Fourth Anglo-Dutch War

Fourth Anglo-Dutch War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
partof=American Revolutionary War

place=North Sea, India, Ceylon, Carribean
result=British Victory, Treaty of Paris
combatant1=flagicon|Netherlands|pri Dutch Republic
commander1=Johan Zoutman
commander2=Sir Hyde Parker, 5th Baronet
strength1=20 warships
strength2=122 warships
casualties1=About 500 dead
casualties2=About 250 dead

The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–1784) was a conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. The war, motivated by imperial competition, was a disaster for the Netherlands, whose republic was reduced to a Prussian puppet.

As well as being the fourth and last in a series of Anglo-Dutch Wars, it is also considered as being part of the wider American War of Independence.


By the 1770s, unrest was growing in the Netherlands. Conflict between the Orangists, essentially monarchists, wanting stadtholder William V of Orange to exercise more power, and the Dutch Patriots, who under influence of the the Enlightenment wanted a more democratic government, was destabilising the Republic.

The government tried to resolve internal conflicts by uniting the people against a common enemy. Though Great Britain and the Republic had been allies since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Dutch had become very much the junior partner in the alliance, and had slowly lost their erstwhile dominance of world trade to the British. London had replaced Amsterdam as the world's leading financial capital. This led to resentment and so Britain was the ideal scapegoat, especially as the patriots were largely pro-French.

Initially the British considered the Dutch allies in their attempt to stamp out the rebellion in their American colonies. They unsuccessfully attempted to hire Dutch soldiers for use in the Americas, in a similar manner to the Hessian and Brunswicker contingents they hired and deployed. There had been a long-standing alliance between the British and Dutch that had lasted a century, and there was a widespread fear amongst the major European colonial powers of similar rebellions in their own possessions.

In spite of this in 1776 the United Provinces were the first country to salute the Flag of the United States, leading to growing British suspicions of the Dutch. These suspicions seemed to be confirmed in 1778 when the Dutch refused to take Britain's side in the war against France, even though the Republic was obliged by treaty (1678) to do so. Also, the Dutch claimed the British had no right searching their ships for weapons for the rebels, contending that "contraband" should be interpreted in the narrow sense of goods "belonging" to the enemy. The Republic then officially adopted a policy of armed neutrality. This would allow the French to use Dutch colonies — that is, in effect all the key locations in the trade to Asia — as supply stations.

The war

Britain declared war before the Dutch could join a group of neutral countries sworn to mutual assistance. Above all the British feared a potential alliance betwen the Dutch and the Russians [Three Victories and a Defeat. Simms, Brendan. p.646] , and moved to pre-empt it. The direct cause of the war was the discovery of a secret trade treaty proposed by the city of Amsterdam to the Americans. The Dutch had not at all expected such a severe reaction; they had given the British a pretext to reduce Dutch power even more. The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War proved a disaster for the Netherlands, particularly economically.

Dutch naval power had been in decline since 1712. The Dutch navy, now having only twenty ships of the line, was no match for the British Royal Navy.

Britain had already gained supremacy of the high seas over France long before, in the Seven Years' War.Fact|date=September 2008 The Dutch fought a skirmish with the British at the Battle of Dogger Bank, but after this tried to avoid any other major fighting.

The Dutch had hastily embarked on a major shipbuilding project of 84 warships between 1777 and 1789. Due to all kinds of misfortune (storms, collisions, strandings), about a third of the Dutch fleet sank or was captured between 1782 and 1784. Coordination with its war allies, France and Spain, was poor. The new ships were not ready in time to prevent Britain from taking effective control of the Dutch colonies (in India all of the Dutch colonies were taken) making William V a puppet, only able to rule with Prussian military assistance (Triple Alliance (1788)).

Ceasefire and Treaty of Paris

The Republic joined a cease fire between Britain and France in January 1783. The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1784) made Negapatnam, in India, a British colony. Ceylon, though taken, was nominally given back. The British gained the right of free trade with part of the Dutch East Indies.


The war proved to be confirmation of the weakening of Dutch power in the eighteenth century. It contributed to a number of circumstances within the Netherlands which a decade later in 1794 led to a revolution, an invasion of by France and the establishment of a Batavian Republic in place of the old Dutch Republic. The Low Countries remained central to British strategic thinking, and they would send expeditionary forces to the Netherlands in 1793 and 1799.


*Hobson, Rolf and Tom Kristianson, eds (2004). "Navies in Northern Waters". Portland, OR: Frank Cass
*Israel, Jonathan (1995). "The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806". Oxford: Clarendon Press.
*Kumar, Ann (1997). " The Familial State: Ruling Families And Merchant Capitalism In Early Modern Europe". Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
*Moore, Bob, et al, eds (2003). "Colonial Empires Compared: Britain and the Netherlands, 1750–1850". Aldershot: Ashgate.
*Rodger, N.A.M (2006). "The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815". Penguin Books.
*Schama, Simon (2005). "Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813". Harper Perennial.
*Simms, Brendan (2008). "Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire". Penguin Books.


ee also

*Anglo-Dutch Wars
*History of England
*History of the Netherlands
*British military history
*Dutch military history

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