Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2010
1. The Coming of the Dutch. When, for a second time, it seemed that political and economic power in the archipelago would pass to Islam, the course of events was changed by the arrival of the Dutch. The Dutch never wanted to come East; they were forced to come by the policy of Philip, who profited by his succession to the throne of Portugal in 1580 to close the Portuguese harbours to his rebellious Dutch subjects. This was a grievous blow. For close on a hundred years the Dutch fleets, sailing with their cargoes of herring to the Mediterranean, had brought back from Portugal spices and other tropical produce for the peoples of northern Europe, and these luxuries had become a necessary means of livelihood to the Dutch merchants. Despite the orders of Philip and the protests of their English allies, the Dutch went on trading for some years but, when they found themselves subject “to arrests and all manner of unbearable tyrannies by the King of Spain”, they were compelled to seek new harbours. They tried to make the Indies by the western route, but the English freebooters, Drake, Frobisher, and others, did them more mischief than the most formidable of the Spanish captains. Even after, as Dutch children still learn at school, they had defeated the Armada, they preferred the hazards of the frozen North to challenging the power of Spain in southern seas; not until a succession of disasters frustrated their attempts to find a north-east passage to India did a few merchants of Amsterdam resolve to risk the dangers of the southern route.