The Dutch Golden Age

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The 17th century is considered the “Golden Age” of Dutch sea-power. In 1650 The Dutch were the acknowledged masters of naval warfare, relying on superior sailing and close-quarter fighting to gain the upper-hand.

  Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter

Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter (1607-1676), was arguably the greatest admiral of the 17th century.

Outstanding in all areas of naval command, leadership, tactics and strategy, he adapted quickly to the new linear-tactics introduced during the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654) and his supreme defensive tactics denied the much larger Anglo-French fleets victory in the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674).

Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter was wounded in 1676 while victorious over a larger French fleet in a naval battle off Sicily. He died six days after the battle.

During this period the Dutch were the foremost European shipbuilders, building ships for the United Provinces, Spain, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany etc. The galleon 'Gilded Lion' shown below is a late 16th century example. The Dutch would have built galleons like this for many other nations. Notice the high and narrowing stern, as is even more distinct in the features of the later Fluyt.

The Fluyt was the classic three-masted square-rigged merchant ship of the 17th century, built to be extremely economical in operation, carrying the largest cargo and smallest crew possible. It had a wide hull with extreme 'tumblehome', rounded buttocks and a very narrow high stern. To enter the Baltic, the Danes imposed a levy depending on the deck size of a vessel. The ever practical Dutch thus developed a vessel that was wide in the hold for plenty of cargo, and narrow on deck to minimize the duties to be paid.

Image of a 16th Century Galleon

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Concept, content & Design: The Art of Age of Sail