how new amsterdam became new york -- 2/10/17

Today's selection -- from 1666 Plague, War and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal. In the 1600s, before the English navy reigned supreme across the globe, the Dutch navy held the edge and the Dutch were the leaders in global trade. An intense business and trading rivalry arose between the two nations which exploded into the three Anglo-Dutch Wars of 1652, 1665, and 1672. In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- the similarity in religion and culture between the two nations, an overt hatred developed, as in the English pamphlet that described Dutchmen as "Lusty, Fat, two Legged Cheese-Worms." Eventually, as the English built a global network of colonies and then kindled the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, their economy left the Dutch economy far behind:

"Bound together by a shared Protestant religion in a largely Catholic continent, Anglo-Dutch relations were complex. Under Elizabeth I, the English had supported the Dutch in their revolt against Spanish Habsburg rule, which had resulted not only in the defeat of the Spanish Armada but in seven provinces of the Netherlands forming a free and independent Protestant state, the Dutch Republic. As the Habsburg Empire weakened, the Dutch merchant fleet grew into the largest in Europe, dominating trade along the Iberian coast and competing with the English in pursuit of former Spanish­-and Portuguese-controlled trade posts. The resultant prosperity of the Dutch Republic, coupled with the splintering of compet­ing Protestant factions either side of the Channel, stoked an Anglo-Dutch rivalry that shaped European relations throughout the mid- to late-seventeenth century. During the early years of Cromwell's Commonwealth in England, state-sanctioned priva­teering ensured this rivalry mutated into all-out naval war, with the First Anglo-Dutch War taking place between 1652 and 1654. ...

Dutch Attack on the Medway, June 1667

"The fierce competition produced vicious literature that played on national stereotypes, with God and religion used to condemn the failings of each state: in 1664, an English pamphlet entitled The English and Dutch affairs Displayed to the Life argued that the recent deaths of thousands in Amsterdam due to plague was down to God's punitive will; another, linked Dutch prosperity to 'the bloody and inhumane butcheries committed by them against us'; another still, entitled The Dutch Boare Dissected, or a Description of Hogg-Land, described the Dutchman as 'a Lusty, Fat, two Legged Cheese-Worm: A Creature that is so addicted to Eating Butter, Drinking fat Drink, and sliding, that all the World knows him for a slippery Fellow'. For their part, Dutch anti­English literature centred on the idea that Britons were in league with the Devil following the regicide of Charles I. Imagery depicted the English with the tails of foxes, dragons and even devils. In the Dutch poem Nederlandtsche nyp-tang (1652) the author claimed that, of the English:

There false deceit I must tell
and of course their descendency from Hell. ...

"Yet for all the Anglo-Dutch hostility, there was also considerable cross-pollination. ... Artists from the Netherlands were highly regarded in England -- with the death of the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, the Dutch-trained Peter Lely became the official royal painter; Dutch engineers specialising in the drainage of marshland had been sought out to transform the Norfolk broads; and even the chief coiner at the Royal Mint, John Roettiers, was of Dutch origin.

"The path to the [second] war had started in April 1664, when the attentions of a committee organised by the House of Commons and chaired by Sir Thomas Clifford had shifted from investigating the nation's declining cloth industry to exam­ining the deterioration of English trade in general. During the committee meetings, merchants were encouraged to voice their grievances against the Dutch. With companies venturing further afield for mastery of trade in gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, silks and spices, key complainants were the Levant Company, the East India Company, and the Royal Adventurers for Trade in Africa -- who complained that the Dutch had taken possession of all the former Portuguese territories along the West African coast, inhibiting England's ability to trade. ...

"The Anglo-Dutch rivalry also played out across the Atlantic; New Amsterdam was (re)claimed in 1664 by the English and renamed New York (after the Duke of York), while Surinam was taken from the English by the Dutch in the same year. The opposing nations were evenly matched in their ambitions, their navies and their dogged confidence."


Rebecca Rideal


1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire


John Murray


Copyright 2016 Rebecca Rideal


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