Netherlands is an independent nation in Western Europe. With the capital city of Amsterdam, Netherlands 2020 population is estimated at 17,134,883 according to countryaah. The area of today’s Netherlands has been conquered by a number of different people over time. In the middle of the 16th century, Calvinists gained a great influence and, among others, led by Wilhelm of Orange, an 80-year-long revolt against Catholic Spain. In the Westphalian Peace of 1648, Spain recognized the independence of the Netherlands. The country developed into a trading and shipping nation with colonies in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. During the two world wars, the Netherlands declared itself neutral but was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940.
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During the Middle Ages, hunters lived in the area that now forms the Netherlands. Agriculture was introduced east from around 4000 BC. Just before the beginning of our era, the Romans conquered most of the area. Only parts of the Frisian areas in the northwest were against the Romans. The people who then lived in the Netherlands were called batavas. They were forced away in the twentieth century by francs and scissors. The following century, Christianity made its entrance when St. Servatius established a bishopric in the city of Maastricht. For Netherlands political system, please check computerminus.
After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, the Dutch region became part of a Frankish empire that at its peak under Karl the Great (Charlemagne) and his sons stretched from the Pyrenees in the south to the North Sea in the north. The Franks also suppressed the Frisians in 734. When this empire was divided 843, the Netherlands became part of the kingdom of Lotharingia, which also included the current French region of Lorraine.
In the 9th century, the area was transferred to the East Frankish Empire, the core country of the German-Roman Empire established in 962. However, neither Germans, Franks nor Romans were able to effectively rule the distant Dutch provinces, which had an independent position under the leadership of local nobles.
In the Middle Ages, the province of Holland in the middle of the Netherlands strengthened its position at the expense of the formerly dominant Utrecht. After a brief but culturally and economically significant period in the 15th century as part of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Netherlands attacked the German-Roman emperor Habsburg. In 1556, the Netherlands came under the Spanish King Philip II and the Spanish branch of the Habsburg House.
Through its geographical location and its textile industry, based on wool from England, the Netherlands became a trading center which had contacts with both the German trade organization Hansan in the north and with Italian trading cities in the south. The wealthy provinces were heavily taxed by the Habsburg rulers.
After the Reformation in Germany and Switzerland, the Calvinist Church had won many followers in the Netherlands, especially among the bourgeoisie in the cities. A number of Catholic churches were plundered by fanatical Calvinists, so-called image stormers. The looting led to a violent backlash from Catholic Spain. King Philip II of Spain tried to crush the independent Dutch nobility. In 1568, a revolt against the Spanish rulers began and in 1579 seven Dutch provinces declared an independent union, the United Netherlands. Under the nobility Vilhelm of Orange and his son Moritz, an independence struggle was fought against Spain which came to last for almost uninterrupted 80 years.
Formally, the Netherlands was a republic, led by a parliament, the general states, which consisted of representatives of the seven provinces and the big cities. The citizens of the cities had great influence in Parliament. However, the Orange family retained a large part of the power through a practically hereditary standing holding, a position similar to that of a king. In the early 1600s, despite the war against the Spaniards, there was an open power struggle between Moritz of Orange and Jan van Oldenbarnevelt, who represented the rich province of Holland. The power struggle ended with the execution of Oldenbarnevelt in 1619.
At the Westphalian Peace in Münster in 1648, Spain recognized the independence of the Netherlands. The original country had then been divided between a predominantly Catholic and Spanish part in the south (now Belgium) and a mainly Protestant part in the north.
The Dutch provinces experienced a strong economic upswing during the war of independence. The country mastered large parts of European trade but also the new trade in colonies in Africa and Asia in particular. The Netherlands acquired possessions in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Enormous wealth accumulated in the cities and culture flourished. This period of economic prosperity is usually referred to as the “golden age” of the Netherlands. When the governor William II died in 1650 without any adult successor, the bourgeoisie took power until 1672 when his son William III was appointed governor.
