Dutch-Portuguese War

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The Dutch-Portuguese War (Guerra Luso-Neerlandesa in Portuguese) was an armed conflict involving Dutch forces, in the form of the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, against the Portuguese Empire. Beginning in 1588, the conflict primarily involved the Dutch companies invading Portuguese colonies in the Americas, Africa, India and the Far East. The war can be thought of as an extension of the Eighty Years War being fought in Europe at the time between Spain and The Netherlands, as Portugal was unified under the Spanish Crown for most of the conflict. However, the conflict had little to do with the war in Europe and served mainly as a way for the Dutch to gain an overseas empire and control trade at the cost of the weakened Portuguese. English forces also assisted the Dutch at certain points in the war.

The result of the war was the formation of a strong Dutch presence in the Far East. Dutch ambitions were largely thwarted in other parts of the world by Portuguese resistance. English ambitions also greatly benefited from the long standing war between its two main rivals in the Far East.

Dutch-Portuguese War
Part of The Eighty Years War

Portuguese Armada Vs Chartered Fleets
Date 1588–1654
Location Atlantic Ocean: Brazil, West Africa, Southern Africa; Indian Ocean: India, East Indies, Indochina; China
Result formation of Dutch Empire, Portuguese Restoration War

Kingdom of Portugal (under Habsburg domain)

Kingdom of Spain

Kingdom of Cochin

Republic of the Seven United Netherlands

Kingdom of England

Johor Sultanate
Kandyan Kingdom
Kingdom of Kongo
Kingdom of Ndongo-Matamba
Rio Grande Tupis
Nhandui Tarairiu Tribe
Potiguar Tribe
º Viceroy Pedro da Silva
º High-Captain António Teles de Meneses
º Commander Nuno Álvares Botelho
º Governor-General Matias de Albuquerque
º Admiral D. Fadrique de Toledo Osório.
º Count Maurits van Nassau-Siegen
º Admiral Piet Hein
º Admiral Adam Westerwolt
º General Gerard Hulft
º Earl of Cumberland


[edit] Introduction

This war occurred mostly throughout the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It opposed primarily the polity of Portugal and that of the Netherlands. The Dutch republic is regarded generally as the aggressor since its attack on the Portuguese colonial possessions was by all means unilateral and the initiative of the war was always on the Dutch side. On the other hand, it could be argued that Portugal was, throughout most of the initial period, under Spanish rule (following a forceful occupation by Phillip II in 1580) and since Spain was battling the Dutch in Flanders and trying to eliminate their rebellion otherwise known as the Eighty Years War, it was thus legitimate for the Netherlands to take the war to all corners of the Spanish empire. This claim however cannot be regarded as realistically truthful because the Dutch republic continued the war even after the Portuguese restoration in 1640; though it can't be expected that the war, once begun, would be ended so easily. As it is analysed further on, the real reason for the war was the Netherlands attempt to take control of the Indies spice trade and that is not consistent with any technical justification of military defence.

[edit] Casus Belli

In 1602 the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) was founded, with the goal of sharing the costs of the exploration of the East Indies and ultimately re-establishing the spice trade, a vital source of income to the new Republic of the Seven United Provinces.

The Catholic and Protestant parts of the Spanish Empire

The Republic was at the time fighting the Habsburgs for their independence and the reason why the Dutch sought to control the spice trade was one of economic survival. Prior to the union of the Portuguese and Spanish Crowns (respective territories depicted), Portuguese merchants used the Low Countries as a base for the sale of their spices in northern Europe. After the Spaniards wrested control over the Portuguese Empire though, they declared an embargo on all trade with the rebellious provinces (see: Union of Utrecht).

This meant the trade would now be directed through the southern low countries (Belgium) , which according to the Union of Arras or (Union of Atrecht) were pledged to the Spanish monarch and were Roman Catholic, as opposed to the Dutch Protestant north. This also meant that the Dutch had lost their most profitable trade partner and their most important source of financing the war against Spain. Additionally they would lose their distribution monopoly with France, the Holy Roman Empire and northern Europe. Their North Sea fishing and Baltic cereal trading activities would simply not suffice to maintain the republic.

[edit] Insertion in the East: Batavia challenges Goa

The Dutch were hopeful of some degree of success, since in 1588 the English, with Dutch aid, had been able to defeat the Spanish Armada and with it the backbone of the Iberian fleet — the oceangoing galleons and naus used in support of trade in West Indies silver and Indian spices.

