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Country in Western Europe, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Top 10 Netherlands related articles
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 2.1 Prehistory (before 800 BC)
- 2.2 Celts, Germanic tribes and Romans (800 BC–410 AD)
- 2.3 Early Middle Ages (411–1000)
- 2.4 High Middle Ages (1000–1384)
- 2.5 Burgundian, Habsburg and Spanish Habsburg Netherlands (1384–1581)
- 2.6 Dutch Republic (1581–1795)
- 2.7 Batavian Republic and Kingdom (1795–1890)
- 2.8 World wars and beyond (1890–present)
- 3 Geography
- 4 Politics
- 5 Government
- 6 Economy
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Culture
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
"Je maintiendrai" (French)
"I will maintain"
"Wilhelmus van Nassouwe" (Dutch)
"William of Nassau"
Location of the Caribbean municipalities (green)
and largest city
|Government seat||The Hague[a]|
|Ethnic groups |
|Sovereign state||Kingdom of the Netherlands|
|Government||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Thom de Graaf|
|House of Representatives|
|Independence from Habsburg Spain|
|26 July 1581|
|30 January 1648|
• Kingdom established
|16 March 1815|
|5 May 1945|
|10 December 1945|
|15 December 1954|
|10 October 2010|
|41,865 km2 (16,164 sq mi) (131st)|
• Water (%)
• 2020 estimate
|421/km2 (1,090.4/sq mi) (16th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
|$1.004 trillion (28th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
|$914 billion (17th)|
• Per capita
low · 15th
very high · 10th
• Summer (DST)
|Note: Even though the European Netherlands are located within the UTC±0 longitudes, the country adopted UTC+1 (Central European Time) as its standard time under German occupation on 2 November 1942, with a +0:40:28 offset (+1:40:28 during DST) from Amsterdam’s LMT (UTC+0:19:32).|
|Mains electricity||230 V–50 Hz|
|Calling code||+31, +599[f]|
|ISO 3166 code||NL|
|Internet TLD||.nl, .bq[g]|
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (
The four largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Amsterdam is the country's most populous city and nominal capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the busiest seaport in Europe, and the busiest in any country outside East Asia and Southeast Asia, behind only China and Singapore. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the busiest airport in the Netherlands, and the third busiest in Europe. The country is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD and WTO, as well as a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. It hosts several intergovernmental organisations and international courts, many of which are centered in The Hague, which is consequently dubbed 'the world's legal capital'.
Netherlands literally means "lower countries" in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level, and nearly 17% falling below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as polders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 16th century. Colloquially or informally the Netherlands are occasionally referred to by the pars pro toto Holland. With a population of 17.4 million people, all living within a total area of roughly 41,800 square kilometres (16,100 sq mi)—of which the land area is 33,500 square kilometres (12,900 sq mi)—the Netherlands is the 12th most densely populated country in the world and the 2nd most densely populated country in the European Union, with a density of 521 per square kilometre (1,350/sq mi). Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products (after the United States), owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, intensive agriculture and inventiveness.
The Netherlands has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. The country has a tradition of pillarisation and a long record of social tolerance, having legalised abortion, prostitution and human euthanasia, along with maintaining a liberal drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in Civil Law in 1870. It stayed in the Law of war and Military Law. In the Second World War it was reintroduced for the Bijzonder Gerechtshof that dealt with war criminals. It was removed althogether from the Constitution in 1983. The Netherlands allowed women's suffrage in 1919, before becoming the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Its mixed-market advanced economy had the thirteenth-highest per capita income globally. The Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indexes of press freedom, economic freedom, human development and quality of life, as well as happiness.[h] In 2019, the Netherlands had the eleventh highest economy as measured by GDP per capita. In 2019, it ranked tenth on the human development index.
Netherlands Intro articles: 74
The Netherlands' turbulent history and shifts of power resulted in exceptionally many and widely varying names in different languages. There is diversity even within languages. In English, the Netherlands is also called Holland or (part of) the Low Countries, whereas the term "Dutch" is used as the demonym and adjectival form.
