working until 50 years ago.

Leiden was at the centre of Tulipmania which gripped the Netherlands in the 16th century.Its botanical gardens is the oldest in the Netherlands and was where Carolus Clausius cultivated the first tulips from a single bulb brought here from Ottoman Turkey. It’s also where Franz Von Siebold brought more than 700 unknown plants as Ditch traders reached out around the world.

The  great master Rembrandt spent the first 25 years of his life in Leiden before being lured to Amsterdam.

Due to its climate of intellectual tolerance, the Dutch Republic attracted scientists and other thinkers from all over Europe. In particular, the renowned University of Leiden (established in 1575 by the Dutch stadtholder Willem van Oranje as a token of gratitude for Leiden’s fierce resistance against Spain during the Eighty Years’ War) became a gathering place for intellectuals.

Among them were  Jan Amos Comenius, the Czech educator and writer, who was known for his theories of education, but also as a pioneer of Czech Protestantism during the 17th century. To escape the Counter-Reformation, he migrated to the Dutch Republic and is buried in Naarden, North Holland.

Comenius accepted the invitation of Laurens de Geer to visit Amsterdam, where he lived the last 14 years of his life (1656–1670). He published his most important works there: 43 volumes in all, about half of his total output.

French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650) lived in Holland from 1628 until 1649. He also had his most important works published in Amsterdam and Leiden.

Another French-born philosopher, Pierre Bayle, left France in 1681 for the Dutch Republic, where he became a professor of history and philosophy at the Illustrious School of Rotterdam. He lived in Rotterdam until his death in 1706.

As Bertrand Russell noted in his A History of Western Philosophy (1945), It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Holland in the 17th century, as the one country where there was freedom of speculation. Hobbes had to have his books printed there; Locke took refuge there during the five worst years of reaction in England before 1688; Bayle (of the Dictionary) found it necessary to live there; and Spinoza would hardly have been allowed to do his work in any other country.”

Dutch lawyers were famous for their knowledge of international law of the sea and commercial law.

Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) played a leading part in the foundation of international law. He invented the concept of the “Free seas” or Mare liberum, which was fiercely contested by England, the Netherlands’ main rival for domination of world trade. He also formulated laws on conflicts between nations in his book De iure belli ac pacis (“On law of war and peace”).

Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) was a famous astronomer, physicist and mathematician. He invented the pendulum clock, which was a major step forward towards exact timekeeping. Among his contributions to astronomy was his explanation of Saturn’s planetary rings. He also contributed to the field of optics.

The most famous Dutch scientist in the area of optics is Anton van Leeuwenhoek, who was the first to methodically study microscopic life—he was the first person to describe bacteria—thus laying the foundations for the field of microbiology. The “microscopes” were simple magnifiers, not compound microscopes. His skill in grinding lenses (some as small as 1mm in diameter) resulted in a magnification as high as 245x. Today, grinding and polishing is done with machinery or in-house tooling to create optics for microscopes and other optics.

Famous Dutch hydraulic engineer Jan Leeghwater (1575–1650) gained important victories in the Netherlands’ eternal battle against the sea. Leeghwater added a considerable amount of land to the republic by converting several large lakes into polders, pumping the water out with windmills.



Again due to the Dutch climate of tolerance, book publishers flourished. Many books on religion, philosophy and science that might have been deemed controversial abroad were printed in the Netherlands and secretly exported to other countries. Thus during the 17th century the Dutch Republic became more and more Europe’s publishing house.



The Dutch Empire enabled spices, sugar, and exotic fruits to be imported to the country. By the late 17th century, tea and coffee consumption were increasing and becoming part of everyday life. Tea was served with sweets, candy or marzipan and cookies. A rich Dutch mealtime of the time contained many extravagant dishes and drinks.

The Amsterdam was an 18th-century cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company for transport between the Dutch Republic and the settlements and strongholds of the Dutch East India Company in the East Indies.

On an outward voyage these ships carried guns and bricks for the settlements and strongholds, and silver and golden coins to purchase Asian goods.

On a return journey the ships carried the goods that were purchased, such as spices, fabrics, and china. In both directions the ships carried victuals, clothes, and tools for the sailors and soldiers on the ship

A replica of the ship now lies moored in Amsterdam harbor.


The Dutch Empire

The Dutch Empire  comprised the overseas colonies, enclaves, and outposts controlled and administered by Dutch chartered companies, mainly the Dutch West India and the Dutch East India Company, and subsequently by the Dutch Republic (1581–1795), and the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1815.

It was initially a trade-based entity which derived most of its influence from merchant enterprise and Dutch control of international maritime shipping routes through strategically placed outposts, rather than expansive territorial ventures. With a few exceptions, the majority of the Dutch Empire’s overseas holdings consisted of coastal forts, factories, and port settlements with varying degrees of incorporation of their hinterlands and surrounding regions.


