The Spanish-Dutch War (Eighty Years War)

In the 16th century, the territory of the Netherlands included not only the Netherlands itself, but also Belgium, Luxembourg and part of Northern France. This area was also part of the Holy Roman Empire German Nation which was governed by the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs. As in France, the idea of the Reformed Church, Calvinism, developed in the Netherlands as well. These teachings date back to the French reformer John Calvin in the mid-16th century.


Shortly before the third Huguenot war from 1568 to 1570, the Dutch began to rebel against Spanish rule. The Spanish King Philip II then sent in 1567 the Spanish Duke of Alba with an army to Brussels to crush the rebellion. These had gathered around William of Orange, but were soon executed by the Spaniards hundreds of them. In April 1568 there was the first battle between the rebel army and the Spanish army at Rheindahlen, where the rebels had to pull back but beaten. The riots in the country continued, however, and resulted in atrocities by the Alba-led army. In Zutphen, Naarden and Haarlem massacres were carried out on the population. The resistance did not break with it.


With the exchange of the so-called "Watergeuzen" (water beggars), previously sought in England religious asylum by Queen Elizabeth I in 1568 but expelled again, the Spaniards had to take more defeats at sea, as these Geuzen with their ships attacking the Spaniards and heavy losses were inflicted, as in 1607, during the attack at Gibraltar.

In 1573 Duke of Alba was ordered back to Spain, his successor was Luis de Requesens. Until his death in 1576, there were no significant military moves, but when the pay of the Spanish soldier failed, they raged for three days in Antwerp, killing eight thousand people.


In November 1576, the northern and southern provinces of the Netherlands joined together to the Ghent Pacification, which was approved by Spain in 1577. When the silver mines of the Spaniards from the South American colonies brought in enough silver, the Union of Arras, loyal to Spain and hostile to the Calvinist northern provinces, was formed under the leadership of the governor-appointed Duke of Parma from the southern provinces themselves in the Union of Utrecht. Although Parma led his army in a new campaign north, Spain had during the war with England in 1588 take a serious setback, as his armada (war fleet) lost in the English Channel against the English Navy and therefore could not send reinforcements to the Netherlands.


The rebels had to cope in 1584 the loss of their leader William of Orange after a murder. His successor was his son Moritz. This began at first with the restructuring and reform of his rebel army into a powerful army and made by his guerrilla tactics the Spanish army quite difficult. Until the turn of the century, he had to face the enemy in only 2 open battles. In 1600, he convinced in the battle of Nieuwpoort near Dunkirk by teaching the Spaniards a delicate defeat. In 1609, a 12-year ceasefire was negotiated between the conflicting parties.



Die Schlacht bei Gibraltar in einer Darstellung von Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom

The Battle of Gibraltar in a depiction by Hendrick Cornelisz. Vroom



In 1621, the conflict flared up again and the Italian general Ambrogio Spinola, who fought on the side of Spain, led further campaigns against the northern provinces. During the siege of the city of Brade also the rebel leader Moritz died, his half-brother Friedrich Heinrich now had to continue the uprising.

Due to the emerging victories at sea and weakened by the war with England Spanish fleet, the supply of the Spanish army in the Netherlands could not be ensured in the long run. When the Spanish fleet was sunk in 1639 with the reinforcement, it was foreseeable that Spain could no longer win the conflict. Friedrich Heinrich died in 1647 and negotiations were fought for peace against the will of his son Wilhelm II. These ended in 1648 in the Peace of Westphalia, which ended not only the 80 Years but also the 30 Years War and brought the international recognition of the Republic of the United Netherlands.






You can find the right literature here:


Revolt in the Netherlands: The Eighty Years War, 1568-1648

Revolt in the Netherlands: The Eighty Years War, 1568-1648 Hardcover – February 11, 2019

In 1568, the Seventeen Provinces in the Netherlands rebelled against the absolutist rule of the king of Spain. A confederation of duchies, counties, and lordships, the Provinces demanded the right of self-determination, the freedom of conscience and religion, and the right to be represented in government. Their long struggle for liberty and the subsequent rise of the Dutch Republic was a decisive episode in world history and an important step on the path to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet, it is a period in history we rarely discuss.

In his compelling retelling of the conflict, Anton van der Lem explores the main issues at stake on both sides of the struggle and why it took eighty years to achieve peace. He recounts in vivid detail the roles of the key protagonists, the decisive battles, and the war’s major turning points, from the Spanish governor’s Council of Blood to the Twelve Years Truce, while all the time unraveling the shifting political, religious, and military alliances that would entangle the foreign powers of France, Italy, and England. Featuring striking, rarely seen illustrations, this is a timely and balanced account of one of the most historically important conflicts of the early modern period.

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The Dutch Wars of Independence

The Dutch Wars of Independence: Warfare and Commerce in the Netherlands 1570-1680 (Modern Wars In Perspective) 1st Edition

In The Dutch Wars of Independence, Marjolein ’t Hart assesses the success of the Dutch in establishing their independence through their eighty years struggle with Spain - one of the most remarkable achievements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Other rebellions troubled mighty powers of this epoch, but none resulted in the establishment of an independent, republican state. This book:

  • tells the story of the Eighty Years War and its aftermath, including the three Anglo-Dutch Wars and the Guerre de Hollande (1570-1680).
  • explores the interrelation between war, economy and society, explaining how the Dutch could turn their wars into commercial successes.
  • illustrates how war could trigger and sustain innovations in the field of economy and state formation ; the new ways of organization of Dutch military institutions favoured a high degree of commercialized warfare.
  • shows how other state rulers tried to copy the Dutch way of commercialized warfare, in particular in taking up the protection for capital accumulation. As such, the book unravels one of the unknown pillars of European state formation (and of capitalism).

The volume investigates thoroughly the economic profitability of warfare in the early modern period and shows how smaller, commercialized states could sustain prolonged war violence common to that period. It moves beyond traditional explanations of Dutch success in warfare focusing on geography, religion, diplomacy while presenting an up-to-date overview and interpretation of the Dutch Revolt, the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the Guerre de Hollande.

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Dutch Navies of the 80 Years' War 1568–1648

Dutch Navies of the 80 Years' War 1568–1648 (New Vanguard) Paperback – October 23, 2018

The tiny new state of the United Provinces of the Netherlands won its independence from the mighty Spanish empire by fighting and winning the Eighty Years' War, from 1568 and 1648. In this long conflict, warfare on water played a much bigger role in determining the ultimate victor.

On the high seas the fleet carved out a new empire, growing national income to such levels that it could continue the costly war for independence. Yet it was in coastal and inland waters that the most decisive battles were fought. Arguably the most decisive Spanish siege (Leiden, 1574) was broken by a fleet sailing to the rescue across flooded polders and the battle of Nieuwpoort in 1600, the largest successful invasion fleet before World War II, was one of the most decisive battle in western history. Using detailed full color artwork, this book shows how the Dutch navies fought worldwide in their war of independence, from Brazil to Indonesia, and from the Low Countries to Angola.

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