The Netherlands and the Low Countries
The region called the Low Countries (comprising Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and the Country of the Netherlands, have the same toponymy. Place names with Neder (or lage), Nieder, Nether (or low) and Nedre (in Germanic languages) and Bas or Inferior (in Romance languages) are in use in places all over Europe. They are sometimes used in a deictic relation to a higher ground that consecutively is indicated as Upper, Boven, Oben, Superior or Haut. In the case of the Low Countries / Netherlands the geographical location of the lower region has been more or less downstream and near the sea. The geographical location of the upper region, however, changed tremendously over time, depending on the location of the economic and military power governing the Low Countries area. The Romans made a distinction between the Roman provinces of downstream Germania Inferior (nowadays part of Belgium and the Netherlands) and upstream Germania Superior (nowadays part of Germany). The designation 'Low' to refer to the region returns again in the 10th century Duchy of Lower Lorraine, that covered much of the Low Countries. But this time the corresponding Upper region is Upper Lorraine, in nowadays Northern France.
The Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled the Low Countries in the 15th century, used the term les pays de par deçà ("the lands over here") for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà ("the lands over there") for their original homeland: Burgundy in present-day east-central France. Under Habsburg rule, Les pays de par deçà developed in pays d'embas ("lands down-here"), a deictic expression in relation to other Habsburg possessions like Hungary and Austria. This was translated as Neder-landen in contemporary Dutch official documents. From a regional point of view, Niderlant was also the area between the Meuse and the lower Rhine in the late Middle Ages. The area known as Oberland (High country) was in this deictic context considered to begin approximately at the nearby higher located Cologne.
From the mid-sixteenth century on, the "Low Countries" and the "Netherlands" lost their original deictic meaning. They were probably the most commonly used names, besides Flanders, a pars pro toto for the Low Countries, especially in Romance language speaking Europe. The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into an independent northern Dutch Republic (or Latinised Belgica Foederata, "Federated Netherlands", the precursor state of the Netherlands) and a Spanish controlled Southern Netherlands (Latinised Belgica Regia, "Royal Netherlands", the precursor state of Belgium). The Low Countries today is a designation that includes the countries of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, although in most Romance languages, the term "Low Countries" is used as the name for the Netherlands specifically. It is used synonymous with the more neutral and geopolitical term Benelux.
The Netherlands is also referred to as Holland in various languages, including English. The region of Holland proper consists of North and South Holland, two of the nation's twelve provinces, formerly a single province, and earlier still, the County of Holland, a remnant of the dissolved Frisian Kingdom. Following the decline of the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Flanders, Holland became the most economically and politically important county in the Low Countries region. The emphasis on Holland during the formation of the Dutch Republic, the Eighty Years' War, and the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, made Holland serve as a pars pro toto for the entire country, which is now considered informal or incorrect. The use of the term Holland when referring to the whole of the Netherlands is disliked by many Dutch people. Nonetheless, the name "Holland" is still widely used for the Netherlands national football team, including in the Netherlands, and the Dutch government's international websites for tourism and trade are "holland.com" and "hollandtradeandinvest.com". In 2020, however, the Dutch government has announced that it will only communicate and advertise under the name "the Netherlands" in the future.
The term Dutch is used as the demonymic and adjectival form of the Netherlands in the English language. The origins of the word go back to Proto-Germanic *þiudiskaz, meaning "popular" or "of the people"; akin to Old Dutch dietsc, Old High German diutsch, and Old English þeodisc, all meaning "(of) the common (Germanic) people". At first, the English language used (the contemporary form of) Dutch to refer to any or all speakers of West Germanic languages (e.g. the Dutch, the Frisians, and the Germans). Gradually its meaning shifted to the West Germanic people they had most contact with, because of their geographical proximity and for the rivalry in trade and overseas territories. The derivative of the Proto-Germanic word *þiudiskaz in modern Dutch, Diets, can be found in Dutch literature as a poetic name for the Dutch people or language, but is considered very archaic. It is still used in the expression "diets maken" - to put it straight to him/her (as in a threat) or, more neutral, to make it clear, understandable, explain, say in the people's language (cf. the Vulgate (Bible not in Greek or Hebrew, but Latin; the folks' language) in meaning vulgar, though not in a pejorative sense).
