Against this background it is less surprising that, after the French Revolution, when the French army invaded and occupied the Netherlands in 1795, the French encountered so little united resistance.
William V of Orange fled to England. The Patriots proclaimed the short-lived Batavian Republic, but government was soon returned to stabler and more experienced hands. In 1806 Napoleon restyled
the Netherlands (along with a small part of what is now Germany) into the Kingdom of Holland, with his brother Louis (Lodewijk) Bonaparte as king. This too was short-lived, however. Napoleon
incorporated the Netherlands into the French empire after his brother put Dutch interests ahead of those of the French. The French occupation of the Netherlands ended in 1813 after Napoleon was
defeated, a defeat in which William VI of Orange played a prominent role.
On November 30, 1813, William VI of Orange landed in Scheveningen and was proclaimed the Sovereign Prince of the United Netherlands (Dutch: Vereenigde Nederlanden). This state was
superseded by the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, after the unification of the northern Netherlands with the Austrian Netherlands under William VI of Orange.
Shortly after his flight to England Stadtholder William V sent the Kew Letters in which he gave the Dutch colonies in 'safekeeping' to Great Britain and ordered the colonial governors to surrender to the
British. This helped put an end to much of the Dutch colonial empire. Guyana and Ceylon never returned to Dutch rule, though other colonies were initially returned by the Treaty of Amiens. The Cape
Colony, which had changed hands several times, remained British after 1806. Other colonies, including what is today Indonesia, were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of
1814. Ten years later there was another treaty—the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.
Main article: Dutch monarchy
After the Napoleonic era the Netherlands were put back on the map of Europe. The country had always been part of the precarious balance of power that had kept France in check. Particularly the
Russian tsar wanted the Netherlands to resume this role and wanted the colonies to be returned. A compromise was struck with the United Kingdom before the Congress of Vienna, whereby only the
Dutch East Indies were returned, and the north and south of the Netherlands became a united sovereign state for the first time ever in 1815, with two capitals: Amsterdam and Brussels, in a secret
protocol, known as the Eight Articles of London. The country became a monarchy, with the son of the last stadtholder, William V, the Prince of Orange as king William I. In addition, king William I
became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The French-speaking ruling elite in the southern Netherlands soon began feeling like second-class citizens. The primary factors that contributed to this
feeling were religious (the predominantly Roman Catholic South versus the mostly Protestant North), economic (the South was industrializing, the North had always been a merchants' nation) and
linguistic (the French-speaking South was not just Wallonia, but also extended to the French-speaking bourgeoisie in the Flemish cities). In 1830 the situation exploded, the Belgians revolted and
declared independence from the North. King William sent an army in 1831, but it was forced to retreat after a few days when the French army was mobilised. The North refused to recognise Belgium
In 1848 unrest broke out all over Europe. Although there were no major events in the Netherlands, these foreign developments persuaded king William II to agree to liberal and democratic reform. That
same year the liberal Johan Rudolf Thorbecke was asked by the king to rewrite the constitution, turning the Netherlands into a constitutional monarchy. The new document was proclaimed valid on
November 3 of that year. It severely limited the king's powers (making the government accountable only to an elected parliament), and it protected civil liberties. The relationship between monarch,
government and parliament has remained essentially unchanged ever since.
The personal union between the Netherlands and Luxembourg ended in 1890 when William III of the Netherlands, the last Dutch male head of state so far, died, as ascendancy rules in Luxembourg
prevented a woman from becoming ruling Grand Duchess.
By the end of the 19th century, in the New Imperialism wave of colonisation, the Netherlands extended their hold on Indonesia. In 1860 Multatuli wrote Max Havelaar, one of the most famous books in
the history of Dutch literature, criticising the exploitation of the country and its inhabitants by the Dutch, although the indigenous princes as their proxies were not spared either.
Main article: History of the Netherlands: modern history (1900-present)
The Netherlands had been neutral for a long time after the Seven Years War since their wealth had grown but their military had done quite the contrary. The Dutch were unable to defend themselves in
case of war and therefore chose the policy of Neutrality, a choice that would influence the Dutch involvement in the wars to come.
World War I
Marshal Count Alfred von Schlieffen designed the Schlieffen Plan in 1905. A plan to invade France while passing through neutral Belgium and neutral Netherlands. In 1908 Von Schlieffen's successor
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger changed the plan, and chose not to invade the Netherlands in case of war but instead conserving Dutch neutrality. The simple reason being that the Netherlands
supplied many goods to Germany and the Netherlands would be a vast resource of raw products such rubber, tin, quinine and petroleum came through the port of Rotterdam, and of course food. 50
Percent of Dutch agricultural imports until 1916 came through Rotterdam. After that, the USA joined the war and the Dutch suffered from the blockade, although to a lesser extent than Germany.
Therefore the economic importance of Dutch neutrality was lost..
But there were other factors that made it valuable for both the Allies and the Central Powers for the Netherlands to be neutral. The Netherlands controlled the mouths of three rivers, the Scheldt, the
Rhine and the Meuse river. Germany had interest in the Rhine since it was connected to the industrial area the Ruhr and connected it with the Dutch port of Rotterdam. England had interest in the
Scheldt river, and the Meuse went into France. All countries had interest in keeping the other out of the Netherlands, so no ones interest could be taken away or be changed. In case one country would
invade the Netherlands, another one would surely counter- attack to defend their interest in the rivers. It was too big a risk for any of the belligerent nations, no one wanted to risk fighting on another
Yet, the Dutch were not uneffected by the war. The troops were mobilised and conscription was introduced under harsh criticism of the opposition parties. Food shortages were vast due to the control
that the belligerents excerised on the Dutch. Each wanted their share of the Dutch product. That way potatoes became valuable because Britain had demanded so much from the Dutch. Food riots
even broke out in the country..
