In the 17th century, England and Spain were mighty naval states. Their commerce was vibrant across the seas and oceans of the globe. Their business competition gave rise to a war which started in 1654 and ended in 1660. Essentially, the most valued goods transported by seas at that time were silver and gold. The scene of the majornaval duels was the Caribbean region.
This war was marked with an alliance with France. England and France formally became allies in October 1655. Before that alliance, Cromwell had conducted fruitful negotiations with the French state figure Cardinal Mazarin. That union merged the two conflicts: the Anglo-Spanish War and the Franco-Spanish War. The alliance emerged despite the century-long belligerence between England and France in the face of their common enemy – Spain.
As part of the Anglo-French union, Cromwell’s purpose was to restrict France in supporting the Stewarts craving for the restoration of the British monarchy.
In March 1655, Oliver Cromwell orchestrated an amphibian assault in the Caribbean region then dominated by Spain. Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables commanded the mission. At first, the English fleet suffered defeats in West Indies, namely in Barbados and Santo Domingo. Severe artillery shelling impaired the English forces in April.
For the commanders, it was unacceptable to sail back to England defeated. They took the risk to capture Jamaica. Penn took the complete leadership of the Jamaica campaign.
On May 9, the English troops were disembarked on the Jamaica land. It was an unexpected attack for the Spanish settlers and governors. The defenders of the island turned out to be inexperienced in armed hostilities. As early as on May 25, Penn, together with Venables, were imposing the conditions of the annexation. On May 27, they signed a treaty with Ramirez, the Jamaican governor.
Penn’s troops ended up suffering from sicknesses and hunger on the Caribbean island. In August, they evacuated the major part of the naval manpower back to England. Many of those who remained lost their lives. Cromwell imprisoned Penn and Venables in Tower for their Caribbean failure.
In that conflict, Cromwell pursued the target of dominating in the global commerce. Such “commercial opportunism” stemmed from the era of Elizabeth I.