Netherlands Etymology articles: 33
Prehistory (before 800 BC)
The prehistory of the area that is now the Netherlands was largely shaped by the sea and the rivers that constantly shifted the low-lying geography. The oldest human (Neanderthal) traces were found in higher soils, near Maastricht, from what is believed to be about 250,000 years ago. At the end of the Ice Age, the nomadic late Upper Paleolithic Hamburg culture (c. 13.000–10.000 BC) hunted reindeer in the area, using spears, but the later Ahrensburg culture (c. 11.200–9500 BC) used bow and arrow. From Mesolithic Maglemosian-like tribes (c. 8000 BC) the oldest canoe in the world was found in Drenthe.
Indigenous late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from the Swifterbant culture (c. 5600 BC) were related to the southern Scandinavian Ertebølle culture and were strongly linked to rivers and open water. Between 4800 and 4500 BC, the Swifterbant people started to copy from the neighbouring Linear Pottery culture the practise of animal husbandry, and between 4300 and 4000 BC the practice of agriculture. To Swifterbant the related Funnelbeaker culture (c. 4300–2800 BC) erected the dolmens, large stone grave monuments found in Drenthe. There was a quick and smooth transition from the Funnelbeaker farming culture to the pan-European Corded Ware pastoralist culture (c. 2950 BC). In the southwest, the Seine-Oise-Marne culture — which was related to the Vlaardingen culture (c. 2600 BC), an apparently more primitive culture of hunter-gatherers — survived well into the Neolithic period, until it too was succeeded by the Corded Ware culture.
Of the subsequent Bell Beaker culture (2700–2100 BC) several regions of origin have been postulated, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands and Central Europe. They introduced metalwork in copper, gold and later bronze and opened international trade routes not seen before, reflected in the discoveries of copper artifacts, as the metal is not normally found in Dutch soil. The many finds in Drenthe of rare bronze objects, suggest that it was even a trading centre in the Bronze Age (2000–800 BC). The Bell Beaker culture developed locally into the Barbed-Wire Beaker culture (2100–1800 BC) and later the Elp culture (c. 1800–800 BC), a Middle Bronze Age archaeological culture having earthenware pottery of low quality as a marker. The initial phase of the Elp culture was characterised by tumuli (1800–1200 BC) that were strongly tied to contemporary tumuli in northern Germany and Scandinavia, and were apparently related to the Tumulus culture in central Europe. The subsequent phase was that of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields, following the customs of the Urnfield culture (1200–800 BC). The southern region became dominated by the related Hilversum culture (1800–800 BC), which apparently inherited cultural ties with Britain of the previous Barbed-Wire Beaker culture.
Celts, Germanic tribes and Romans (800 BC–410 AD)
From 800 BC onwards, the Iron Age Celtic Hallstatt culture became influential, replacing the Hilversum culture. Iron ore brought a measure of prosperity, and was available throughout the country, including bog iron. Smiths travelled from settlement to settlement with bronze and iron, fabricating tools on demand. The King's grave of Oss (700 BC) was found in a burial mound, the largest of its kind in western Europe and containing an iron sword with an inlay of gold and coral.
The deteriorating climate in Scandinavia around 850 BC further deteriorated around 650 BC and might have triggered migration of Germanic tribes from the North. By the time this migration was complete, around 250 BC, a few general cultural and linguistic groups had emerged. The North Sea Germanic Ingvaeones inhabited the northern part of the Low Countries. They would later develop into the Frisii and the early Saxons. A second grouping, the Weser-Rhine Germanic (or Istvaeones), extended along the middle Rhine and Weser and inhabited the Low Countries south of the great rivers. This group consisted of tribes that would eventually develop into the Salian Franks. Also the Celtic La Tène culture (c. 450 BC up to the Roman conquest) had expanded over a wide range, including the southern area of the Low Countries. Some scholars have speculated that even a third ethnic identity and language, neither Germanic nor Celtic, survived in the Netherlands until the Roman period, the Iron Age Nordwestblock culture, that eventually was being absorbed by the Celts to the south and the Germanic peoples from the east.
