In the seventeenth century, England and the Netherlands fought for economic and political supremacy in the western world. This rivalry gave rise to many clashes of arms. In all, four Anglo-Dutch naval wars were fought out, three in the seventeenth century and another one in the eighteenth century. The two countries were battling in Asia too; there the Dutch Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC for short and known abroad as the United East Indies Company, and the English East India Company (EIC) competed to get possession of the profitable spice trade, which had first been in the hands of the Portuguese.
In 1623, a VOC court on the island of Ambon (nowadays part of Indonesia) ordered the execution of ten East India Company employees. They were alleged to have planned a conspiracy to take over the VOC rule by force. In England, the news of what was to be called the ‘Amboyna massacre’ by the English, was received with great anger and indignation. In both countries, a spate of pamphlets were published to defend either the English or the Dutch point of view, according to the country of publication. Even more than a century later, the matter was raked up every time relations between the two countries became strained, as on the eve of the various Anglo-Dutch naval wars.