A big problem was the smuggling. When Germany had conquered Belgium, the Allies saw it as enemy territory and stopped exporting to Belgium. Food became rare for the Belgian people, for the
Germans seized all food and it gave the opportunity for the Dutch citizens to start to smuggle. This, however, caused great problems in the Netherlands, including inflation and more food shortages.
The Allies demanded that the Dutch would stop the smuggling, and the government took measures to remain neutral. The government placed many cities under 'state of siege'. On January 8 1916, a
five kilometre zone was created by the government along the border. In that zone, goods could only be moved on the main roads, with a permit.
Between the Wars
Although both houses of the Dutch parliament were elected by the people, only men with high incomes were eligible to vote until 1917, when pressure from socialist movements resulted in elections in
which all men were allowed to vote. In 1919 women also got the right to vote.
The worldwide Great Depression of 1929 and the early 1930s had crippling effects on the Dutch economy, which lasted longer than they did in most European countries. The long duration of the Great
Depression in the Netherlands is often explained by the very strict fiscal policy of the Dutch government at the time, and its decision to adhere to the Gold Standard much longer than most of its trading
partners. The depression led to large unemployment and poverty, as well as increasing social unrest (for more details: the Great Depression in the Netherlands). The rise of Nazism in Germany did
not go unnoticed in the Netherlands, and there was growing concern over the possibility of armed conflict, but most Dutch citizens thought that Germany would again respect Dutch neutrality.
governed by an aristocracy of city-merchants called the regents, rather than by a king. Every city and province had its own government and laws, and a large degree of autonomy. After attempts to find a
competent sovereign proved unsuccessful, it was decided that sovereignty would be vested in the various provincial Estates, the governing bodies of the provinces. The Estates-General, with its
representatives from all the provinces, would decide on matters important to the Republic as a whole. However, at the head of each province was the stadtholder of that province, a position held by a
descendant of the House of Orange. Usually the stadtholdership of several provinces was held by a single man.
In 1650, the stadtholder William II, Prince of Orange suddenly died of smallpox; his son, the later stadtholder and subsequent king of England, William III, was born only 8 days later, hence leaving the
nation without an obvious successor. Since the conception of the Republic, there had been an ongoing struggle for power between the 'regents', an informal elite of affluent citizens on the one hand
and the House of Orange on the other hand, whose supporters, Orangists, were mainly to be found among the common people. For now, the regents seized the opportunity: there would be no new
stadtholder (in Holland) for 22 years to come. Johan de Witt, a brilliant politician and diplomat, emerged as the dominant figure. Princes of Orange became the stadtholder and an almost hereditary
ruler in 1672 and 1748. The Dutch Republic of the United Provinces was a true republic only from 1650–1672 and 1702–1748. These periods are called the First Stadtholderless Period and Second
In the year 1651, England imposed its first Navigation Act, which severely hurt Dutch trade interests. An incident at sea concerning the Act resulted in the First Anglo-Dutch War, which lasted from 1652
to 1654, ending in the Treaty of Westminster (1654), which left the Navigation Act in effect.
Part of the wealth of the Dutch came through slavery. In 1619 Dutch started with the slave trade between Africa and America, by 1650 becoming the pre-eminent slave trading country in Europe, a
position overtaken by Britain around 1700.
1672 is known in the Netherlands as the "Disastrous Year" (Rampjaar). England declared war on the Republic, (the Third Anglo-Dutch War), followed by France, Münster and Cologne, which had all
signed alliances against the Republic. France, Cologne and Münster invaded the Republic. Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis, who had accomplished a diplomatic balancing act for a long time,
were now the obvious scapegoats. They were lynched, and a new stadtholder, William III, was appointed. An Anglo-French attempt to land on the Dutch shore could only just be repelled in three
desperate naval battles under command of admiral Michiel de Ruyter. The advance of French troops from the south could only be halted by a costly inundation of its own heart land, by breaching river
dykes. With the aid of friendly German princes, the Dutch succeeded in fighting back Cologne and Münster, after which the peace was signed with both of them, although some territory in the east was
lost for ever. Peace was signed with England as well, in 1674 (Second Treaty of Westminster (1674)). In 1678, peace was made with France, although its Spanish and German allies felt betrayed by
them signing the Treaty of Nijmegen.
In 1688, after three essentially undecided Anglo-Dutch Wars, the relations with England reached crisis level once again. Stadtholder William III decided he had to take a huge gamble when he was
invited to invade England by Protestant British nobles feuding with William's father-in-law the Catholic James II of England. This led to the Glorious Revolution and cemented the principle of
parliamentary rule and Protestant ascendency in England. James fled to France and William ascended to the English throne as co-monarch with his wife Mary, James' eldest daughter. This maneuver
secured England as a critical ally of the United Provinces in its ongoing wars with Louis XIV of France. William was the commander of the Dutch and English armies and fleets until his death in 1702.
During Williams reign as King of England his primary focus was leveraging British manpower and finances to aid the Dutch against the French. The combination continued after his death as the
combined Dutch, British, and mercenary army conquered Flanders and Brabant, and invaded French territory before the alliance collapsed in 1713 due to British political infighting.