The first author to describe the coast of Holland and Flanders was the Greek geographer Pytheas, who noted in c.325 BC that in these regions, "more people died in the struggle against water than in the struggle against men." During the Gallic Wars, the area south and west of the Rhine was conquered by Roman forces under Julius Caesar from 57 BC to 53 BC. Caesar describes two main Celtic tribes living in what is now the southern Netherlands: the Menapii and the Eburones. The Rhine became fixed as Rome's northern frontier around 12 AD. Notable towns would arise along the Limes Germanicus: Nijmegen and Voorburg. At first part of Gallia Belgica, the area south of the Limes became part of the Roman province of Germania Inferior. The area to the north of the Rhine, inhabited by the Frisii, remained outside Roman rule (but not its presence and control), while the Germanic border tribes of the Batavi and Cananefates served in the Roman cavalry. The Batavi rose against the Romans in the Batavian rebellion of 69 AD, but were eventually defeated. The Batavi later merged with other tribes into the confederation of the Salian Franks, whose identity emerged at the first half of the third century. Salian Franks appear in Roman texts as both allies and enemies. They were forced by the confederation of the Saxons from the east to move over the Rhine into Roman territory in the fourth century. From their new base in West Flanders and the Southwest Netherlands, they were raiding the English Channel. Roman forces pacified the region, but did not expel the Franks, who continued to be feared at least until the time of Julian the Apostate (358), when Salian Franks were allowed to settle as foederati in Toxandria. It has been postulated that after deteriorating climate conditions and the Romans' withdrawal, the Frisii disappeared as laeti in c. 296, leaving the coastal lands largely unpopulated for the next two centuries. However, recent excavations in Kennemerland show clear indication of a permanent habitation.
Early Middle Ages (411–1000)
After Roman government in the area collapsed, the Franks expanded their territories in numerous kingdoms. By the 490s, Clovis I had conquered and united all these territories in the southern Netherlands in one Frankish kingdom, and from there continued his conquests into Gaul. During this expansion, Franks migrating to the south eventually adopted the Vulgar Latin of the local population. A widening cultural divide grew with the Franks remaining in their original homeland in the north (i.e. southern Netherlands and Flanders), who kept on speaking Old Frankish, which by the ninth century had evolved into Old Low Franconian or Old Dutch. A Dutch-French language boundary hence came into existence.
To the north of the Franks, climatic conditions improved, and during the Migration Period Saxons the closely related Angles, Jutes and Frisii settled the coastal land. Many moved on to England and came to be known as Anglo-Saxons, but those who stayed would be referred to as Frisians and their language as Frisian, named after the land that was once inhabited by Frisii. Frisian was spoken along the entire southern North Sea coast, and it is still the language most closely related to English among the living languages of continental Europe. By the seventh century a Frisian Kingdom (650–734) under King Aldegisel and King Redbad emerged with Utrecht as its centre of power, while Dorestad was a flourishing trading place. Between 600 and around 719 the cities were often fought over between the Frisians and the Franks. In 734, at the Battle of the Boarn, the Frisians were defeated after a series of wars. With the approval of the Franks, the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord converted the Frisian people to Christianity. He established the Archdiocese of Utrecht and became bishop of the Frisians. However, his successor Boniface was murdered by the Frisians in Dokkum, in 754.
The Frankish Carolingian empire modeled itself after the Roman Empire and controlled much of Western Europe. However, as of 843, it was divided into three parts—East, Middle, and West Francia. Most of present-day Netherlands became part of Middle Francia, which was a weak kingdom and subject of numerous partitions and annexation attempts by its stronger neighbours. It comprised territories from Frisia in the north to the Kingdom of Italy in the south. Around 850, Lothair I of Middle Francia acknowledged the Viking Rorik of Dorestad as ruler of most of Frisia. When the kingdom of Middle Francia was partitioned in 855, the lands north of the Alps passed to Lothair II and subsequently were named Lotharingia. After he died in 869, Lotharingia was partitioned, into Upper and Lower Lotharingia, the latter part comprising the Low Countries that technically became part of East Francia in 870, although it was effectively under the control of Vikings, who raided the largely defenceless Frisian and Frankish towns lying on the Frisian coast and along the rivers. Around 879, another Viking raided the Frisian lands, Godfrid, Duke of Frisia. The Viking raids made the sway of French and German lords in the area weak. Resistance to the Vikings, if any, came from local nobles, who gained in stature as a result, and that laid the basis for the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia into semi-independent states. One of these local nobles was Gerolf of Holland, who assumed lordship in Frisia after he helped to assassinate Godfrid, and Viking rule came to an end.
