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Nederland (Dutch)
Official seal of Netherlands
Ethnic groups
  • 37.5% Christianity
  • 5.2%
    parliamentary constitutional monarchy
  • • Monarch
    Mark Rutte
    Calling code
    +31, +599[g]
    ISO 3166 codeNL
    Internet, .bq[h]

    The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (listen)), informally Holland,[12][13] is a country located in northwestern Europe with overseas territories in the Caribbean. It is the largest of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[14] The Netherlands consists of twelve provinces; it borders Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south, with a North Sea coastline to the north and west. It shares maritime borders with the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium in the North Sea.[15] The country's official language is Dutch, with West Frisian as a secondary official language in the province of Friesland.[1] Dutch, English and Papiamento are official in the Caribbean territories.[1]

    The four largest cities in the Netherlands are

    intergovernmental organisations and international courts, many of which are centred in The Hague.[20]

    Netherlands literally means "lower countries" in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with nearly 26% falling

    With a population of 17.8 million people, all living within a total area of 41,850 km2 (16,160 sq mi)—of which the land area is 33,500 km2 (12,900 sq mi)—the Netherlands is the 16th most densely populated country in the world and the second-most densely populated country in the European Union, with a density of 531 people per square kilometre (1,380 people/sq mi). Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products by value, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, intensive agriculture, and inventiveness.[26][27][28]

    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 prostitution and euthanasia, along with maintaining a liberal drug policy. The Netherlands allowed women's suffrage in 1919 and was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Its mixed-market advanced economy has the thirteenth-highest per capita income globally.


    Netherlands and the Low Countries

    The region called the

    Lower Lorraine, which covered much of the Low Countries.[29][30]


    Meuse and the lower Rhine in the late Middle Ages. From the mid-sixteenth century, the "Low Countries" and the "Netherlands" lost their original deictic meaning

    In most Romance languages, the term "Low Countries" is officially used as the name for the Netherlands.

    Holland and Dutch

    The Netherlands is informally referred to as Holland in various languages, including Dutch[34] and English. In other languages, Holland is the formal name for the Netherlands. Holland can also refer to a region within the Netherlands that consists of North and South Holland. Formerly these were a single province, and earlier the County of Holland, a remnant of the dissolved Frisian Kingdom that also included parts of present-day Utrecht. 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 centuries, made Holland a pars pro toto for the entire country.[35][36]

    Dutch is used as the

    Latinised into Theodiscus, meaning "popular" or "of the people"; akin to Old Dutch Dietsch, Old High German duitsch, and Old English þeodisc, all meaning "(of) the common (Germanic) people". At first, the English language used Dutch to refer to any or all speakers of West Germanic languages
    . Gradually its meaning shifted to the West Germanic people they had the most contact with, because of their geographical proximity and rivalry in trade and overseas territories.


    Prehistory (before 800 BC)

    Oak figurine found in Willemstad
    (4500 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 (

    Mesolithic Maglemosian-like tribes (c. 8000 BC), the world's oldest canoe was found in Drenthe.[38]

    Indigenous late Mesolithic

    Seine-Oise-Marne culture — 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.

    Bronze Age cultures in the Netherlands

    The subsequent

    copper artifacts. Finds of rare bronze objects suggest that Drenthe was 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 (1800–800 BC),[42] a Middle Bronze Age archaeological culture with earthenware low-quality pottery as a marker. The initial phase of the Elp culture was characterised by tumuli (1800–1200 BC). 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), with apparently cultural ties with Britain
    of the previous Barbed-Wire Beaker culture.

