|Bouko De Groot|
48 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softcover
The 16th and 17th centuries were a time of fairly constant warfare. The face of Europe was rather different from what it is today or even 100 or so years back. During this time period, Spain was fairly much the dominant power, but in decline with the British gaining ascendency on the seas. Spain held much of the area that is now Belgium and the Netherlands, though that was changing with the rise of Dutch nationalism and a desire for self control. Eventually the Spanish were removed from most of the countryside and eventually the major ports of the area such as Antwerp and Rotterdam.
The loosely held confederation of 17 Dutch provinces soon free of the Spanish then had to figure a way to keep the Spanish away. One way was to make a defense pact with the British. This proved to be fairly useful and also provided the British with additional support when needed, such as during the defense against the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Dutch also had a fairly large empire in the East Indies to have to deal with. This required some sort of military power on the seas.
However, navies were expensive to maintain and so as is frequently the case, naval power was built up on an as needed basis and ships were sold off when the crisis past. This also meant that in the beginning, it was necessary to use standard cargo ships converted to warships until dedicated warships could be built. One of the more unusual features of Dutch warships that were used in home waters is that they had very shallow draft. It was not unheard of for the crews of a ship to actually wade ashore after their ship had been dealt with.
This whole time was quite convoluted to the uninitiated (such as myself) as there were several types of ship required depending on where they were to be operated. Those in the East Indies were built to very different specs as those used at home or even those sent on long voyages to the Americas. The organization of the Navy also changed quite a bit over time, originally starting out as a loose confederation of provinces with different organizations until a unified Navy was finally set up towards the end of the time period in this book.
The author's research and work is quite obvious as he is able to help untangle the situation as it was during these times and provide a fairly clear explanation of how and why things shifted over the years. The end result is an excellent book not only on the ships of the time, but the way things were organized both at home and abroad. It makes for some very interesting reading, especially for those of us who know little about this particular time period. A well done book and one very much worth picking up.
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