High Middle Ages (1000–1384)
The Holy Roman Empire (the successor state of East Francia and then Lotharingia) ruled much of the Low Countries in the 10th and 11th century, but was not able to maintain political unity. Powerful local nobles turned their cities, counties and duchies into private kingdoms that felt little sense of obligation to the emperor. Holland, Hainaut, Flanders, Gelre, Brabant, and Utrecht were in a state of almost continual war or in paradoxically formed personal unions. The language and culture of most of the people who lived in the County of Holland were originally Frisian. As Frankish settlement progressed from Flanders and Brabant, the area quickly became Old Low Franconian (or Old Dutch). The rest of Frisia in the north (now Friesland and Groningen) continued to maintain its independence and had its own institutions (collectively called the "Frisian freedom"), which resented the imposition of the feudal system.
Around 1000 AD, due to several agricultural developments, the economy started to develop at a fast pace, and the higher productivity allowed workers to farm more land or to become tradesmen. Towns grew around monasteries and castles, and a mercantile middle class began to develop in these urban areas, especially in Flanders and later also Brabant. Wealthy cities started to buy certain privileges for themselves from the sovereign. In practice, this meant that Brugge and Antwerp became quasi-independent republics in their own right and would later develop into some of the most important cities and ports in Europe.
Around 1100 AD, farmers from Flanders and Utrecht began draining and cultivating uninhabited swampy land in the western Netherlands, making the emergence of the County of Holland as the centre of power possible. The title of Count of Holland was fought over in the Hook and Cod Wars (Dutch: Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten) between 1350 and 1490. The Cod faction consisted of the more progressive cities, while the Hook faction consisted of the conservative noblemen. These noblemen invited the Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy — who was also Count of Flanders — to conquer Holland.
Burgundian, Habsburg and Spanish Habsburg Netherlands (1384–1581)
Most of the Imperial and French fiefs in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium were united in a personal union by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy in 1433. The House of Valois-Burgundy and their Habsburg heirs would rule the Low Countries in the period from 1384 to 1581. Before the Burgundian union, the Dutch identified themselves by the town they lived in or their local duchy or county. The Burgundian period is when the road to nationhood began. The new rulers defended Dutch trading interests, which then developed rapidly. The fleets of the County of Holland defeated the fleets of the Hanseatic League several times. Amsterdam grew and in the 15th century became the primary trading port in Europe for grain from the Baltic region. Amsterdam distributed grain to the major cities of Belgium, Northern France and England. This trade was vital, because Holland could no longer produce enough grain to feed itself. Land drainage had caused the peat of the former wetlands to reduce to a level that was too low for drainage to be maintained.
Under Habsburg Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, all fiefs in the current Netherlands region were united into the Seventeen Provinces, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some adjacent land in what is now France and Germany. In 1568, under Phillip II, the Eighty Years' War between the Provinces and their Spanish ruler began. The level of ferocity exhibited by both sides can be gleaned from a Dutch chronicler's report:
On more than one occasion men were seen hanging their own brothers, who had been taken prisoners in the enemy's ranks.... A Spaniard had ceased to be human in their eyes. On one occasion, a surgeon at Veer cut the heart from a Spanish prisoner, nailed it on a vessel's prow, and invited the townsmen to come and fasten their teeth in it, which many did with savage satisfaction.
The Duke of Alba ruthlessly attempted to suppress the Protestant movement in the Netherlands. Netherlanders were “burned, strangled, beheaded, or buried alive” by his “Blood Council” and his Spanish soldiers. Severed heads and decapitated corpses were displayed along streets and roads to terrorize the population into submission. Alba boasted of having executed 18,600, but this figure does not include those who perished by war and famine.
The first great siege was Alba's effort to capture Haarlem and thereby cut Holland in half. It dragged on from December 1572 to the next summer, when Haarlemers finally surrendered on 13 July upon promise that the city would be spared from being sacked. It was a stipulation Don Fadrique was unable to honor, when his soldiers mutinied, angered over pay owed and the miserable conditions they endured during the long, cold months of the campaign. On 4 November 1576, Spanish tercios seized Antwerp and subjected it to the worst pillage in the Netherlands' history. The citizens resisted, but were overcome; seven thousand of them were mowed down; a thousand buildings were torched; men, women, and children were slaughtered in a delirium of blood by soldiers crying, "Santiago! España! A sangre, a carne, a fuego, a sacco!" (Saint James! Spain! To blood, to the flesh, to fire, to sack!)