    Celts, Germanic tribes and Romans (800 BC–410 AD)

      Diachronic distribution of Celts from 500 BC
      Expansion into the southern Low Countries
    by 270 BC

    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 the 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.[43][44] The North Sea Germanic Ingaevones inhabited the northern part of the Low Countries. They would later develop into the Frisii and the early Saxons.[44] 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.[44] 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,[45][46] that eventually was 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."[47] 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.[46] Caesar describes two main Celtic tribes living in what is now the southern Netherlands: the Menapii and the Eburones. Under Augustus, the Roman Empire would conquer the entirety of the modern day Netherlands, incorporating it into the province of Germania Antiqua in 7 BC, but would be repelled back across the Rhine after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, with the Rhine becoming fixed as Rome's permanent northern frontier around 12 AD. Notable towns would arise along the Limes Germanicus: Nijmegen and Voorburg. In the 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.[48] 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 in the first half of the third century.[49] 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 Texandria.[49] 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.[50] However, recent excavations in Kennemerland show a clear indication of permanent habitation.[51][52]

    Early Middle Ages (411–1000)

    Franks, Frisians and Saxons (710s AD) with Traiectum and Dorestad
    in the middle

    After the

    Old Low Franconian or Old Dutch.[44] A Dutch-French language boundary hence came into existence.[44][53]

    To the north of the Franks, climatic conditions improved, and during the

    Boniface was murdered by the Frisians in Dokkum
    , in 754.

    The Frankish

    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.[citation needed] Around 879, another Viking expedition led by Godfrid, Duke of Frisia, raided the Frisian lands. 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.[citation needed

    High Middle Ages (1000–1384)


    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.[citation needed

    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 become tradesmen. Towns grew around

    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 Bruges 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.[citation needed

    Around 1100 AD, farmers from

    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 Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy — who was also Count of Flanders — to conquer Holland.[citation needed

    Burgundian, Habsburg and Spanish Habsburg Netherlands (1384–1581)

    Spanish Netherlands
    Adriaen Thomasz. Key

    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.[citation needed]

    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:[59]

    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 terrorise the population into submission. Alba boasted of having executed 18,600,[60][61] but this figure does not include those who perished by war and famine.[citation needed]

    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 the promise that the city would be spared from being sacked. It was a stipulation Don Fadrique was unable to honour, when his soldiers mutinied, angered over pay owed and the miserable conditions they endured during the long, cold months of the campaign.[62] 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 killed; a thousand buildings were torched; men, women, and children were slaughtered by soldiers, who invoked the name of Spain's patron saint, ¡Santiago! ¡España! ¡A sangre, a carne, a fuego, a sacco! (Saint James! Spain! To blood, to the flesh, to fire, to sack!)[63]

    Spanish Habsburgs

    Following 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.[64][dubious ] 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.[65] The Union of Utrecht is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands.[citation needed

    Spanish troops sacked Maastricht in 1579, killing over 10,000 civilians and thereby ensuring the rebellion continued.[66] 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.[67] Against the rebels Philip could draw on the resources of the Spanish Empire, including in Iberia, Spanish America, Spanish Italy, and the Spanish Netherlands. Queen Elizabeth I of England sympathised with the Dutch struggle against England's Spanish rival and sent an army of 7,600 soldiers to aid the Dutch in their war with the Catholic Spanish.[68] 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 defences.[69] 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.[citation needed]

    Dutch Republic (1581–1795)

    Mughal Bengal
    by Hendrik van Schuylenburgh, 1665

    Following the declaration of independence, the provinces of

    Drenthe was also part of the republic, albeit not considered a province in its own right. Moreover, during the Eighty Years' War, the Republic came to occupy a number of Generality Lands located in Flanders, Brabant and Limburg. These areas were primarily inhabited by Roman Catholics and lacked a distinct governmental structure of their own. They were utilized as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Spanish-controlled Southern Netherlands.[70]

    Winter landscape with skaters near the city of Kampen by Hendrick Avercamp

    In the

    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.[citation needed

    During the period of

    Proto-industrialisation, 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.[72][73][74][75]

    Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly

    Batavian Republic and Kingdom (1795–1890)

    With the armed support of

    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.[citation needed

    Dutch colonial empire. Light green: territories administered by or originating from territories administered by the Dutch East India Company; dark green: the Dutch West India Company
    . In yellow are the territories occupied later, during the 19th century.