The Netherlands

The Netherlands is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, located in Western Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.

The Netherlands is often called Holland. This is formally incorrect as North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country's twelve provinces.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying and densely populated country. It is popularly known for its windmills, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and gouda pottery, dikes, tulips, bicycles, and social tolerance. A Parliamentary democracy, the country is also known for its somewhat liberal policies toward drugs, prostitution, gay rights, abortion, and euthanasia.

The Netherlands has an international outlook; among other affiliations the country is a member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto protocol. Along with Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands is also one of three member nations of the Benelux economic union. The country is host to four international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court. All of these courts, as well as the EU's criminal intelligence agency (Europol) are situated in The Hague, which has led to the city being referred to as "the world's legal capital."


Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the Eighty Years' War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces declared itself independent from Spain, and they formed the Union of Utrecht, which is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. Philip II, the son of Charles V, was not prepared to let them go easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain under King Philip IV finally recognized Dutch independence in the Treaty of Münster.

Dutch republic:

After gaining formal independence from the Spanish Empire, the Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe. (See Dutch colonial empire)

Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it featured 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 such less benign phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world's first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636-1637, and according to Murray Sayle, the world's first bear raider - Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount. The republic went into a state of general decline in the later 18th century, with economic competition from England and long standing rivalries between the two main factions in Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden (Republicans) and the Prinsgezinden (Royalists or Orangists) as main factors.

Kingdom of the Netherlands:

After briefly being incorporated in the First French Empire under Napoleon, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815, consisting of the present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition, the king of the Netherlands became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890 as a result of ascendancy laws which prevented Queen Wilhelmina from becoming Grand Duchess. The Netherlands possessed several colonies, most notably the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New Amsterdam, now known as New York). These 'colonies' were first administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they become official colonies. During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialise compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to its unique infrastructure of waterways and reliance on wind power.

The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the Second World War. The country was quickly overrun and the army main force surrendered on May 14 after the bombing of Rotterdam, although a Dutch and French allied force held the province of Zeeland for a short time after the Dutch surrender. The Kingdom as such continued the war from the colonial empire; the government in exile resided in London. During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews were rounded up to be transported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia where they were murdered in Holocaust. Dutch workers were conscripted for labour in German factories, civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. Dutch people also collaborated with Nazi occupiers in hunting down and arresting hiding Jews, and some joined the Waffen-SS to form the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Netherlands, fighting on the Eastern Front.

After a first liberation attempt by the Allied 21st Army Group stalled, much of the northern Netherlands was subject to the Dutch famine of 1944, caused by the disrupted transportation system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock made the "Hunger Winter" of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife among the Dutch population. German forces held out until the surrender of May 6, 1945, in Wageningen at Hotel De Wereld. After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states. The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) cooperation. Furthermore, the Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve into the European Union.


The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of the "Dutch Masters", such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M.C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist. Han van Meegeren was an infamous Dutch art forger.

The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza, and all of Descartes' major work was done there. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan and invented the pendulum clock.

In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flourished as well, with Joost van den Vondel and P.C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the bad treatment of the natives in Dutch colonies. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard (van het) Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she died in The Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.

Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Huis ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang, China.
Windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, cheese and Delftware pottery are among the items associated with the Netherlands.
Dutch law takes very liberal stances on such controversial issues as abortion, drugs and euthanasia.

Biggest cityies in the Netherland:

    1. Amszterdam (743 027 lakos)
    2. Rotterdam (588 500 lakos)
    3. Den Haag (475 580 lakos)
    4. Utrecht (471 000 lakos)
    5. Eindhoven (440 000 lakos)
    6. Haarlem (405 000 lakos)
    7. Arnhem (352 000 lakos)
    8. Groningen (344 000 lakos)
    9. Leiden (332 000 lakos)
    10. Enschede (309 000 lakos)
    11. Breda (308 000 lakos)
    12. Dordrecht (288 000 lakos)
    13. Tilburg (287 000 lakos)
    14. Nijmegen (276 000 lakos)
    15. Amersfoort (267 000 lakos)
    16. Heerlen (260 000 lakos)
    17. Apeldoorn (213 000 lakos)
    18. 's-Hertogenbosch (187 000 lakos)
    19. Maastricht (184 000 lakos)
    20. Zwolle (168 000 lakos)


Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, and is located in the south of the North Holland province. The city is known for its historic port, the Rijksmuseum, the red-light district (de Wallen), the liberal coffeeshops, and the canals which have led to Amsterdam being termed the "Venice of the North".During the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam was one of the most important ports in the world, with innovative developments in trade, and became the leading centre for finance and diamonds.

The city was founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village, and has grown to become the largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 743,027 inhabitants, which includes 177 different nationalities, making Amsterdam the most multicultural city in the world.

