History of The Netherlands

The history of the Netherlands is the history of a seafaring people thriving on a watery lowland river delta on the North Sea in northwestern Europe. When the Romans and written history arrived in 57 BC, the country was sparsely populated by various tribal groups at the periphery of the empire. Over four centuries of Roman rule had profound demographic effects, resulting eventually in the establishment of three primary Germanic peoples in the area: Frisians, Low Saxons and the Franks. Hiberno-Scottish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries led them to adopt Christianity by the 8th century. The descendants of the Salian Franks eventually came to dominate the area, and from their speech the Dutch language arose.

Carolingian rule, loose integration into the Holy Roman Empire and Viking depredation followed, the local noblemen being left relatively free to carve out highly independent duchies and counties. For several centuries, Brabant, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Gelre and the others fought intermittently amongst themselves, but at the same time trade continued and grew, land was reclaimed, and cities prospered. Forced by nature to work together, over the centuries they built and maintained a network of polders and dikes that kept out the sea and the floods, in the process transforming their desolate landscape into a highly productive garden-state, mastering the North Sea and the high seas beyond, and emerging out of the struggle as one of the most urban and enterprising nations in Europe.

By 1433, as a result of the defeat of the last countess of Holland in the Hook and Cod Wars, the Duke of Burgundy had assumed control over most of the Dutch-speaking territories and the concept of a nation of Dutch-speaking people was conceived. Eventually, however, under Charles V and then Philip II, the Burgundian Netherlands became part of the Habsburg empire ruled from Spain.

The Reformation left Calvinism the dominant religion in the north (The Netherlands), and Catholicism in the South (Belgium). The Spanish Fury of the Duke of Alba was the Catholic attempt to destroy Protestantism. In 1566 William of Orange, a Calvinist, launched the Eighty Years' War to liberate the Dutch of all religions from the Catholic Spaniards. The Dutch revolt was an epic struggle against the Spanish; it finally was won with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The Dutch Republic was born, a nation with Protestants, Catholics and Jews—and an unusual policy of tolerance. However, the southern provinces (present day Belgium) remained under Habsburg rule, Holland benefiting greatly from the resulting eclipse of Flemish cities and massive influx of refugees.

During this struggle, commerce continued and the United Provinces prospered. Amsterdam became the most important trading centre in northern Europe. In the Dutch Golden Age, which had its zenith in 1667, there was a remarkable flowering of trade, industry (especially shipbuilding), the arts (especially painting) and the sciences. The Dutch Republic, particularly Holland and Zeeland, became a veritable Dutch empire, a maritime power with a commercial, imperial and colonial reach that extended to Asia, Africa and the Americas – but not without slavery and colonial oppression.

By the mid-18th century decline had set in because of several economic factors. There was a series of wars with the English and the French. The country's political system was dominated by wealthy regents and (sometimes) by stadtholders drawn from the House of Orange. Eventually, Amsterdam lost its leading position to London. In 1784 a war with Great Britain ended particularly disastrously. There was growing unrest and conflict between the Orangists and the Patriots inspired by the French Revolution, and finally conflict with France itself. A pro-French Batavian Republic was established (1795–1806), and with the consolidation of French power under Napoleon gradually turned into a French satellite state, culminating in the Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810) and later simply an imperial province.

After the Battle of Leipzig and subsequent collapse of the French Empire in 1813, the Netherlands was restored as a "sovereign principality" with the House of Orange providing a monarch. The Vienna Conference in 1815 confirmed this authority by creating the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. King William I was also given rule over Belgium, but this lasted only until the conclusion of the Belgian Revolution in 1831. After an initially conservative period, strong liberal sentiments arose, so that in the 1848 constitution the country was made a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch.

The Netherlands was neutral during the First World War, but it was unable to stay out of the Second. On 10 May 1940 Nazi Germany invaded the country and, after destroying Rotterdam, occupied it. Around 100,000 Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust and many others died as well. On 5 May 1945, the war ended after liberation by mainly Canadian forces. The post-war years were a time of hardship, natural disaster and mass emigration, followed by rebuilding, large-scale public works programmes (especially the Delta Works), economic recovery, European integration and the gradual introduction of a welfare state. There was also a conflict with Indonesia, which ended with the Dutch withdrawing completely from their former colonies there in 1961. Suriname declared independence in 1975. Many people from Indonesia and Suriname, and later from other countries as well, moved to the Netherlands, which resulted in the transformation of the country into a multicultural society.

The second half of the 20th century was marked by relative peace and prosperity. By the 21st century, the Netherlands had become a modern, dynamic country with a successful, internationally oriented economy (the 16th largest in the world in 2010) and a high standard of living.

History of the Low Countries
Frankish Kingdom
Frisian Kingdom
Carolingian Empire after 800
West Francia ("France") Independent Kingdom of Middle Francia (Lotharingia)
Flanders and Lotharingia in Kingdom of West Francia

County of Flanders

and other principalities
Kingdom then Duchy of Lotharingia in East Francia ("Germany")

Prince-Bishopric
of Liège



Duchy of Bouillon



Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy

Duchy of Brabant

and other principalities

County/
Duchy of
Luxembourg

County of Holland

and other principalities
Burgundian Netherlands
Habsburg Netherlands (Seventeen Provinces)

Spanish Netherlands
(Southern Netherlands)

Dutch Republic

Austrian Netherlands
(Southern Netherlands)

Liège Revolution

United States
of Belgium

Part of the
French Republic

and the
French Empire}}

Batavian Republic

Kingdom
of Holland

United Kingdom of
the Netherlands

Kingdom of Belgium

Gr Duchy Luxembourg

Kingdom of
the Netherlands

Gr Duchy Luxembourg

Read more about History Of The Netherlands:  Roman Era (57 BC – 410 AD), The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), Golden Age, Dutch Republic: Regents and Stadholders (1649–1784), The French-Batavian Period (1785–1815), United Kingdom of The Netherlands (1816–1839), Democratic and Industrial Development (1840–1900), 20th Century To 1940, Prosperity and European Unity (1945-today), Historians

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