The prosperity of the Netherlands depended on free trade and open water. The country therefore wanted to see a balance between the states that mastered important waterways. Sweden and Denmark were supported alternately in the wars in the Baltic Sea area. With England, several wars were fought over the dominion over the seas. However, that conflict was resolved when William III of Orange, who was married to the English King’s daughter, in 1688 ascended the English throne. He ruled over both countries until his death in 1702. During the period, the emphasis in both trade and politics shifted towards London. For the Netherlands, a decline began that would last throughout the 18th century.
When French Revolutionary Armies marched into the Netherlands at the end of the century, its weak army could not resist. The old Union was replaced by a single state under the name of the Batavian Republic. In 1806 the French Emperor Napoleon proclaimed his brother Louis (Louis) king of the Netherlands. When Louis four years later was forced to abdicate, the country was incorporated into the French empire. After Napoleon’s fall, in 1814 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was proclaimed with William I, son of a former governor, as king. The kingdom also included Belgium and Luxembourg.
Religious contradictions and the Belgians’ dissatisfaction with being ruled from Amsterdam and The Hague led to the uprising in 1830. The Belgians immediately succeeded in establishing their own government, but only nine years later Belgium’s independence was recognized by the Netherlands. Luxembourg gained its independence in 1890.
During the 19th century, the Netherlands was industrialized. The economy improved and free trade was reintroduced. The constitution was democratized and the government became accountable to Parliament. At the same time, colonial empire in Southeast Asia was strengthened. Slavery was abolished in the colonies.
When the political parties began to emerge during the 19th century, both political life and society were largely divided into so-called pillars. These united people of the same faith or political view. The main groups included Catholics, Calvinists, Liberals and Socialists. The various groups not only formed their own political parties, but also their own schools, unions, business organizations, youth clubs, newspapers, etc. None of the political parties succeeded in winning their own majority, and were thus forced to compromise.
During the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the Netherlands strived to stay out of international conflicts through neutrality. The country also managed to avoid being drawn into the First World War, despite the occupation of Belgium. After the war, a number of democratic reforms were implemented. Men gained universal suffrage in 1917 and women in 1919.
At the start of World War II, the Netherlands declared itself neutral. In May 1940, however, Nazi Germany attacked the Netherlands without declaring war. The Dutch resistance was defeated after just a week. Queen Vilhelmina and the government fled to London. When Japan entered the war in 1941, the Dutch territories of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, were also occupied. In the Netherlands, a resistance movement was formed that included everything from conservative groups to communists. Most of the country’s Jewish population was wiped out in German concentration camps. After five years of occupation, the Netherlands was liberated in May 1945.
Following Japan’s capitulation in August of the same year, Indonesia proclaimed its independence but the allies chose to return the area to the Netherlands. This led to fighting between Indonesian nationalists on the one hand and Dutch, British and Japanese on the other. The British and the Japanese withdrew in 1946, but the Netherlands continued the war.
The trade union movement accepts a two-year halt for wage increases in exchange for reduced staff cuts and a deferred pension reform.
Notice of austerity
Strong cuts in the welfare programs are announced, as well as tax increases and staff reductions in the public sector. The government is trying to cope with the worst economic crisis that has hit the Netherlands in 20 years, with shrinking GDP and rapidly growing budget deficits.
New government ready
After four months of negotiations, a coalition government is formed between CDA, VVD and D66. CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende, who has remained as acting head of government, continues as prime minister.
Fortuyn’s killer convicted
Animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf is sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder of Pim Fortuyn (see May 2002). The convict says in court that he saw Fortuyn as a threat to democracy.
New elections are held
Three months after the previous government broke, a new election is held. The Christian Democratic CDA remains the largest party in the second chamber, with 44 seats. The Social Democratic Labor Party is strongly moving forward to 42 seats. The loser of the election will be the right-wing populist LPF, which backs 8 seats. The VVD wins 28 seats, SP 9, GL 8 and D66 receive 6 seats. The other five mandates go to small parties.