6 August 1661: Treaty of The Hague cedes Dutch Brazil to Portugal

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Mauritsstaad: capital of Dutch Brazil

In the 17th century, the Dutch had designs on a grand trading empire. To achieve this, two companies were set up – the (Dutch) East and West India Companies.

In 1623, the West India Company came up with a Groot Desseyn – it would simply take by force Portuguese possessions in South America and Africa.

So, in 1624, a Dutch fleet commanded by Jacob Willekens captured São Salvador de Bahia de Todos os Santos (modern-day Salvador). From there they intended to take Angola.

But things went badly. Salvador was retaken by the Portuguese, and the West India Company turned to piracy for a while.

They were soon back, however, flush with money from capturing a Spanish treasure fleet off Cuba in 1628. A fleet took the towns of Recife and Olinda in 1630, and soon the whole of the northeast of Brazil was occupied, with Recife – now named Mauritsstaad, after the colonial governor, Johan Maurits – its capital.

But their hold on the territory was weak. And in 1642, Maurits was recalled to Holland. Planters rebelled and the Portuguese made steady gains. Recife came under siege. And by 1648, Portugal had recaptured much of the territory that had been lost.

But it was not until January 1654 that the Dutch at Recife surrendered, giving up all territories that remained in Dutch hands.

Dutch fleets continued to harry Portuguese forces in Brazil, and in 1661, by signing the Treaty of The Hague, Holland formally dropped its claims. In return, it received a payment of eight million guilders, and uncontested control of Ceylon.

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