Dutch chartered companies often dictated that their possessions be kept as confined as possible to avoid unnecessary expense, and while some such as the Dutch Cape Colony (modern South Africa) and Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) expanded anyway due to the pressure of independently minded Dutch colonists, others remained undeveloped, isolated trading centers dependent on an indigenous host nation.

This was reflective of the fact that the primary network of the Dutch Empire was commercial exchange as opposed to sovereignty over a homogeneous landmass.

The imperial ambitions of the Dutch were bolstered by the strength of their existing shipping industry, as well as the key role they played in the expansion of maritime trade between Europe and the Orient.

The Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company in the early seventeenth century were considered the largest and most extensive maritime trading companies at the time, and once held a virtual monopoly on strategic European shipping routes westward through the Southern Hemisphere around South America through the Strait of Magellan, and eastward around Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope.

The companies’ brief domination of global commerce contributed greatly to a commercial revolution and a cultural flowering in the Dutch Golden Age.

In their search for new trade passages between Asiaand Europe, Dutch navigators explored and charted vast regions such as New Zealand, Tasmania, and parts of the eastern coast of North America.




The Americas

Americas and Africa

In the Atlantic, the West India Company concentrated on wresting from Portugal its grip on the sugar and slave trade, and on opportunistic attacks on the Spanish treasure fleets on their homeward bound voyage.

In 1628, Piet Heyn captured the entire Spanish treasure fleet, and made off with a vast fortune in precious metals and goods that enabled the Company two years later to pay its shareholders a cash dividend of 70%, though the Company was to have relatively few other successes against the Spanish.

Bahia on the north east coast of Brazil was captured in 1624 but only held for a year before it was recaptured by a joint Spanish-Portuguese expedition.

In 1630, the Dutch occupied the Portuguese sugar-settlement of Pernambuco and over the next few years pushed inland, annexing the sugar plantations that surrounded it.

In order to supply the plantations with the manpower they required, a successful expedition was launched in 1637 from Brazil to capture the Portuguese slaving post of Elmina, and in 1641 successfully captured the Portuguese settlements in Angola.

In 1642, the Dutch captured the Portuguese possession of Axim in Africa. By 1650, the West India Company was firmly in control of both the sugar and slave trades, and had occupied the Caribbean islands of Sint Maarten, Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire in order to guarantee access to the islands’ salt-pans.

Pics salt slave huts


Slavery was not abolished in the Dutch Caribbean colonies until 1863, long after those of Britain and France, though by this time only 6,500 slaves remained. In Suriname, slave holders demanded compensation from the Dutch government for freeing slaves, whilst in Sint Maarten, abolition of slavery in the French half in 1848 led slaves in the Dutch half to take their own freedom.

In Suriname, after the abolition of slavery, Chinese workers were encouraged to immigrate as indentured labourers, as were Javanese, between 1890 and 1939.

Unlike in Asia, Dutch successes against the Portuguese in Brazil and Africa were short-lived. Years of settlement had left large Portuguese communities under the rule of the Dutch, who were by nature traders rather than colonisers.

In 1645, the Portuguese community at Pernambuco rebelled against their Dutch masters, and by 1654, the Dutch had been ousted from Brazil. In the intervening years, a Portuguese expedition had been sent from Brazil to recapture Luanda in Angola, by 1648 the Dutch were expelled from there also.

Meanwhile, On the north-east coast of North America, the West India Company took over a settlement that had been established at Fort Orange at Albany on the Hudson River, relocated from Fort Nassau which had been founded in 1614.

The Dutch had been sending ships annually to the Hudson River to trade fur since Henry Hudson’s voyage of 1609. To protect its precarious position at Albany from the nearby English and French, the Company founded the fortified town of New Amsterdam in 1625, at the mouth of the Hudson, encouraging settlement of the surrounding areas of Long Island and New Jersey.

The fur trade ultimately proved impossible for the Company to monopolize due to the massive illegal private trade in furs, and the settlement of New Netherland was unprofitable.

In 1655, the nearby colony of New Sweden on the Delaware River was forcibly absorbed into New Netherland after ships and soldiers were sent to capture it by the Dutch governor, Pieter Stuyvesant.

Since its inception, the Dutch East India Company had been in competition with its English counterpart, founded two years earlier but with a capital base eight times smaller, for the same goods and markets in the East.

In 1619, the rivalry resulted in the Amboyna massacre, when several English Company men were executed by agents of the Dutch. The event remained a source of English resentment for several decades, and indeed was used as a cause célèbre as late as the Second Anglo-Dutch Warin the 1660s; nevertheless, in the late 1620s the English Company shifted its focus from Indonesia to India.

