Gijs Rommelse. The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): International Raison d’État, Mercantilism and Maritime Strife. Hilversum, The Netherlands: Uitgeverif Verloren, 2006. ISBN-13 9789065509079. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 230. €25.00 (hardcover).
England and the Dutch Republic fought three wars in the seventeenth century. The English Commonwealth and the United Provinces engaged in the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54) and England under Charles II fought the Dutch Republic in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-67) and Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74). Several studies have examined the three wars as a whole. But, Dr Gijs Rommelse, currently a history teacher at Haarlemmermeer Lyceum in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, focuses on the origins and conduct of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in his published doctoral dissertation (Leiden University, 2006). Rommelse’s most recent works include (as co-author with Roger Downing) A Fearful Gentleman: Sir George Downing in The Hague, 1658-1677 (2011) and (as co-editor with David Onnekink) Ideology and Foreign Policy in Early Modern Europe (1650-1750) (2011).
In this study, Rommelse places the origins and conduct of the war in context of international politics and alliance systems. He fully explores the domestic politics of England and the United Provinces, along with the maritime and commercial rivalry between the two states that resulted in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The author examines how the economic rivalry, including the struggle for colonial and European markets, influenced English and Dutch political decision-making that led to war.
Rommelse depicts the maritime conflict, including privateering and naval battles. In the conflict, Charles II of England had support from his ally Christoph Bernhard von Galen, the Bishop of Münster, while the United Provinces maintained an alliance with Louis XIV of France and Frederick III of Denmark. During the course of the war, the English defeated the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Lowestoft (June 1665). The Dutch then defeated the English fleet in the Four Days’ Battle (June 1666) and St James’s Day Battle (July 1666), followed by the English carrying out the Holmes’s Raid (August 1666) on a Dutch merchant fleet in the Vlie estuary and the town of West-Terschelling in Friesland. Meanwhile, however, the plague and the Great Fire of London financially weakened England, forcing Charles II to lay up most of his fleet. As such, the Dutch Republic controlled the English Channel and North Sea, and, led by Grand Pensionary John de Witt, conducted a raid up the Medway River and destroyed or captured a significant portion of the English fleet in June 1667. Rommelse writes that the “result of the naval raid was disastrous to English military and political prestige” (p.181). The war was interrupted by Louis XIV’s army invading and overrunning the Spanish Netherlands in the War of Devolution (1667-68). The Dutch Republic lacked a sufficiently strong army to adequately support Spain against France. As such, both England and the United Provinces sought a peace settlement (Peace of Breda in July 1667) to focus diplomatic and military efforts against Louis XIV.
This is a valuable examination of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. It is a solid addition to other studies on the Anglo-Dutch Wars, including Charles Wilson, Profit and Power: A Study of England and the Dutch Wars (1957); J.R. Jones, The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century (1996); and Roger Hainesworth and Christine Churches. The Anglo-Dutch Wars, 1652-1674 (1998). Studies that specifically focus on the second conflict are Richard Ollard, Man of War: Sir Robert Holmes and the Restoration Navy (1969); Frank L. Fox, Distant Storm: The Four Days Battle of 1666 (1996, reprinted as The Four Days Battle of 1666: The Greatest Sea Fight of the Age of Sail) (2009); and P.G. Rogers, The Dutch in the Medway (1970). An important recent study is De Ruyter, Dutch Admiral (2011), edited by Jaap R. Bruijn, Ronald Prud’homme van Reine, and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier. One should also consult Angus Konstam, Warships of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, 1652-1674 (2011).
Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota