a1 University of Leiden
It was Charles Boxer who has characterized the struggle between the Portuguese and the Dutch about their respective positions in world trade as the First Global War. In summing up the results at around 1650 Boxer contended that the Portuguese had won in the New World, that the Dutch had won in Asia, while the two countries had reached a stalemate in Africa.
This conclusion is correct only within the political domain. In fighting the Portuguese and the Spanish, the Dutch, together with the British and the French, did not reach economic the limits of their expansion because of Iberian resistance, but because of the general demographic and economic constraints on overseas expansion at the time. These limitations allowed for the creation of two expansion systems, each with its own sphere of influence in the Atlantic. The Iberian system covered the South Atlantic and the Northwest European system the Middle and North Atlantic. Both systems had a similar structure and incorporated European ports providing European and Asian trade goods, trading posts in Africa and plantation areas and settlement colonies in the New World.