Following the sack of Antwerp, delegates from Catholic Brabant, Protestant Holland and Zeeland agreed, at Ghent, to join Utrecht and William the Silent in driving out all Spanish troops and forming a new government for the Netherlands. Don Juan of Austria, the new Spanish governor, was forced to concede initially, but within months returned to active hostilities. As the fighting restarted, the Dutch began to look for help from the Queen of England, but she initially stood by her commitments to the Spanish in the Treaty of Bristol of 1574. The result was that when the next large-scale battle did occur at Gembloux in 1578, the Spanish forces easily won the day, killing at least 10,000 rebels, with the Spanish suffering few losses. In light of the defeat at Gembloux, the southern states of the Seventeen Provinces (today in northern France and Belgium) distanced themselves from the rebels in the north with the 1579 Union of Arras, which expressed their loyalty to Philip II of Spain. Opposing them, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces forged the Union of Utrecht (also of 1579) in which they committed to support each other in their defence against the Spanish army. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands.
Spanish troops sacked Maastricht in 1579, killing over 10,000 civilians and thereby ensuring the rebellion continued. In 1581, the northern provinces adopted the Act of Abjuration, the declaration of independence in which the provinces officially deposed Philip II as reigning monarch in the northern provinces. Against the rebels Philip could draw on the resources of Spain, Spanish America, Spanish Italy and the Spanish Netherlands. The Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England sympathised with the Dutch struggle against the Spanish, and sent an army of 7,600 soldiers to aid the Dutch in their war with the Catholic Spanish. English forces under the Earl of Leicester and then Lord Willoughby faced the Spanish in the Netherlands under the Duke of Parma in a series of largely indecisive actions that tied down significant numbers of Spanish troops and bought time for the Dutch to reorganise their defenses. The war continued until 1648, when Spain under King Philip IV finally recognised the independence of the seven north-western provinces in the Peace of Münster. Parts of the southern provinces became de facto colonies of the new republican-mercantile empire.
Dutch Republic (1581–1795)
After declaring their independence, the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Groningen, Friesland, Utrecht, Overijssel, and Gelderland formed a confederation. All these duchies, lordships and counties were autonomous and had their own government, the States-Provincial. The States General, the confederal government, were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives from each of the seven provinces. The sparsely populated region of Drenthe was part of the republic too, although it was not considered one of the provinces. Moreover, the Republic had come to occupy during the Eighty Years' War a number of so-called Generality Lands in Flanders, Brabant and Limburg. Their population was mainly Roman Catholic, and these areas did not have a governmental structure of their own, and were used as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Spanish-controlled Southern Netherlands.
In the Dutch Golden Age, spanning much of the 17th century, the Dutch Empire grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers, alongside Portugal, Spain, France and England. Science, military, and art (especially painting) were among the most acclaimed in the world. By 1650, the Dutch owned 16,000 merchant ships. The Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company established colonies and trading posts all over the world, including ruling the northern parts of Taiwan between 1624–1662 and 1664–1667. The Dutch settlement in North America began with the founding of New Amsterdam on the southern part of Manhattan in 1614. In South Africa, the Dutch settled the Cape Colony in 1652. Dutch colonies in South America were established along the many rivers in the fertile Guyana plains, among them Colony of Surinam (now Suriname). In Asia, the Dutch established the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), and the only western trading post in Japan, Dejima.
During the period of Proto-industrialization, the empire received 50% of textiles and 80% of silks import from the India's Mughal Empire, chiefly from its most developed region known as Bengal Subah.
Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it had the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders led to insurance and retirement funds as well as phenomena such as the boom-bust cycle, the world's first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636–1637, and the world's first bear raider, Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount. In 1672 – known in Dutch history as the Rampjaar (Disaster Year) – the Dutch Republic was at war with France, England and three German Bishoprics simultaneously. At sea it could successfully prevent the English and French navy entering the western shores. On land, however, it was almost taken over internally by the advancing French and German armies coming from the east. It managed to turn the tide by inundating parts of Holland but could never recover to its former glory again and went into a state of general decline in the 18th century, with economic competition from England and long-standing rivalries between the two main factions in Dutch society, the republican Staatsgezinden and the supporters of the stadtholder the Prinsgezinden as main political factions.
