In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic, made up of seven provinces, dominated international trade. However, from 1650 to 1713, the Dutch started facing military conflicts with other countries across Europe. These conflicts threatened Dutch security, unity, and prosperity. Amsterdam was the leading banking and trading center in Europe. There were three main trade routes from the Dutch Republic. The Dutch traded slaves, spices, luxury goods, grain, timber and iron. Although the Dutch dominated trade for a while, a problem arose. England also wanted to make money through trade, but both countries were right next to each other.
This began a military conflict with England (Document 1). As the conflict with England began to get more serious, the three Anglo-Dutch Wars were fought. The Dutch seized around 500 English ships and the English seized around 2,000-2,700 Dutch ships (document 3). During the period of 1645-1695, we can steadily see that the percent of voyages made by the Dutch was declining, meaning the percent of other countries’ voyages was rising (document 2).
In document 13, the Dutch colonial administrator wrote that “the profits of our East Indian trade have turned into losses”. There was too much competition from the English, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Muslims, that the Dutch couldn’t keep up. With ships being seized and the number of voyages declining, prosperity of the Dutch Republic was going downhill quickly.
According to document 12, the national debt of the Dutch Republic rose from 30,000,000 guilds to 148,000,000 guilds, in just 25 years. What was once a dominating trade center was turning into an economic disaster. In 1670, the Treaty of Dover was signed by the king of France. This was a major security threat because France and England were now allies and they were planning on declaring war on the Dutch Republic (document 6). In 1671, the Dutch realized that more and more countries were trying to come up with a plan to “ruin what remains of the trade and navigation of the Dutch Republic” (document 7).
The Dutch tried to come up with a plan, fast. According to a government report from the Dutch Republic, citizens were having a hard time electing a military leader to fight against France (document 9). The absence of a military leader was a very bad thing because it caused distrust throughout the seven provinces, leading to division. It also allowed more time for other countries to get ahead in military tactics.
This became a security issue. In document 11, the French Ambassador to the Dutch Republic, Marquis de Pomponne, explains that trade competition was the real cause of war between England and the Dutch Republic. Now that wars were being fought, the security of the Republic was also being threatened. In order to have peace and protection against France and England, the government would have to raise taxes.
Because Holland was the main and only wealthy province, the Dutch Republic could not run efficiently. Document 4 states that the government of the Dutch Republic was shattered and that Holland would have to pay for the war because the other provinces couldn’t afford it. Document 4 was written by an English ambassador so the reliability of the document is questionable. George Downing was reporting to the English government, so he could’ve been telling them what they wanted to hear.
The Dutch government tried recruiting men to fight against the French armies, but there was no money to support them (document 10). The only citizens that could help pay money that was necessary for war, were the citizens of Amsterdam. It is known that Amsterdam was a place filled with merchants, and they were not happy with the Dutch government. Merchants wanted peace and protection, but they weren’t willing to pay for it or volunteer themselves to protect their country. C
itizens did not want to be turned into soldiers and they wanted low taxes (document 5). This document shows that unity in Holland was becoming a problem. If Holland’s own citizens didn’t want to protect their country, who would? In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Dutch was a stable, trade-dominating country. The wars with England and France, trading competition against England, and disunity throughout the seven provinces were all problems that caused the Dutch Republic’s prosperity to diminish. These problems caused Dutch trading to decrease, and lessened the wealth and importance of a once prospering republic.