Many immigrants came to the cities of the province Holland in the 17th and 18th century, especially from Protestant parts of Germany. The amount of first generation immigrants from outside the
Netherlands in Amsterdam was nearly 50% in the 17th and 18th century. If you add immigrants from the second and third generation and immigrants from the Dutch countryside, then the city was
mainly inhabited by immigrants. People in most parts of Europe were very poor, and there was a lot of unemployment. But in Amsterdam there was always work. Tolerance was important, because a
continuous influx of immigrants was necessary for the economy. Travellers were surprised that the police didn't control them in Amsterdam. The Netherlands also sheltered many famous refugees,
including Flemish Protestants; Portuguese and German Jews; French Protestants (Huguenots); the founder of modern philosophy, Descartes; and, temporarily, the Pilgrim Fathers, who were to
become symbols for the US tradition of republicanism.
The Dutch economy stagnated from the end of the 17th century until the end of the 18th century. The Netherlands slowly lost its position as the trading centre of Northern Europe. Amsterdam was a
central financial market and bookmarket in Europe but lost this position to London.
After having gained its independence in 1648, the Netherlands tried in various coalitions to help to contain France, which had replaced Spain as the strongest nation of Europe. The end of the War of
the Spanish Succession (1713) marked the end of the Dutch Republic as a major player. In the 18th century, it just tried to maintain its independence and stuck to a policy of neutrality. French invasions
in 1672, 1701 and 1748 led to an overthrow of government.
The present-day territory of the Netherlands has been inhabited since the paleolithic era. The historical period
sets in with the Roman Empire, as the parts south of the Rhine were included in the province of Gallia Belgica,
and later of Germania Inferior. The country was inhabited at the time by various Germanic tribes, and the south
was inhabited by Gauls, who merged with newcomers from other Germanic tribes during the migration period.
The Salian Franks migrated to Gaul from this region, establishing by the 5th century the powerful Merovingian
In the medieval period, the Low Countries (roughly present-day Belgium and the Netherlands) consisted of
various counties, duchies and dioceses belonging to the Duchy of Burgundy and to the Holy Roman Empire.
These were united into one state under Habsburg rule in the 16th century. The Counter-Reformation following the
success of Calvinism in the Netherlands, and the attempts to centralise government and suppress religious
diversity led to a revolt against Philip II of Spain. On 26 July 1581, independence was declared, and finally
recognised after the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The years of the war also marked the beginning of the Dutch
Golden Age, a period of great commercial and cultural prosperity roughly spanning the 17th century.
Around 1600, the Netherlands were considered a country, but it was not until 1648, with the Treaty of Münster, that
the Dutch and Spain formally made peace.
After the French occupation at the beginning of the 19th century, the Netherlands started out as a monarchy,
governed by the House of Orange. However, after a conservative period, strong liberal sentiments could no longer
be ignored, and the country became a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch in 1848. It has
remained so to this day, with a brief interruption during the occupation by Nazi Germany.
The Netherlands is now a modern, industrialised nation and a large exporter of agricultural products.
International trade (literally 'overseas') has always been a central aspect of the Dutch economy (also influencing
the culture) and was also an important reason for the struggle for independence and cause of the ensuing wealth.
History of the
The Medieval Low
Rise and Fall of the Dutch
From Republic to
The Netherlands in
Luctor et Emergo
The Netherlands have
been inhabited since the
last ice age; the oldest
artifacts that have been
found are from the
Hoogeveen interstadial of
the Saalian glaciation.
During the last ice age, the
Netherlands had a tundra
climate with scarce
vegetation. The first
inhabitants survived as
hunter-gatherers. After the
end of the ice age, the
area was inhabited by
various palaeolithic groups. One group made canoes (Pesse, around 6500 BC) around 8000 BC, a Mesolithic tribe resided near
Agriculture arrived in the Netherlands somewhere around 5000 BC, by the Linear Pottery culture (probably Central European farmers) but was
only practised on the loess plateau in the very south (Southern Limburg). Their knowledge was not used to build farms in the rest of the
Netherlands owing to a lack of animal domestication and proper tools.
|The Netherlands in 5500 BC
Autochtoneous hunter-gatherers of the Swifterbant culture are attested from 5600 BC onwards. They had strong ties to rivers and open
water and are genetically related to the South Scandinavian Ertebølle culture (5300-4000 BC). To the west, the same tribes might have built
hunting camps to hunt winter game, such as seals. There is even some evidence of small settlements in the west. These people made the
switch to animal husbandry between 4800-4500 BC. They are thought to have developed an agricultural society in an indigenous
development as early as 4300-4000 BC, that featured the introduction of small proportions of grains into a traditional broad-spectrum
economy. The culture developed into the Westgroup of the farming Funnelbeaker culture, that inhabited Northern Netherlands and
Northern Germany to the Elbe river. In this period the first notable remains of Dutch prehistory were erected: the dolmens, large stone grave
monuments. They are found in the province of Drenthe, and were probably built between 4100 and 3200 BC. To the west the Vlaardingen
culture (around 2600 BC), an apparently more primitive culture of hunter-gatherers survived well into the Neolithicum.
The region was the possible location of origin of the extremely expansive Bell Beaker culture.
Around 2950 BC the Netherlands witnessed the transition of Funnelbeaker farming culture to Corded Ware pastoralist culture. This change
has been proposed to be a quick, smooth and internal change of culture and religion that occurred during two generations, probably inspired
from developments in Eastern Germany, however without the implication of new immigrations. This new culture evolved into the influential
Bell Beaker culture. As derived from the western extremity of the Corded Ware culture, otherwise marginal groups took advantage of their
contacts by sea and rivers and started a diaspora of North West European culture from Ireland to the Carpatian Basin and south along the
Atlantic coast and following the Rhone valley until Portugal, North Africa and Sicily, even penetrating northern and central Italy. The first
evidence of the use of a wheel dates from this period, about 2400 BC. This culture also experimented with copper working, of which some
evidence (stone anvils, copper knives, a copper spearhead) was found on the Veluwe. Each copper finding shows that there was trade with
other "countries", as natural copper cannot be found in the Dutch soil.
