Netherlands, The

Netherlands, The
officially Kingdom of The Netherlands byname Holland

Country, northwestern Europe.

Area: 16,033 sq mi (41,526 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 16,142,000. Capital: Amsterdam; Seat of Government: The Hague. Most of the people are Dutch. Languages: Dutch (official), English. Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism. Currency: euro. The Netherlands' southern and eastern region consists mostly of plains and a few high ridges; its western and northern region is lower and includes polders on the site of the Zuiderzee and the common delta of the Rhine, Meuse, and Schelde rivers. Coastal areas are almost completely below sea level and are protected by dunes and artificial dikes. Although the country is densely populated, it has a low rate of birth. The Netherlands has a developed market economy based largely on financial services, light and heavy industries, and trade. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliament comprising two legislative houses; its chief of state is the monarch, and the head of government is the prime minister. Celtic and Germanic tribes inhabited the region at the time of the Roman conquest. Under the Romans trade and industry flourished, but by the mid-3rd century AD Roman power had waned, eroded by resurgent Germanic tribes and the encroachment of the sea. A Germanic invasion (406–407) ended Roman control. The Merovingian dynasty followed the Romans but was supplanted in the 7th century by the Carolingian dynasty, which converted the area to Christianity. After Charlemagne's death in 814, the area was increasingly the target of Viking attacks. It became part of the medieval kingdom of Lotharingia (see Lorraine), which avoided incorporation into the Holy Roman Empire by investing its bishops and abbots with secular powers, leading to the establishment of an Imperial Church. In the 12th–14th centuries large areas of land in the Holland-Utrecht peat-bog plain were made available for agriculture, and dike building occurred on a large scale; Flanders developed as a textiles centre. The dukes of Burgundy gained control in the late 14th century. By the early 16th century the Low Countries came to be ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs. The Dutch had taken the lead in fishing, shipbuilding, and beer brewing, which laid the foundation for Holland's remarkable 17th-century prosperity. Culturally, this was the period of Jan van Eyck, Thomas à Kempis, and Desiderius Erasmus. Calvinism and Anabaptist doctrines attracted many followers. In 1581 the seven northern provinces, led by Calvinists, declared their independence from Spain, and in 1648, following the Thirty Years' War, Spain recognized Dutch independence. The 17th century was the golden age of Dutch civilization. Benedict de Spinoza and René Descartes enjoyed the country's intellectual freedom, and Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer painted their masterpieces. The Dutch East India Company secured Asian colonies, and the country's standard of living soared. In the 18th century Dutch maritime power declined; the region was conquered by the French during the French Revolutionary wars and became the Kingdom of Holland under Napoleon (1806). The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and declared neutrality in World War II but was occupied by Germany. After the war it lost the Netherlands Indies (Indonesia from 1949) and Netherlands New Guinea (in 1962; now Irian Jaya). It joined NATO in 1949 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community (later renamed the European Community), now part of the European Union. At the outset of the 21st century The Netherlands benefitted from a strong, highly regulated mixed economy but struggled with the social and economic challenges of immigration.

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▪ 2009

41,543 sq km (16,040 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 16,433,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister J an Peter Balkenende

      The Netherlands strengthened its ties with other members of the European Union in September 2008 when the Dutch parliament ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, which had been signed by the heads of the member countries on Dec. 13, 2007. The parliament voted in July to extend the Dutch contribution to the NATO training mission in Iraq, as well as to maintain troops in the EU's mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Netherlands also continued its “Defense, Development and Diplomacy” mission in Afghanistan.

      Early in the year, right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders remained firmly in the news for a number of weeks as he threatened to unveil a film entitled Fitna that he said would warn of the “dangers of Islam.” Various Dutch groups and individuals, concerned that the film might inflame fear and misunderstanding, sought to distance themselves from Wilders's point of view. When Fitna was finally released on the Internet in March, its reception remained relatively muted, as the message presented in the film was Wilders's well-known and widely contested view that Islam is incompatible with Dutch democratic values. The country breathed a collective sigh of relief at the relatively calm reception.

      The economy of The Netherlands was reasonably stable in 2008, though its strongly international orientation made it vulnerable to the worldwide turbulence in the autumn. Unemployment was low at 2.6%; the national pension system and social security funds remained healthy. In an effort to curb inflation, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's government rescinded previous plans to raise the value-added tax (VAT) by 1%. In light of the aging population and high standards for social services, the government sought to stimulate productivity and to encourage older citizens to work. Financial incentives were offered to individuals who would continue to work after age 62 and to employers who would hire seniors as well as to employers who offered positions to the long-term unemployed or those who were partially disabled. The Netherlands saw the first three-month decrease in the prices of homes in 18 years; the sales volume also dropped dramatically.

