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Spanish Formosa

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Title: Spanish Formosa  
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Subject: History of Taiwan, New Spain, Cultural history of Taiwan, Economic history of Taiwan, List of archaeological sites in Taiwan
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Spanish Formosa

Spanish Formosa
Spanish colony

Flag Coat of arms
Spanish possessions (green)
Capital San Salvador (Keelung)
Languages Spanish, Formosan languages
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Colony
Historical era Age of Discovery
 -  Established 1626
 -  Surrender of San Salvador 1642
Currency Spanish real
Part of a series on the
Prehistory to 1624
Dutch Formosa 1624–1662
Spanish Formosa 1626–1642
Kingdom of Tungning 1662–1683
Qing rule 1683–1895
Republic of Formosa 1895
Japanese rule 1895–1945
Republic of China rule since 1945
Taiwan portal

Spanish Formosa was a Spanish colony established in the north of Taiwan from 1626 to 1642.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover the island of Taiwan, and named it Formosa due to the beautiful landscape as seen from the sea.[1] When Spain and Portugal formed the Iberian Union, some of their respective colonies changed possession and some Portuguese expeditions were in the service of the Spanish Crown. This included Portuguese Formosa, which was controlled by the Iberian Union from 1626 to 1642. The colony was meant to protect Spanish and Portuguese trade in the region from interference by the Dutch base in the south of Taiwan. The Spanish colony was short-lived due to the unwillingness of Spanish colonial authorities in Manila to commit men and materiel for its defense.

After seventeen years, the last fortress of the Spanish was besieged by Dutch forces and eventually fell, giving the Dutch control over most of the island.


In 1566, the Dutch Revolt against King Philip II erupted. The Dutch Republic and its allies, England and France invaded and looted many of Phillip II's overseas territories as part of the Eighty Years' War. Brazil was partially conquered by both France and the Seventeen Provinces.

As a result of the Iberian Union in 1580, Portugal and its Empire was ruled by the Spanish Habsburg Philip II of Spain, and the Spain's enemies became Portugal's as well, the Dutch of the Seventeen Provinces in Dutch–Portuguese War, as well as their allies England and France. Portugal and its overseas territories had become part of the king possessions due to some unexpected events in North Africa leading to the death without heirs of Sebastian of Portugal.

Philip II cut the Dutch off from the spices and the markets in Lisbon, making it necessary for the Dutch to send their own expeditions to the sources of these commodities to take control of the spice trade in the Indies.

The Dutch colonization of Formosa was part of a campaign designed to seize all the possessions of Philip II in Asia, including Formosa and the Philippines. The Dutch began to take the string of coastal fortresses that comprised Phillip II's Asian possessions. The settlements were isolated, difficult to reinforce if attacked, and prone to being picked off one by one, but nevertheless the Dutch only enjoyed mixed success in its attempts to take them.[2]

Pursuing their quest for alternative routes to Asia for trade, the first Dutch squadron to reach the Philippines on December 14, 1600 was led by Olivier van Noort. The Dutch sought to dominate the commercial sea trade in Southeast Asia, even engaging in privateering. They disrupted trade by harassing the coasts of Manila bay and its environs, and preyed on sampans and junks from China and Japan trading at Manila. The Battles of La Naval de Manila were five naval battles fought in the waters off the Philippines in 1646, between the forces of Spain and the Dutch Republic, during the Eighty Years' War.

War with the Dutch led to invasions of many of Phillip II's possessions in Asia, including Formosa, Ceylon, the Philippines, and commercial interests in Japan, Africa (Mina), and South America. Even though the Portuguese were unable to capture the entire island of Ceylon, the Dutch were able to keep the coastal regions of Ceylon under their control for a considerable amount of time.

Catholic Phillip II was in competition with Protestant Holland for trade and influence in East Asia. With the establishment of a Dutch colony at Tayouan, present-day Anping, in the south of Taiwan, the Dutch were able to threaten Spain's trade in the region. As a counter to this threat, the Spanish decided to establish their own colony in the north of the island.

The early years (1626–1629)

Spanish Map of Keelung and Tamsui Harbor, 1626

Landing at Cape Santiago (now Sandiao) in the north-east of Taiwan but finding it unsuitable for defensive purposes, the Spanish continued westwards along the coast until they arrived at Keelung.[3] A deep and well-protected harbour plus a small island in the mouth of the harbour made it the ideal spot to build the first settlement, which they named Santissima Trinidad. Forts were built, both on the island and in the harbour itself.[3]

In 1629 the Spanish set up their second base, centred on Fort San Domingo in Tamsui.[3]

First battle with the Dutch

In 1641, the Spanish had become such an irritant to the Dutch in the south that it was decided to take northern Taiwan from the Spanish by force. In courteous terms, the Dutch Governor Paulus Traudenius informed the Spanish governor of their intentions.

The Spanish governor was not inclined to give in so easily, and replied in kind.

Subsequently the Dutch launched an assault on the northern regions held by the Spanish, but the positions were well-defended and the attacking troops were not able to breach the walls of the fortresses. They returned, thwarted and humiliated, to the Dutch base at Fort Zeelandia.

Final Battle with the Dutch

In August 1642, The Dutch returned to Jilong with four large ships, several smaller ships, and approximately 369 Dutch soldiers.[4] A combination of Spaniards, aboriginals, and Pampangos from the Philippines held off the Dutch for six days. They eventually surrendered and were returned to Manila defeated, and giving up their flags and what little artillery remained with them.[4] Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, governor of the Philippines, was blamed for the loss of Formosa and was eventually tried in court for his actions.[5] Upon conviction, he was imprisoned for five years in the Philippines. Historians since Corcuera's time have chastised him for the loss of the Formosa.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Sujuan, Zhan (2012-05-22). "The Taiwan Encyclopedia". Council for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  2. ^ Boxer (1969), p.23.
  3. ^ a b c d e  
  4. ^ a b c Andrade, Tonio (2005). How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century. Columbia University Press. 
  5. ^ Jose Eugenio Barrio (2007). "An Overview of the Spaniards in Taiwan" (pdf). University of Taiwan Foreign Languages in Literature. University of Taiwan. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 

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