The first expeditions were successful in bypassing Portuguese dominion of the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean in general.

The Portuguese Azores fleet was severely depleted as a result of the Spanish war in Flanders, and consequently all available ships were busy with the Indian trade. The Indian fortress system was lacking maintenance and technological improvement.

The Dutch also managed to break the Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade. As the Dutch fleets grew in size, so did their interference with Portuguese trade, and the first skirmishes took place.

By 1619, the Dutch conquered Jayakarta - which they renamed to Batavia and made it their East Indies capital. For the next twenty years the two cities of Goa and Batavia would fight each other relentlessly, since they stood as the capital of the Portuguese India State (or the Indian Vice-Royalty) and the Dutch East India Company's base of operations.

One of the many battles to break the Dutch blockade of Goa
One of the many battles to break the Dutch blockade of Goa

In fact, Goa had been under intermittent blockade since 1603. Most of the fighting took place in west India where the Dutch Malabar campaign sought to impose yet another monopoly of their own on the spice trade. Dutch and Portuguese fleets faced each other in the seas for control of the sea lanes, while on mainland India the war increasingly involved more and more Indian kingdoms and principalities as the Dutch capitalised on the resentment caused by the Portuguese conquests in the first half of the XVI century.

In all, and also because the Dutch were kept busy with their expansion in Indonesia, the conquests made at the expense of the Portuguese were modest: some Indonesian possessions and a few cities and fortresses in the Arabian sea. The most important blow to the Portuguese east empire and the culmination of the war would be the conquest of Malacca in 1641 (depriving them of the control over these straits), Ceylon in 1658 and the Malabar coast in 1663, even after the signing of the peace treaty in 1661.

However, important sideshow battles also took place in the South China sea with, initially combined fleets, of Dutch and English vessels, and subsequently exclusively Dutch ships carrying out assaults against Macau. The attempts on capture failed, but the Dutch were ultimately successful in acquiring the monopoly of trade with Japan, and the English eventually decided to simply build their own tradepost in China around the area of the Pearl River delta, which they would call Hong Kong.

[edit] Sugar War - Government-General Vs. W.I.C.

Surprised with such easy gains in the east, the Republic quickly decides to explore the Portuguese weakness in the west. In 1621 the Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie or WIC is created to take over the sugar trade and colonise America (the New Netherlands project). The Dutch West India Company would not however be as successful as its counter-part.

The Company enjoys big capitals and draws the enthusiasm of the best financiers and capitalists of the Republic, such as Isaac de Pinto, himself a Portuguese Jew by origin.

The invasion begins with a series of conquests by the Dutch, of some of the main ports in the colony such as the capital Salvador and Olinda. These would only be temporary conquests though.

Dutch siege of Olinda
Dutch siege of Olinda

The whole Brazilian northeast is occupied and Recife is renamed Mauritsstad. Opposing are the Government-General's efforts to expel them, directed from Salvador, Olinda and the countryside.

At the same time small incursions were organised against the Portuguese African possessions in order to take control of the slave trade and complete the trade triangule that would ensure the economic prosperity of New Holland. Elmina and other Portuguese Gold Coast tradeposts are taken and Luanda is put to siege.

Resistance in Brazil proves fierce and the Portuguese settlers impose a war of attrition to WIC ground forces. Furthermore WIC is overstretched and its fleets cannot effectively carry out a blockade of Portuguese ports. Hence Iberian reinforcements from Europe ensure the are crushed and expelled on Brazilian and African soil.

In 1640 the Portuguese take advantage of the Catalan Revolt and break away from the Iberian Union. From this point onwards the English no longer have an excuse to attack Portuguese possessions and decide instead to re-establish their alliance with the seafaring kingdom.

The Dutch driven by their territorial gains postpone the end of the conflict but as their control of Brazil and in Africa wains they decide to sue for peace.

[edit] Implications

The main winners in Africa and America were clearly the Portuguese while in Asia the Dutch were the most succesful.

Dutch-Portuguese war, the first intercontinental resource war

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

  • Dutch and Portuguese colonial legacy throughout Africa and Asia[1]
  • Wars Directory[2]
  • Naval Battles of Portugal (Portuguese)[3]
  • Portuguese Armada's history of naval battles (Portuguese)[4]
In other languages