      In response to the international crisis in the banking and financial markets, the government attempted to shore up the markets and various companies. It acquired all Dutch operations of the Belgian-Dutch financial service group Fortis, which made the state responsible for Fortis Bank Nederland, Fortis Insurance, and the Fortis segment of ABN AMRO. Subsequently, in consort with other EU member states, The Netherlands set aside €200 billion (€1 = about $1.40) in guarantees for interbank lending. It also injected €10 billion into ING, the largest company in the country, having set aside €20 billion in support of troubled Dutch companies. By year's end it was not clear what the long-term effect of the financial crisis would be.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2008

41,543 sq km (16,040 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 16,371,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

      The beginning of 2007 found The Netherlands still functioning with a caretaker government that had followed the elections of November 2006, but lengthy and detailed policy negotiations finally yielded a new government in February. The Dutch, who had in recent decades become accustomed to unconventional coalition governments (such as the centre-left–centre-right “purple” cabinet) broke new ground with a coalition consisting of Christian Democrats, the left-of-centre Labour Party (PvdA), and the ChristenUnie (a Christian Party whose policies did not consistently line up as either traditionally conservative or progressive). The new coalition appeared to be stable, and Jan-Peter Balkenende was once again sworn in as prime minister. Wouter Bos of the PvdA and Minister of Finance André Rouvoet of the ChristenUnie became vice-prime ministers, with Rouvoet also heading the Ministry of Youth and Families.

       Immigration and integration remained important topics of discussion. Rita Verdonk, the previous minister of immigration, made an unsuccessful bid for the leadership of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and left the VVD to form her own party later in the year. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former MP and controversial anti-Islamist who had spent time at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., returned to The Netherlands in early October when the Dutch government ended funding for her security detail abroad. There were political discussions about the presumed loyalty of dual citizens, as well as lively debate in response to a speech by Argentine-born Dutch Crown Princess Máxima, champion of integration in The Netherlands, in which she described Dutch identity as not “static” but rather multidimensional and fluid.

      Toward year's end, the prognosis for the Dutch economy looked rosy. The government, which anticipated a budget surplus in 2008, announced plans to reemploy many of the long-term unemployed. It also reported its goal of giving priority to improvements in energy, water quality and water control, health care for citizens, and education. In an effort to continue to attract international business and innovative research, the government formulated plans to improve access to the country in order to admit talented foreigners to work in The Netherlands and to study at Dutch universities. The government stipulated that it intended to continue playing an active role in Europe, though Balkenende rejected calls for a referendum on the new EU reform treaty. It was reported in November that the government also would extend the mandate beyond 2008 for some 1,600 Dutch soldiers stationed in southern Afghanistan.

      Recent attempts to encourage those older than 55 to remain employed appeared to be successful. A government study showed that women's salaries still trailed those of men. Because many women reduced their work participation for the sake of family care, the government proposed improved access to child care as a remedy for the wage disparity. Meanwhile, in an international comparative study by UNICEF, Dutch children were identified as the happiest in the world, a ranking based on self-reported measures of happiness and on other measures such as good health and health care and the quality of family relationships.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2007

41,528 sq km (16,034 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 16,343,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

      In 2006 the Dutch government announced that previous belt-tightening and other sacrifices had been successful, that the Dutch economy had been growing, and that the country was well positioned to take advantage of an upturn in international economic situations. Research showed criminal activity to be on the decline. Nine members of the Hofstad group, considered a terrorist organization, in March were given sentences ranging up to 15 years. Mohammed Bouyeri, the most notorious member, had previously been convicted of the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh and sentenced to life in prison.

      The procedures for the assessment of the decision process leading to physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia—which were tolerated in The Netherlands under well-defined restraints—was altered in an effort to increase openness and faith in the system. All reviews of reported cases (stripped of personally identifying information) were to be published on the Internet by the committees that reviewed each instance. While the reporting was expanded, the criteria under which the practice was permitted remained strict.

      Tougher immigration policies were introduced in 2006 in light of evidence that new citizens and other immigrants who had resided in The Netherlands for many years had not been integrating as successfully as had been hoped. Applications for certain residence permits by citizens of specific countries would require that the applicant undergo examination in advance, in his or her own country, to establish a basic knowledge of Dutch society and language. The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service also instituted a required ceremony for new citizens in 2006, which was intended to draw attention to the significance of Dutch nationality.