The Iron Age brought
fortune to the Netherlands,
because iron ore was
found in the North
("moeras ijzererts") as well
as in the centre (natural
"balls" with iron in them, at
the Veluwe) as well as in
the South (red iron ore
near the rivers in Brabant).
The smiths could thus
travel from small
settlement to settlement
with bronze and iron,
on-demand such as axes,
knives, pins, arrowheads,
swords, etc. There is even
evidence of the use of
advanced way to forge
metal (swords) with the
advantage of flexible iron
with the strength of steel.
The wealth of the
Netherlands in the Iron
Age is seen at the "King's
grave in Oss" (about 500
BC), where a king was
buried with some
including an iron sword
with an inlay of gold and
coral. He was buried in
the largest grave mound of
Western Europe, which
was 52 m wide.
At the time of the Roman
arrival, the Netherlands
had been settled by
Germanic tribes, such as
the Tubanti, the
Canninefates, and the
Frisians, who had arrived
around 600 BC. Celtic
tribes settled the South,
among them the Eburones
and the Menapii. Several
Germanians settled south
of the Rhine at the
beginning of the Roman
settlement, and formed the
Germanic tribe of the
Batavians and the
Toxandri. The Batavians
were regarded as good
soldiers and fought in
many important wars, for
instance the conquest of
Dacia (Romania) by the
emperor Trajan. In later
nationalistic views, the
Batavians were regarded
as the "true" forefathers of
the Dutch, as reflected in
the name of the later
Batavian Republic. These
Batavians were replaced
or absorbed by the Salian
Franks that originally came
from Overijssel and
beyond, as attested by the
geographical area of
Salland. These Germanic
people might have
preserved some religious
features of the earliest
Swifterbant people, like the
The Bronze age probably started somewhere around 2000 BC. The bronze tools in the grave of "The smith of Wageningen" illustrated their quest for knowledge. (Typical
Dutch Bronze Age items) After this finding, more Bronze Age findings appear, such as Epe, Drouwen, etc. The many findings of rare (and therefore valuable) objects
such as tin beads on a necklace in Drenthe suggest Drenthe as a trade centre of the Netherlands in the Bronze Age.
The stock of broken bronze objects, meant to recycle (Voorschoten) tells us something about the value of bronze in the Bronze Age, which lasted until about 800 BC.
Typology of Dutch Bronze Age axes Typical Bronze Age objects are: knives, swords, axes, fibuale, bracelets, etc. Most Bronze Age objects were found in Drenthe. One
item shows that merchants travelled far: large bronze situalae (buckets) were manufactured somewhere in eastern France or in Switzerland, for mixing wine with water
(a Roman / Greek custom).
|The Netherlands in 3850 BC
|The Netherlands in 2750 BC
|The Netherlands in 500 BC
worship of the cow and fertility gods that distinguish them from their Germanic neighbours. The Dutch language
as it emerged in history derived from the language of the Franks.
After Julius Caesar and his empire conquered Gaul, he conquered Belgium and The Netherlands around the
year 58 BC, which made it the northern border of the European mainland. They built the first cities and first
created the Roman province of Germania Inferior. For most of the large area of Roman occupation in the
Netherlands, the boundary of the Roman Empire lay along the Rhine. Romans built the first military forts and
cities in the Netherlands. The most important of these were Utrecht, Nijmegen, and Maastricht. The northern part
of the Netherlands, which was outside the Roman Empire and where the Frisians lived (and still do), was also
heavily influenced by its strong southern neighbour. The Romans also introduced writing.
|The Conspiracy of Julius Civilis, completed in 1661 by Rembrandt, the
best-known painter of the Dutch Golden Age. It depicts a Batavian oath to Gaius
Julius Civilis, the head of the Batavian rebellion against the Romans in 69. It was
to be hung in the city hall of Amsterdam, as a display of heroism analogous to
that of the recent Eighty Years' War, that had led to independence from Spain.
However, it was rejected because Rembrandt did not paint the figures as
idealisations, but as real people.
The relationship with the
original inhabitants was
on the whole quite good;
many Batavians even
served in the Roman
cavalry. Batavian culture
was influenced by the
Roman one, resulting
among other things in
such as the one in Elst,
dedicated to local gods.
Also the trade flourished:
the salt used in the
Roman empire was won
from the North Sea and
remains are found across
the whole Roman empire.
However, this did not
prevent the Batavian
rebellion of 69 AD, a very
successful revolt under the
leadership of Batavian
Gaius Julius Civilis. Forty
castellae were burnt down
because the Romans
violated the rights of the
Batavian leaders by taking
young Batavians as their
slaves. Other Roman
soldiers (like those in Xanten and the auxiliary troops of Batavians and Caninefatae from the legions of Vitellius) joined the revolt, which split the northern part of the Roman army. April 70 AD,
Vespasianus sent a few legions to stop the revolt. Their commander, Petilius Cerialis, eventually defeated the Batavians and started negotiations with Julius Civilis on his home ground, somewhere
between the Waal and the Maas near Noviomagus (Nijmegen) or—as the Batavians probably called it—Batavodurum.
