The United Provinces of the Netherlands was a loose confederation of seven semi-autonomous republican states (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Overijssel, Gröningen, Gelderland and Friesland) that had won independence from Spain during the Eighty Years War (1568-1648). Dutch national policy was formulated by delegates from the seven provinces at the States-General in The Hague. The war between the Netherlands and Spain was advantageous to English merchants, who could trade in Spanish markets from which the Dutch were excluded. After the peace treaty of 1648, however, Dutch merchant fleets returned to every trading sphere. English merchants had already been driven out of the lucrative East Indian spice trade and soon began to lose markets to the Dutch in Spain, the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the Americas. Unofficial warfare developed as English privateers began seizing Dutch ships and their cargoes. 1617 Koorenbeurs Stock Exchange (Bourse) Damrak, Amsterdam by Hendrick de Keyser (PD)
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