Filips II vertrekt per schip naar Spanje, 1559
Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, or Dutch West India Company, was a chartered company (known as the "WIC") of Dutch merchants. Among its founding fathers was Willem Usselincx (1567–1647). On June 3, 1621, it was granted a trade monopoly in the West Indies (meaning the Caribbean) by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the Dutch colonization of the Americas. Some historians date the origins of the firm to the 1500s with arrivals of colonial settlers in what is now called New York long before the English at Jamestown, Virginia. The WIC was organized similarly to the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, abbreviated as VOC). Like the VOC, the WIC company had five offices, called chambers (kamers), in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hoorn, Middelburg and Groningen, of which the chambers in Amsterdam and Middelburg contributed most to the company. The board consisted of 19 members, known as the Heeren XIX (the Lords Nineteen). The company was initially relatively successful; in the 1620s and 1630s, many trade posts and colonies were established. The largest success for the WIC in its history was the seizure of the Spanish silver fleet, which carried silver from Spanish colonies to Spain, by Piet Heyn in 1628; privateering was at first the most profitable activity. In 1629 the WIC gave permission to a number of investors in New Netherlands, which included New Amsterdam, covered parts of present-day New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey. The settlers had little success with populating the colony of New Netherland, and to defend themselves against local Indians. The main focus of the WIC now went to Brazil and in 1630 the West India Company conquered a part of Brazil. Due to the Peace of Westphalia the hijacking of Spanish ships was no longer allowed. Merchants from Amsterdam and Zeeland decided to work with marine and merchants from Hamburg, Glückstadt (then Danish), England and other countries. In 1663 and 1664 the WIC sold more enslaved Africans than the Portuguese and English together. The first West India Company suffered a long agony and ended in 1674. The Collection includes Dutch maritime prints of the time period.
The first recorded sea battle occurred about 1210 BC: Hittites defeated and burned the Cyprus fleet. Athens protected itself from Persia by building a fleet paid for by silver mines profits. Romans developed the technique of grappling and boarding enemy ships with soldiers. Constantinople invented a Greek fire, a flamethrower to burn enemy's ships. Torpedo was invented by the Arab Hasan al-Rammah in 1275. With the Age of Discovery, naval actions in defense of the new colonies grew in scale. In 1588, Spain sent Armada to subdue the English fleet of Elizabeth, but Admiral Sir Charles Howard won the battle, marking the rise of the Pax Britannica. Anglo-Dutch Wars were the first wars to be conducted entirely at sea. Most memorable of these battles was the raid on the Medway, in which the Dutch sailed up the river Thames, and destroyed most of the British fleet. The 18th century was a period of continuous naval wars, in the Mediterranean, in the Atlantic Ocean, and in the Baltic Sea. The Napoleonic Wars culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. With the advent of the steamship, it became possible to create massive gun platforms and to provide them with heavy armor protection. The battle of the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor in the American Civil War that symbolized the changing times. In the 20th century, the steel-armored battleships with large shell turret guns emerged. The Russo-Japanese Battle of Tsushima in 1905 was the first test of the new concepts, resulting in Japanese victory. Airpower became key to navies throughout the 20th century, moving to jets launched from ever-larger carriers, and augmented by cruisers armed with guided missiles and cruise missiles. During the Pacific War of World War II, the carriers and their airplanes were the stars and the United States became the world's dominant sea power. The Falklands War, however, showed the vulnerability of modern ships to sea-skimming missiles. Parallel to the development of naval aviation was the development of submarines. In the 1950s the Cold War inspired the development of ballistic missile submarines.