The Roman civilisation in the area was eventually overrun in the mass migration of Germanic peoples (later known as the Völkerwanderung).
|The Netherlands in 800 AD
Holy Roman Empire
The newcomers merged with the original inhabitants to create three peoples in the Low Countries: the Frisians
along the coast, the Saxons in the east and the Franks in the south. The Franks became Christians after their
king Clovis I converted in 496. Christianity was introduced in the north after the conquest of Friesland by the
Franks. Anglo-Saxon missionaries such as Willibrord, Wulfram and Boniface were active in converting these
nations to Christianity. Boniface was martyred by the Frisians in Dokkum (754). The Saxons in the east were
converted before the conquest of Saxony, and became Frankish allies.
In the 7th and 8th centuries, the Frankish chronologies mention this area as the kingdom of the Frisians. This
kingdom comprised the coastal provinces of the Netherlands and the German North Sea coast. During this time,
the Frisian language was spoken along the entire southern North Sea coast and, today, this region is sometimes
referred to as Greater Frisia or Frisia Magna. The 7th-century Frisian realm (650-734) under the kings Aldegisel
and Redbad, had its centre of power in the city Utrecht. Its end came in 734 at the Battle of the Boarn, when the
Frisians were defeated by the Franks, who then conquered the western part up to the Lauwers. They conquered
the area east of the Lauwers in 785, when Charlemagne defeated Widukind.
The Netherlands belonged to the Frankish empire of Charlemagne, with its heartland in what is today Belgium
and northern France, and spanning France, Germany, northern Italy and much of Western Europe.
In 843, the Frankish empire was divided into three parts, giving rise to France in the west, Germany in the east
and a middle empire that lay between the two. Most of the Netherlands was part of the middle empire. Later this
middle empire was split: most of the contemporary Dutch-speaking lands became a part of Germany; Flanders
became part of France.
From 800 AD to 1000 AD, the Low Countries suffered considerably from Viking raids. Most of the Netherlands
was occupied by the Viking Rorik from about 840 to 880, who ruled from Dorestad. This was about the same time
that France and Germany were fighting for supremacy over the middle empire. Resistance to the Vikings, if any,
came from local nobles, who gained in stature as a result. Viking supremacy ended in 920 when King Henry of
Germany liberated Utrecht.
The German kings and emperors dominated the Netherlands in the 10th and 11th century. Germany was called
the Holy Roman Empire after the coronation of King Otto the Great as emperor. The Dutch city of Nijmegen used
to be the spot of an important domain of the German emperors. Several German emperors were born and died
there. (Byzantine empress Theophanu died in Nijmegen for instance.) Utrecht was also an important city and
trading port at the time. German officials closely watched the count of Westfriesland (Holland) in the Rhine delta.
The count rebelled in 1018. The county was destined to become a part of Utrecht after 1018, but the difficulties
between the pope and the emperor saved the county.
Much of the western
Netherlands was barely
inhabited between the end of
the Roman period and around
1100. Around 1000, farmers
from Flanders and Utrecht
began purchasing the
swampy land, draining it and
cultivating it. This process
happened quickly and the
uninhabited territory was
settled in only a few
generations. They built
independent farms that were
not part of villages, something
unique in Europe at the time.
Before this happened the
language and culture of most
of the people who lived in the
area that is now Holland were
Frisian. The area was known
as "West Friesland"
(Westfriesland). As settlement
progressed, the area quickly
became Dutch. This area
became known as 'Holland' in
the 12th century. (The part of
North Holland situated north of
the 'IJ' is still colloquially
known as West Friesland).
Around 1000 AD there were
sometimes as an agricultural
revolution) that resulted in an
increase in production,
especially food production.
The economy started to
develop at a fast pace, and the
higher productivity allowed
workers to farm more land or
to become tradesmen. Guilds
were established and markets
developed as production
exceeded local needs. Also,
the introduction of currency
made trading a much easier
affair than it had been before.
Existing towns grew and new
towns sprang into existence
around monasteries and
castles, and a mercantile
middle class began to
develop in these urban areas.
Commerce and town
development increased as the
The crusades were popular in
the Low Countries and drew
many to fight in the Holy Land.
At home, there was relative
peace in Europe. Viking
pillaging had stopped. Both
the Crusades and the relative
peace at home contributed to
trade and the growth in
Cities arose and flourished,
especially in Flanders and
Brabant. As the cities grew in
wealth and power, they started
to buy certain privileges for
themselves from the
sovereign, including city rights,
the right to self-government
and the right to pass laws. In
practice, this meant that the
wealthiest cities became
in their own right. Two of the
most important cities were
Brugge and Antwerp which
would later develop into some
of the most important cities
and ports in Europe.
The Holy Roman Empire was
not able to maintain political
unity. In addition to the
growing independence of the
towns, local rulers turned their
counties and duchies into
private kingdoms and felt little
sense of obligation to the
emperor who governed over
large parts of the nation in
name only. Large parts of
what now comprise the
Netherlands were governed by
the Count of Holland, the Duke
of Gelre, the Duke of Brabant
and the Bishop of Utrecht.
Friesland and Groningen in
the north maintained their
independence and were
governed by the lower nobility.
The various feudal states
were in a state of almost
continual war. Gelre and
Holland fought for control of
Utrecht. Utrecht, whose
bishop had in 1000 ruled over
half of what is today the
marginalised as it
difficulty in electing new
bishops. At the same time, the
dynasties of neighbouring
states were more stable.
Groningen, Drenthe and most
of Gelre, which used to be part
of Utrecht, became
independent. Brabant tried to
conquer its neighbours, but
was not successful. Holland
also tried to assert itself in
Zeeland and Friesland, but its
Friesland in the north
continued to maintain its
independence during this
time. It had its own institutions
(collectively called the "Frisian
Freedom") and resented the
imposition of the feudal
system and the patriciate
found in other European
towns. They regarded
themselves as allies of
Switzerland. The Frisian battle
cry was "better dead than a
slave". They later lost their
independence when they were
defeated in 1498 by the
mercenaries of Duke Albrecht
|History of the Low Countries
|United Kingdom of the Netherlands
Most of what is now the Netherlands and Belgium was eventually united by the
Duke of Burgundy in 1433. Before the Burgundian union, the Dutch identified
themselves by the town they lived in, their local duchy or county or as subjects of
the Holy Roman Empire. The Burgundian period is when the Dutch began the
road to nationhood.
