After an English diplomatic mission in 1651 failed to gain the unification of Commonwealth of England with the Dutch Republic under Cromwell's leadership, the English parliament passed the 1651 Navigation Act, which ordered that only English ships and ships from the originating country could import goods to England. This measure was particularly aimed at hampering the shipping of the highly trade-dependent Dutch.
In May of 1652, Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp ordered his captains not to salute an English fleet in the English Channel by lowering the Dutch flag as Cromwell required of all foreign fleets in the North Sea or the English Channel. In response, Admiral Robert Blake opened fire, starting the Battle of Goodwin Sands near Dover, won by the English. Later battles in the year ranged up and down the Channel: the Battle of Plymouth in August, the Battle of the Kentish Knock in the Thames estuary in October, and the Battle of Dungeness in December, ending in a defeat for Blake as parliament, thinking that the war had been won, had sent much of the fleet to the Mediterranean.
Despite its successes, the Dutch Republic was ill-prepared for a naval war. To make matters worse, political controversy arose about the proper course of action: should the Dutch navy be extended or should defensive measures against a possible land invasion take precedence?
In 1653 Blake, while recovering from battle wounds, wrote 'Fighting Instructions', a major overhaul of naval tactics.
The English proved stronger in the battles of 1653, such as the three-day Battle of Portland in March, the two-day Battle of the Gabbard (or North Foreland) (12 - 13 June 1653), and the costly Battle of Scheveningen (or Texel) in August, where both fleets suffered heavy damage. Tromp was killed in the last battle, which increased the Dutch opinion to end the war. Similar feelings arose in England after Oliver Cromwell dissolved the pro-war Rump Parliament.
The war was now officially over, battles had been won, but the commercial rivalry between the two nations was not resolved. Especially in the colonies (both countries had vast overseas empires) hostilities continued between the trade companies, which had warships and troops of their own. The Second Anglo-Dutch War was already in the making.