Batavian Republic and Kingdom (1795–1890)
With the armed support of revolutionary France, Dutch republicans proclaimed the Batavian Republic, modelled after the French Republic and rendering the Netherlands a unitary state on 19 January 1795. The stadtholder William V of Orange had fled to England. But from 1806 to 1810, the Kingdom of Holland was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom governed by his brother Louis Bonaparte to control the Netherlands more effectively. However, King Louis Bonaparte tried to serve Dutch interests instead of his brother's, and he was forced to abdicate on 1 July 1810. The Emperor sent in an army and the Netherlands became part of the French Empire until the autumn of 1813, when Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig.
William Frederick, son of the last stadtholder, returned to the Netherlands in 1813 and proclaimed himself Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. Two years later, the Congress of Vienna added the southern Netherlands to the north to create a strong country on the northern border of France. William Frederick raised this United Netherlands to the status of a kingdom and proclaimed himself as King William I in 1815. In addition, William became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg in exchange for his German possessions. However, the Southern Netherlands had been culturally separate from the north since 1581, and rebelled. The south gained independence in 1830 as Belgium (recognised by the Northern Netherlands in 1839 as the Kingdom of the Netherlands was created by decree), while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890, when William III died with no surviving male heirs. Ascendancy laws prevented his daughter Queen Wilhelmina from becoming the next Grand Duchess.
The Belgian Revolution at home and the Java War in the Dutch East Indies brought the Netherlands to the brink of bankruptcy. However, the Cultivation System was introduced in 1830; in the Dutch East Indies, 20% of village land had to be devoted to government crops for export. The policy brought the Dutch enormous wealth and made the colony self-sufficient.
The Dutch were also one of the last European countries to industrialise, in the second half of the 19th century.
World wars and beyond (1890–present)
The Netherlands were able to remain neutral during World War I, in part because the import of goods through the Netherlands proved essential to German survival, until the blockade by the British Royal Navy in 1916. That changed in World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. The Rotterdam Blitz forced the main element of the Dutch army to surrender four days later. During the occupation, over 100,000 Dutch Jews were rounded up and transported to Nazi extermination camps; only a few of them survived. Dutch workers were conscripted for forced labour in Germany, civilians who resisted were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food. Although there were thousands of Dutch who risked their lives by hiding Jews from the Germans, over 20,000 Dutch fascists joined the Waffen SS, fighting on the Eastern Front. Political collaborators were members of the fascist NSB, the only legal political party in the occupied Netherlands. On 8 December 1941, the Dutch government-in-exile in London declared war on Japan, but could not prevent the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). In 1944–45, the First Canadian Army, which included Canadian, British and Polish troops, was responsible for liberating much of the Netherlands. Soon after VE Day, the Dutch fought a colonial war against the new Republic of Indonesia.
In 1954, the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands reformed the political structure of the Netherlands, which was a result of international pressure to carry out decolonisation. The Dutch colonies of Surinam and Curaçao and Dependencies and the European country all became countries within the Kingdom, on a basis of equality. Indonesia had declared its independence in August 1945 (recognised in 1949), and thus was never part of the reformed Kingdom. Suriname followed in 1975. After the war the Netherlands left behind an era of neutrality and gained closer ties with neighboring states. The Netherlands was one of the founding members of the Benelux, the NATO, Euratom and the European Coal and Steel Community, which would evolve into the EEC (Common Market) and later the European Union.
Government-encouraged emigration efforts to reduce population density prompted some 500,000 Dutch people to leave the country after the war. The 1960s and 1970s were a time of great social and cultural change, such as rapid de-pillarisation characterized by the decay of the old divisions along political and religious lines. Youths, and students in particular, rejected traditional mores and pushed for change in matters such as women's rights, sexuality, disarmament and environmental issues. In 2002, the euro was introduced as fiat money and in 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved. Referendums were held on each island to determine their future status. As a result, the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (the BES islands) were to obtain closer ties with the Netherlands. This led to the incorporation of these three islands into the country of the Netherlands as special municipalities upon the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles. The special municipalities are collectively known as the Caribbean Netherlands.