The conquest of the county of Holland by the Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy
was an odd affair. Leading noblemen in Holland in fact invited the duke to conquer
Holland, even though he had no historical claim to it. Some historians say that the
ruling class in Holland wanted Holland to integrate with the Flemish economic
system and adopt Flemish legal institutions. Europe had been wracked by many
civil wars in the 14th and 15th centuries, while Flanders had grown rich and
After a few years of conflict, the countess of Holland was deposed in favour of the
Burgundian dukes. Holland's trade developed rapidly, especially in the area of
shipping and transport. The new rulers defended Dutch trading interests. The
fleets 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 to the people
of Holland, 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.
Gelre resented Burgundian rule. It tried to build up its own state in northeast
Netherlands and northwest Germany. Lacking funds in the 16th century, Gelre had
its soldiers provide for themselves by pillaging enemy terrain. These soldiers
were a great menace to the Burgundian Netherlands. One notorious event was
the pillaging of The Hague. Gelre was allied with France, England and Denmark,
who wanted to put an end to the wealth of Flanders and Antwerp and Burgundian
rule over the Low Countries.
|Influential theologian Pope Adrian VI from Utrecht ruled the Catholic Church in the early
|An account of the Battle of Nieuwpoort, 1600
Eighty Years' War
Main article: Eighty
Through inheritance and
conquest, all of the Low
possessions of the
Habsburg dynasty under
Charles V in the 16th
century, who united them
into one state. The east
of the Netherlands was
occupied only a few
decades before the
Dutch struggle for
in 1548, eight years
before his abdication
from the throne, Emperor
Charles V granted the
Seventeen Provinces of
the Netherlands status
as an entity separate
from both the Empire
and from France with the
Transaction of Augsburg.
It was not full
independence, but it
autonomy. In the
Pragmatic Sanction of
1549 it was stated that
the Seventeen Provinces
could only passed on as
a unified entity.
Charles was succeeded
by his son Philip II of
Spain. Unlike his father,
who had been raised in
Ghent (Belgium), Philip
had little personal
attachment to the Low
Countries (where he had
only stayed for four years), and thus was perceived as detached by the local nobility. A devout Catholic, Philip was appalled by the success of the Reformation in the Low Countries, which had led to an
increasing number of Calvinists. His attempts to enforce religious persecution of the Protestants and his endeavours to centralise government, justice and taxes made him unpopular and led to a
revolt. The Dutch fought for independence from Spain, leading to the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648). Seven rebellious provinces united in the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and formed the Republic of the
Seven United Netherlands (also known as the "United Provinces"). The Act of Abjuration or Plakkaat van Verlatinghe was signed on July 26, 1581, and was the formal declaration of independence of
the northern Low Countries from the Spanish king.
William of Orange (Slot Dillenburg, 24 April 1533 — Delft, 10 juli 1584), the founder of the Dutch royal family, led the Dutch during the first part of the war. The very first years were a success for the
Spanish troops. However, subsequent sieges in Holland were countered by the Dutch. The Spanish king lost control of the Netherlands after the sack of Antwerp by mutinous Spanish soldiers killing
10,000 inhabitants. The conservative Catholics in the south and east supported the Spanish. The Spanish recaptured Antwerp and other Flemish and Dutch cities. Most of the territory in the
Netherlands was recaptured, but not in Flanders, leading to the historical split between The Netherlands and Flanders. Flanders was the most radical anti-Spanish territory. Many Flemish fled to
Holland, among them half of the population of Antwerp, 3/4 of Brugge and Ghent and the entire population of Nieuwpoort, Dunkerque and countryside. The war dragged on for another 60 years, but the
main fighting was over. The Peace of Westphalia, signed on January 30, 1648, confirmed the independence of the United Provinces from Spain and Germany. The Dutch didn't regard themselves as
Germans any more since the 15th century, but they officially remained a part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1648. National identity was mainly formed by the province people came from. Holland was
the most important province by far. The republic of the Seven Provinces came to be known as Holland in foreign countries.
These events formed part of a wider turmoil. See Spanish Armada for a view of some of the history from further west.
|Map of Dutch Republic by Joannes Janssonius
For details on the social
and cultural history of the
Golden Age, see the
Dutch Golden Age
article. For an economic
history, see Economic
History of the
Netherlands (1500 -
During the Eighty Years'
War the Dutch provinces
became the most
important trading centre
of Northern Europe,
replacing Flanders in
this respect; Dutch ships
hunted whales off
Svalbard, traded spices
in India and Indonesia
(via the Dutch East India
Company) and founded
colonies in New
Amsterdam (now New
York), South Africa and
the West Indies. In
were conquered, namely
in Northeastern Brazil,
Angola, Indonesia and
Ceylon. This new nation
flourished culturally and
what historian Simon
Schama has called an
riches". Speculation in
the tulip trade led to a
first stock market crash
in 1637, but the
economic crisis was
soon overcome. Due to
these developments the
17th century has been
dubbed the Golden Age
of the Netherlands. As
the Netherlands was a
republic, it was largely
|Napoléon turned the Netherlands into the Kingdom of Holland in 1806.