The metropolitan region has a population of 1,021,870 inhabitants and is part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a population of 6,659,300 inhabitants. The name Amsterdam is a derivative from Amstel dam, that is, a dam in the river Amstel.


The first known record of Amsterdam is 27 October 1275, when the inhabitants of a late 12th century fishing village who had built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel were granted freedom by count Floris V from paying a bridge toll .[14] The certificate's wording (homines manentes apud Amestelledamme - people living near Amestelledamme) gives the first known use of the name Amsterdam, which by 1327 had developed into Aemsterdam. A local tradition has the city being founded by two Frisian fishermen, who landed on the shores of the Amstel in a small boat with their dog. In any case, Amsterdam's origin is relatively recent in comparison with other Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and Utrecht.

Amsterdam was given city rights in 1300 or 1301. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely on the basis of trade with the cities of the Hanseatic League. In 1345 a Eucharistic miracle occurred near the Kalverstraat and Amsterdam would remain an important pilgrimage city until the Alteration to the protestant faith; today the Stille Omgang - a silent procession in civil dress - remains of the rich pilgrimage history.

In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years' War which ultimately led to Dutch independence and the imposition of Protestant Calvinism as de facto state religion. In 1578 the previously Catholic city of Amsterdam joined the revolt and all churches were confiscated for the reformed Protestant worship. After the break with Spain, the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance, except towards Catholics who had to worship secretly. Jews from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp (economic and religious refugees from the part of the Low Countries still controlled by Spain), and Huguenots from France (persecuted for their religion) sought safety in Amsterdam.

The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's "Golden Age". In the early 17th century, Amsterdam became one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, Africa and present-day Indonesia and Brazil, and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants had the biggest share in the VOC and WIC. These companies acquired the overseas possessions which formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was the most important point for the trans-shipment of goods in Europe, and it was the leading financial centre of the world. Amsterdam's stock exchange was the first to trade continuously.

The 18th and early 19th centuries saw a decline in Amsterdam's prosperity. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England (see Anglo-Dutch Wars) and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic Wars, Amsterdam's fortunes reached their lowest point. However, with the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, things slowly began to improve. In Amsterdam new developments were started by people like city planner Samuel Sarphati, who found their inspiration in Paris.

The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built. At this time the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam. The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects improved communication with the rest of Europe and the world dramatically. Joseph Conrad gives a brief description of Amsterdam, seen from the sea at this period, in The Mirror of the Sea (1906). In 1924 the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands hosted the International Eucharistic Congress in Amsterdam, and numerous Catholic prelates visited the city, where numerous festivities were held in churches and stadiums; Catholic processions on the public streets however were still forbidden under law at the time

Shortly before the World War I the city began expanding and new suburbs were built. During the war, the Netherlands remained neutral. Amsterdam suffered a food shortage, and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed.

Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, taking control of the country after five days of fighting. The Germans installed a Nazi civilian government in Amsterdam that cooperated in the persecution of Jews. However, a minority of people in Amsterdam helped the Jews in hiding and suffered persecution themselves in doing so. More than 103,000 to 105,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands to concentration camps, of whom perhaps the most famous was a young German girl, Anne Frank. Only 5,000 Dutch Jews survived the war. In the last months of the war, communication with the rest of the country broke down, and food and fuel became scarce. Many inhabitants of the city had to travel to the countryside to collect food. Dogs, cats and raw sugar beets were consumed to stay alive. Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel, and all the wood was taken from the apartments of deported Jews.

The canals:

Much of the Amsterdam canal system is the successful outcome of city planning. In the early part of the 17th century, with immigration at a height, a comprehensive plan was put together, calling for four main, concentric half-circles of canals with their ends resting on de IJ bay. Known as the "grachtengordel", three of the canals are mostly for residential development (Herengracht or ''Gentleman's Canal''; Keizersgracht or ''Emperor's Canal''; and Prinsengracht or ''Prince's Canal''), and a fourth, outer canal, the present Nassau/Stadhouderskade, for purposes of defense and water management. The plan also envisaged interconnecting canals along radii; a set of parallel canals in the Jordaan quarter (primarily for the transportation of goods, for example, beer); the conversion of an existing, inner perimeter canal (Singel) from a defensive purpose to residential and commercial development; and more than one hundred bridges. The defensive purpose of the Nassau/Stadhouderskade was served by moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points but otherwise no masonry superstructures.

Construction proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the lay-out, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it - not from the center outwards as a popular myth has it. Construction of the north-western sector was started in 1613. After 1656, with the canals in the southern sector also already finished for some time, building in that sector too was started, although slowly. The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ bay, was never implemented. In the following centuries, the land went mostly for parks, old age homes, theaters and other public facilities - and for waterways without much plan.