The freedom of the seas (Mare Liberum) was born in distant Europe when Grotius, father of international law, advocated this concept to free the domination of the Empire of Philip II of Spain over the peninsular trading cities of the North Sea and their access to the expanding East Indian markets.

The process of emergence of the United Provinces, predecessor state of the current Kingdom of the Netherlands and the first fully sovereign Dutch nation-state, is part of a very complex maritime history that has shaped both the North Sea and the Indian Ocean. .

Remember that the Burgundian Netherlands is the name given, a posteriori, to the provinces of the historic Netherlands acquired by the Dukes of Burgundy from the House of Valois-Burgundy and then by the Habsburgs, between the 14th and 16th centuries. Their territory covered most of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Hauts-de-France. This vast maritime space was linked by games of alliance to territories qualified as “countries on this side”: more southern possessions of Burgundy and Franche-Comté. The latter will be officially united by the Pragmatic Sanction conferred on them by Charles V in 1549. In 1555, they will be bequeathed to Philip, King of the Spains from 1556, and will form the Spanish Netherlands.

Equipped with a lighthouse lantern, the octagonal Tower of Leughenaer (old Dutch spelling) recalls another era of changes and reversal favorable to Dunkirk as to other cities of Flanders. “It is from the foot of these Burgundian ramparts of 1405 that many corsairs sailed towards heroic battles where they raised the reputation of France and their native city very high. can we read while contemplating the oldest monument of the birthplace of Jean Bart, in Flemish Jan Bart or Jan Baert, born on October 21, 1650, descendant of a family of shipowners in the race.

Watchmaking Advances And The Navy Are Linked

The appearance of the first maritime clocks, which kept track of time even on a moving ship, was a revolution. They allowed sailors to position themselves at sea with great precision. The trade of watchmaker (without H) goes back to the time of Charles V who will recruit watchmakers for the adjustment of barrels. Watchmakers mastering the engraving of brass plates may have been tasked with the manufacture of pointing or calculating instruments, such as plumb-line squares, or “Galileo” proportion compasses allowing all kinds of calculations and which included often ladders intended for use in artillery.

In short, from the end of the Middle Ages, adventures towards the Indian Ocean experienced their first technical and cultural incubation in the Burgundian Netherlands and its strategic ports such as
Dunkirk in particular, which were part of the Burgundy of Charles the Bold which extended to Franche-Comté. In the 16th century, its distant heir was Spain. Between the North Sea and the Indian Ocean, traveling through time and archives allows us to build a bridge between continents. Have the issues changed? It’s up to us to find out!

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