Revolution, Republic and French rule
Main articles: Batavian revolution, Batavian Republic, and Kingdom of Holland
At the end of the 18th century, there was growing unrest in the Netherlands. There
was conflict between the Orangists, who wanted stadtholder William V of Orange to
hold more power, and the Patriots, who, under the influence of the American
Revolution, wanted a more democratic form of government. The opening shot of this
abortive 'Batavian' revolution might be considered the manifesto published by Joan
van der Capellen tot den Pol, the founder of the 'Patriots' in 1781: Aan het Volk van
Nederland (To the people of the Netherlands).
After the Netherlands became the second nation to recognise US independence,
the British declared war. This Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–1784) proved a
disaster for the Netherlands, particularly economically. Its peace treaty, according to
Fernand Braudel "sounded the knell of Dutch greatness."
In 1785 there was a rebellion by the Patriots, an armed insurrection by local militias
determined to defend municipal democracies in certain Dutch towns. "Seen as a
whole this revolution is a string of violent and confused events, accidents,
speeches, rumours, bitter enmities and armed confrontations." says Braudel, who
sees it as a forerunner of the French Revolution, with the constant slogan "vrijheid".
But the House of Orange, backed by British policy, called upon their Prussian
relatives to suppress it. The Orangist reaction was severe. No one dared appear in
public without an orange cockade; furthermore there were lynchings. The old
burgomasters were replaced by a small unpaid Prussian army which was billeted
in the Netherlands and which supported themselves with looting and extortion.
Many Patriots fled the country to Brabant or France -- perhaps 40,000 in all.
|Arms of the Kingdom of Holland
|Two sides of a WWII 'Ausweis' or 'persoonsbewijs' (identification)
World War II
For details, see the main Netherlands in World War II article and the article on Dutch
For details on the battle that led to the Dutch surrender in Europe, see the main
Battle of the Netherlands article.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Netherlands declared their neutrality
again. However, on May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany launched an attack on the
Netherlands and Belgium and overran most of the country quickly, fighting against a
poorly-equipped Dutch army. By May 14, fighting was only occurring in isolated
locations, when the Luftwaffe bombed Rotterdam, the second largest city of the
Netherlands, killing about 900 people, destroying large parts of the city, and leaving
78,000 homeless. Following the bombardment and German threats of the same for
Utrecht, the Netherlands capitulated on May 15 (except the province of Zeeland). The
royal family and some military forces fled to the United Kingdom. Some members of
the royal family eventually moved to Ottawa, Canada until the Netherlands was
liberated; Princess Margriet was born during this Canadian exile.
About 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands at the beginning of the war;
persecution of the Jews started shortly after the invasion. At the end of the war, only
40,000 Jews were alive. Of the 100,000 Jews that didn't hide, only 1000 survived the
war. One who perished was Anne Frank, who would gain posthumous world-wide
fame when her diary, written in the Achterhuis (backhouse) while hiding from the
Nazis, was found and published.
Resentment about the German presence grew as the occupation regime became
harsher, prompting many Dutch to join the resistance. However, collaboration was
not uncommon either; many thousands of young Dutch males also volunteered for
combat service on the Russian Front with the Waffen-SS.
Japanese forces invaded the Dutch East Indies on January 11, 1942. The Dutch
surrendered on March 8, after Japanese troops landed on Java. Dutch citizens were
captured and put to work in labour camps. However, many Dutch ships and military
personnel managed to reach Australia, from where they were able to fight the
In Europe, after the Allies landed in Normandy in June 1944, progress was slow until the Battle of Normandy ended in August 1944. As German resistance collapsed in western Europe, the allies
advanced quickly towards the Dutch border. First Canadian Army and the 2nd British Army conducted major operations on Dutch soil beginning in September. On 17 September a daring operation,
Operation Market Garden, was executed with the goal of capturing bridges across three major rivers in the southern Netherlands. Despite desperate fighting by American, British and Polish forces, the
bridge at Arnhem, across the Neder Rijn, could not be captured. However, areas south of the Neder Rijn were liberated in the period September–November 1944, including the province of Zeeland
which was liberated in the Battle of the Scheldt. However, the rest of the country, with a major part of the population, remained occupied until the spring of 1945. The winter 1944–1945 was very harsh,
and many Dutch starved, giving the winter the name Hongerwinter (Hunger winter). On May 5, 1945, a beaten Nazi Germany finally capitulated, signing the surrender to the Dutch at Wageningen. After
the war, Artur Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi Commissioner of the Netherlands, was tried at Nuremberg.
|Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies, had been a very valuable resource, and the Dutch feared its independence would lead to an
Two days after the
surrender of Japan,
Revolution followed as
Indonesia attempted to
secure its independence
in the face of Dutch
diplomatic and military
led the Netherlands to
eventually withdraw and
it formally recognised
December 27, 1949.
Part of the former Dutch
East Indies, namely the
western part of New
Guinea, remained under
Dutch control as
Guinea until 1961, when
About 300,000 Dutch colonists left the land where most of them were born, and settled in the motherland; very few of the native population did. Although it was originally expected that the loss of the
Indies would contribute to an economic downfall, nothing of the kind happened. The Dutch economy experienced an exceptional growth (partly because a disproportionate amount of Marshall Aid was
received) in the 1950s and 60s. In fact, the demand for labour was so strong that immigration was actively encouraged, first from Italy and Spain then later on, in larger numbers, from Turkey and
Suriname was decolonised on November 25, 1975, this time encouraged by the Dutch government, partly because it wanted to stem the flow of immigrants from Suriname, partly because the very
possession of colonies had become politically embarrassing; however, hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Suriname voted with their feet against it, creating a Suriname community in the
Netherlands, now roughly as large as the population of the motherland.