In 1643, the Dutch West India Company established a settlement in the ruins of the Spanish settlement of Valdivia, in southern Chile. The purpose of the expedition was to gain a foothold on the west coast of the Americas, an area that was almost entirely under the control of Spain (the Pacific Ocean, and to extract gold from nearby mines. This occupation triggered the return of the Spanish to Valdivia and the building of one of the largest defensive complexes of colonial America.


Southern Africa

By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company had overtaken Portugal as the dominant player in the spice and silk trade, and in 1652 founded a colony at the Cape of Good Hope on the southern African coast, as a victualing station for its ships on the route between Europe and Asia.

Dutch immigration in the Cape rapidly swelled as prospective colonists were offered generous grants of land and tax exempt status in exchange for producing the food needed to resupply passing ships.

The Cape authorities also imported a number of Europeans of other nationalities, namely Germans and French Huguenots, as well as thousands of slaves from the East Indies, to bolster the local Dutch workforce.

There was a degree of cultural assimilation between the various ethnic groups due to intermarriage and the universal adoption of the Dutch language

The Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope expanded beyond the initial settlement and its borders were formally consolidated as the composite Dutch Cape Colony in 1778. At the time, the Dutch had subdued the indigenous Khoisan and San peoples in the Cape and seized their traditional territories.

Dutch military expeditions further east were halted when they encountered the westward expansion of the Xhosa people. Hoping to avoid being drawn into a protracted dispute, the Dutch government and the Xhosa chieftains agreed to formally demarcate their respective areas of control and refrain from trespassing on each other’s borders.

However, the Dutch proved unable to control their own independently minded settlers, who disregarded the agreement and crossed into Xhosa territory, sparking one of Southern Africa’s longest colonial conflicts: the Xhosa Wars.




Shortly after reaching its zenith, the Dutch Empire began to decline as a result of the several Anglo-Dutch Wars, in which it lost many of its colonial possessions and trade monopolies to the British Empire.

In 1651, the English parliament had passed the first of the Navigation Acts which excluded Dutch shipping from the lucrative trade between England and its Caribbean colonies, and led directly to the outbreak of hostilities between the two countries the following year, the first of three Anglo-Dutch Wars that would last on and off for two decades and slowly erode Dutch naval power to England’s benefit.

The Second Anglo-Dutch War was precipitated in 1664, when English forces moved to capture New Netherland. Under the Treaty of Breda (1667), New Netherland was ceded to England in exchange for the English settlements in Suriname, which had been conquered by Dutch forces earlier that year.

Though the Dutch would again take New Netherland in 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, it was returned to England the following year, thereby ending the Dutch Empire in continental North America, but leaving behind a large Dutch community under English rule.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 saw the Dutch William of Orange ascend to the throne, and win the English, Scottish, and Irish crowns, ending eighty years of rivalry between the Netherlands and England, while the rivalry with France remained strong.

Then During the American Revolutionary War, just 80 years later Britain declared war on the Netherlands, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, in which Britain seized the Dutch colony of Ceylon.



Napoleonic era 

In 1795, the French revolutionary army invaded the Dutch Republic and turned the nation into a satellite of France, nammg it the Batavian Republic. Britain, which was at war with France, soon moved to occupy Dutch colonies in Asia, South Africa and the Caribbean.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Amiens signed by Britain and France in 1802, the Cape Colony and the islands of the Dutch West Indies that the British had seized were returned to the Republic.

Ceylon was not returned to the Dutch and was made a British Crown Colony. After the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and France again in 1803, the British retook the Cape Colony. The British also invaded and captured the island of Java in 1811.

In 1806, Napoleon dissolved the Batavian Republic and established a monarchy with his brother, Louis Bonaparte, on the throne as King of the Netherlands. Louis was removed from power by Napoleon in 1810, and the country was ruled directly from France until its liberation in 1813.

The following year, the independent Netherlands signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 with Britain. All the colonies Britain had seized were returned to the Netherlands, with the exception of the Cape Colony, Guyana and Sri Lanka.




After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, Europe’s borders were redrawn at the Congress of Vienna. For the first time since the declaration of independence from Spain in 1581, the Dutch were reunited with the Southern Netherlands in a constitutional monarchy, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. But The union lasted just 15 years. In 1830, a revolution in the southern half of the country led to the de facto independence of the new state of Belgium.

The bankrupt Dutch East India Company had been liquidated in 1800, and its territorial possessions were nationalized as the Dutch East Indies. Anglo-Dutch rivalry in Southeast Asia continued to fester over the port of Singapore, which had been ceded to the British East India Company in 1819 by the sultan of Johore.

The Dutch claimed that a treaty signed with the sultan’s predecessor the year earlier had granted them control of the region. However, the impossibility of removing the British from Singapore, which was becoming an increasingly important center of trade, became apparent to the Dutch, and the disagreement was resolved with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.

