Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anglo-Portuguese War (1612–1630)

Anglo-Portuguese War (1612–1630)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Portugal vs. England

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Arabian Sea off western India


MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: English merchants wished
to break into the East Indies spice trade; the Portuguese
sought to maintain their control of trafficking in the
Indian Ocean.

OUTCOME: With Portugal defeated at sea, England’s
East India Company set up shop in competition with
the Dutch, and Portuguese influence in the area rapidly



TREATIES: Hostilities ended with no formal treaty between
nations, but in 1630 a trade agreement was concluded
between the governors of Portuguese Goa and English
Surat, both on the West Indian coast.

In 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) chartered
the English East India Company (only later would it be
called the British East India Company, after England had
incorporated Scotland and begun building its sea-borne
empire), she had in mind muscling her way into the Spice
Island trade, which she assumed meant going up against
the Dutch monopoly of Indian Ocean traffic. Much to the
surprise of East India Company merchants, however, when
they actually arrived in the south seas it was not the Dutch
but the Portuguese who controlled the Indian Ocean from
their trading centers at Goa and elsewhere in western India.
Undaunted, the Englishmen established in 1611 a settlement
at Masulpatam on India’s east coast. Soon East
India Company merchant vessels, armed to the teeth, set
sail, determined to keep the Persian Gulf open to England’s
East Indies trade. Operating out of Surat, on India’s
western shore, the small English commercial-bellicose
squadron would meet and defeat a larger fleet of Portuguese
men-of-war in two engagements off Jask in 1612
and 1614. The first victory allowed East India Company
officials to acquire trading rights at Surat and set up a post
there in 1612; the second gave England superiority in the
Arabian Sea. With the trade routes now open, the English
adopted a policy of harassment and subversion, interfering
with Portuguese shipping, supporting rebellions in
Portuguese colonies, and lavishly assisting countries chafing
under Portugal to escape its control. At Portuguese
expense both the English and the Dutch East India companies
secured new trade rights along the Indian coast and
began setting up trading post after trading post. England’s
entry into the Spice Island traffic proved too much for a
Portugal that had long been battling tooth-and-nail with
the Dutch in the region (see PORTUGUESE-DUTCH WARS IN
THE EAST INDIES), and in 1630 the Portuguese governor of
Goa and the English governor of Surat reached a trade
agreement, bringing the hostilities to a halt and transferring
Portugal’s trading centers in India to other nations. As
Portugal’s trade presence in the East Indies declined, so
did its once-powerful influence in the region.

Further reading: Jean Sutton, Lords of the East: The
East India Company and Its Ships (1600–1874) (London:
Conway Martitime Press, 2000); Anthony Wild, The East
India Company: Trade and Conquest from 1600 (London:
HarperCollins, 1999).

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