Combined with the immigration from the Netherlands Antilles, and from many other parts of the world, the Netherlands was becoming a multicultural country.
In the early post-war years the Netherlands made continued attempts to expand its territory by annexing neighbouring German territory. The larger annexation plans were continuously rejected by the
United States, but the London conference of 1949 permitted the Netherlands to perform a smaller scale annexation. Most of the annexed territory was returned to Germany on August 1, 1963.
Operation Black Tulip was a plan in 1945 by Dutch minister of Justice Kolfschoten to evict all Germans from the Netherlands. The operation lasted from 1946 to 1948 and in the end 3691 Germans
(15% of Germans resident in the Netherlands) were deported.
The operation started on 10 September 1946 in Amsterdam, where Germans and their families were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and given one hour to collect 50 kg of luggage.
They were allowed to take 100 Guilders. The rest of their possessions went to the state. They were taken to concentration camps near the German border, the biggest of which was Mariënbosch near
The last major flood in the Netherlands took place in early February 1953, when a huge storm caused the collapse of several dikes in the southwest of the Netherlands. More than 1,800 people
drowned in the ensuing inundations. The Dutch government subsequently decided on a large-scale programme of public works (the "Delta Works") to protect the country against future flooding. The
project took more than thirty years to complete. According to Dutch government engineers, the odds of a major inundation anywhere in the Netherlands are now 1 in 10,000 per year. Following the
disaster with hurricane Katrina in 2005, an American congressional delegation visited the Netherlands to inspect the Delta Works and Dutch government engineers were invited to a hearing of the
United States Congress to explain the Netherlands' efforts to protect low-lying areas.
The 60s and 70s were a time of great social and cultural change, such as rapid ontzuiling (literally: depillarisation), a term that describes the decay of the old divisions along class and religious lines.
Youths, and students in particular, rejected traditional mores, and pushed for change in matters like women's rights, sexuality, disarmament and environmental issues. Today, the Netherlands is
regarded as a liberal country, considering its drugs policy and its legalisation of euthanasia. Same-sex marriage has been permitted since 1 April 2001.
In 1952, the Netherlands were among the founders of the European Coal and Steel Community, which evolved into the European Union. The Netherlands is an industrialised nation but also a large
exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. In recent years the Dutch have often been a driving force behind
the integration of European countries in the European Union.
Two events changed the political landscape:
- On 6 May 2002, the murder of a right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, calling for a very strict policy on immigration, shocked the nation, not all used to political violence in peace time. His party won a
landslide election victory, partly because of his perceived martyrdom, However, internal party squabbles and blowing up the coalition government they had helped to create, resulted in the loss of 70%
of their support in early general elections in 2003. Other minor right-wing parties would later emerge.
- Another murder that caused great upheaval took place on 2 November 2004, when film director and publicist Theo van Gogh was assassinated by a Dutch-Moroccan youth with radical Islamic beliefs,
because of Van Gogh's alleged blasphemy. One week later, several arrests were made of several would-be islamist terrorists, who have later been found guilty of conspiracy with terrorist intentions,
this verdict was however reversed on appeal. All this sparked a debate on the position of radical Islam and of Islam generally in Dutch society, and on immigration and integration. The personal
protection of most politicians, especially of the Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was stepped up to unprecedented levels.
- ^ Wrecks & shipfinds of Western & inland Europe
- ^ L. P. Louwe Kooijmans - Trijntje van de Betuweroute, Jachtkampen uit de Steentijd te
Hardinxveld-Giessendam, 1998, Spiegel Historiael 33, blz. 423-428,
- ^  L. P. Louwe Kooijmans - Trijntje van de Betuweroute, Jachtkampen uit de Steentijd
te Hardinxveld-Giessendam, 1998, Spiegel Historiael 33, p.428: "Het wordt steeds
duidelijker dat de agrarische transformatie van de prehistorische samenleving een
zuiver inheems proces van zeer grote geleidelijkheid is geweest"
- ^ Prehistoric agricultural field found in Swifterbant, 4300-4000 BC 
- ^ De spiegel van Swifterbant - Daan Raemakers, 2006, University of Groningen 
- ^ The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture or EIEC, edited by J. P. Mallory and
Douglas Q. Adams, published in 1997 by Fitzroy Dearborn, p93
- ^ Pre- & protohistorie van de lage landen, onder redactie van J.H.F. Bloemers & T. van
Dorp 1991. De Haan/Open Universiteit. ISBN 90 269 4448 9, NUGI 644
- ^ Lanting, J.N. & J.D. van der Waals, (1976), "Beaker culture relations in the Lower
Rhine Basin" in Lanting et al (Eds) "Glockenbechersimposion Oberried l974". Bussum-
Haarlem: Uniehoek n.v.
- ^ The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe - Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University Press,
- ^ Iron age findings in the Netherlands
- ^ Historiae by Tacitus, 1st century AD. Translation into Dutch by the Radboud
- ^ Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism
1984. p. 273.
- ^ a b c d e Abbenhuis, Maartje M. The Art of Staying Neutral the Netherlands in the First
World War, 1914 - 1918. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
- ^ The Associated Press (August 17, 2005). "Dutch withhold apology in Indonesia",
International Herald Tribune.
- ^ 'Eisch Duitschen grond!' 3 May 2001 In Dutch. Retrieved on 7 October 2006.
- ^ Black Tulip. 13 September 2005. In Dutch. Retrieved on 7 October 2006.
- ^ 'Eisch Duitschen grond!' (Web downloadable doc). 13 September 2005. In Dutch.
Retrieved on 7 October 2006.