Under its terms, the Netherlands ceded Malacca and their bases in India to the British, and recognized the British claim to Singapore. In return, the British handed over Bencoolen and agreed not to sign treaties with rulers in the “islands south of the Straits of Singapore”. Thus the archipelago was divided into two spheres of influence: a British one, on the Malay Peninsula, and a Dutch one in the East Indies.



Between 1602 and 1796, the VOC had sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade. The majority died of disease or made their way back to Europe, but some of them made the Indies their new home. Interaction between the Dutch and native population mainly took place in Sri Lanka and the modern Indonesian Islands. Through the centuries there developed a relatively large Dutch-speaking population of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent, known as Indos or Dutch-Indonesians.

For most of the Dutch East Indies history, and that of the VOC before it, Dutch control over their territories was often tenuous, but was expanded over the course of the 19th century. Only in the early 20th century did Dutch dominance extend to what was to become the boundaries of modern-day Indonesia.

Although highly populated and agriculturally productive, Java was under Dutch domination for most of the 350 years of the combined VOC and Dutch East Indies era, many areas remained independent for much of this time including Aceh, Lombok, Bali and Borneo.

In 1871, all of the Dutch possessions on the Dutch Gold Coast were sold to Britain.



In the Caribbean , The Dutch West India company was abolished in 1791, and its colonies in Suriname and the Caribbean brought under the direct rule of the state.

The economies of the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean had been based on the smuggling of goods and slaves into Spanish America, but with the end of the slave trade in 1814 and the independence of the new nations of South and Central America from Spain, profitability rapidly declined.

Dutch traders moved en masse from the islands to the United States or Latin America, leaving behind small populations with little income and which required subsidies from the Dutch government.

The Antilles were combined under one administration with Suriname from 1828 to 1845.


Decolonization of Indonesia (1942–1975)

In January 1942, Japan invaded the Netherlands East Indies. The Dutch surrendered two months later in Java, with Indonesians initially welcoming the Japanese as liberators.

The subsequent Japanese occupation of Indonesia during the remainder of World War II saw the fundamental dismantling of the Dutch colonial state’s economic, political and social structures, replacing it with a Japanese regime.

In the decades before the war, the Dutch had been overwhelmingly successful in suppressing the small nationalist movement in Indonesia such that the Japanese occupation proved fundamental for Indonesian independence.

The Japanese encouraged and backed Indonesian nationalism in which new indigenous institutions were created and nationalist leaders such as Sukarno were promoted. The internment of all Dutch citizens meant that Indonesians filled many leadership and administrative positions, although the top positions were still held by the Japanese.

Two days after the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Sukarno and fellow nationalist leader Hatta unilaterally declared Indonesian independence. A four and a half-year struggle followed as the Dutch tried to re-establish their colony. Dutch forces eventually re-occupied most of the colonial territory and a guerrilla struggle ensued.

The majority of Indonesians, and – ultimately – international opinion, favored independence, and in December 1949, the Netherlands formally recognized Indonesian sovereignty.

Under the terms of the 1949 agreement, Western New Guinea remained under the auspices of Netherlands New Guinea. The new Indonesian government under President Sukarno pressured for the territory to come under Indonesian control as Indonesian nationalists initially intended. Following United States pressure, the Netherlands transferred it to Indonesia under the 1962 New York Agreement. Most Europeans left after independence in 1975.



Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles


In 1954, under the “Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands”, the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles (at the time including Aruba) became a composite kingdom. The former colonies were granted autonomy, save for certain matters including defense, foreign affairs and citizenship, which were the responsibility of the Realm.

In 1969, unrest in Curaçao led to Dutch marines being sent to quell rioting. In 1973, negotiations started in Suriname for independence, and full independence was granted in 1975, with 60,000 emigrants taking the opportunity of moving to the Netherlands. In 1986, Aruba was allowed to secede from the Netherlands Antilles federation, and was pressured by the Netherlands to move to independence within ten years. However, in 1994, it was agreed that its status as a Realm in its own right could continue.

On October 10, 2010, the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved. Effective on that date, Curaçao and Sint Maarten acceded to the same country status within the Kingdom that Aruba already enjoyed. The islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba were granted a status similar to Dutch municipalities, and are now sometimes referred to as the Caribbean Netherlands.





Contemporary countries and federated states which were significantly colonised by the Dutch. In the Netherlands, these countries are sometimes known as verwantschapslanden (kindred countries).

Generally, the Dutch do not celebrate their imperial past, and anti-colonial sentiments have prevailed since the 1960s. Subsequently, colonial history is not featured prominently in Dutch schoolbooks. This perspective on their imperial past only recently shifted with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s contentious call for the return of the VOC mentality.

In some Dutch colonies there are major ethnic groups of Dutch ancestry descending from emigrated Dutch settlers. In South Africa the Boers and Cape Dutch are collectively known as the Afrikaners. The Burgher people of Sri Lanka and the Indo people of Indonesia .