      As Dutch citizens and politicians continued their discussions about policies and attitudes toward minorities, immigrants, and asylum seekers, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk developed strict policies and confirmed her intent to enforce them consistently. This resulted in criticism from those who challenged her judgments and demanded more flexibility. After several contentious cases were played out in the media in short succession, Verdonk in May publicly questioned the legality of the Dutch citizenship of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born MP. Hirsi Ali admitted that in 1992 she had given erroneous information, including a false name and incorrect age, when she sought political asylum in The Netherlands. Although she retained her Dutch citizenship in the end, Hirsi Ali left The Netherlands for a job at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. The incident became the proximate cause for the centrist D-66 party to withdraw from the ruling coalition. Following parliamentary elections in November, three parties remained in closed-door negotiations at year's end in an effort to form a coalition government. In December the parliament stripped Verdonk of her immigration responsibilities, but she continued to address other matters associated with her role as minister.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2006

41,528 sq km (16,034 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 16,306,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

 The start of 2005 saw The Netherlands still reeling from the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004. Radical Islamist Mohammed Bouyeri, who had been promptly arrested for the murder, refused all legal defense (including psychiatric consideration) and demanded that he be held fully accountable for van Gogh's death. Several letters that Bouyeri had written to friends and relatives stated that he had intended to die in the commission of the murder. On July 26 he was sentenced to life in prison. Bouyeri was also indicted as a member of the Hofstad group, considered a terrorist organization; several other Hofstad members were prosecuted for complicity in the death of van Gogh, as well as for threats to politicians and for obstructing the democratic process. In January politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who had collaborated with van Gogh on his film Submission and had been in hiding for two months following a death threat by Bouyeri at the time of the murder, returned to her seat in the parliament. The cabinet instituted increased security policies in the country.

      Dutch citizens and politicians continued their contentious discussions about policies and attitudes toward minorities, immigrants, and asylum seekers. Studies on the status of immigrants showed discouraging data; those minorities forced to enroll in Dutch-language courses did not typically improve dramatically. This result cast doubt on the effectiveness of the forthcoming compulsory language and culture courses for recent immigrants. In some cities ethnic segregation increased. Many citizens (including those of immigrant descent) stated in a poll that they viewed Western lifestyles as inconsistent with Islam. Very few ethnically Dutch citizens reported personal contacts with members of Islamic communities.

      On June 1, 62.8% of the electorate participated in the first Dutch national referendum in two centuries. The voters rejected the proposed European Constitution by 61.6–38.4%, in spite of a last-ditch public-relations campaign by the government. Various reasons were offered for the “no” vote, including distaste for the current national administration, a perception that a united Europe offered a less-direct form of democracy, concern that liberties cherished by some Dutch citizens would be curtailed (e.g. gay rights, animal rights, a liberal drug policy), and a lack of comprehension of the constitution. Those who voted “yes” also cited a variety of reasons. It became clear that part of the populace demanded from the government more—and clearer—efforts at communication.

      Consequently, in a controversial and telling revision of tradition, Queen Beatrix's formal address at the opening of the parliament in September featured a new format and content. In light of public opinion research, the monarch and the Council of Ministers decided to replace the speech from the throne's customary listing of policies (from each ministry in turn) with a more coherent text that grouped policy statements and their rationales and presented the information in a style that targeted a broad audience. The text set out goals in four themes: security, employment, a reduction in rules coupled with an increase in the quality of public service, and greater mutual respect among the populace.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2005

41,528 sq km (16,034 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 16,275,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

      In 2004, the year that marked the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the first Turkish migrant workers, The Netherlands continued to struggle with issues of diversity and integration. A parliamentary commission in January concluded that government policies and procedures of the past 30 years had been at best partially effective in accomplishing integration of immigrants. The Blok Commission's report was met with criticism in a negatively charged political atmosphere. The same month, Rita Verdonk, minister for integration and immigration, announced the one-time approval of 2,334 long-standing applications for residence permits. In a move that was met with widespread consternation, the government also announced that within the next three years some 26,000 rejected asylum seekers who had exhausted all appeals would be returned to countries in which their safety was not deemed endangered. The murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, threats against politicians Ayaan Hirsi Ali (van Gogh's collaborator on Submission, a film some people considered derisive of Islam) and Geert Wilders (for controversial political proposals about immigration policy), along with the ensuing upheaval—including violent attacks on Muslim and Christian schools and houses of worship—underscored the view that ethnic and religious factions remained a significant concern, warranting additional efforts and eliciting vigorous ongoing debates.

      The Netherlands played a significant international role during the year. In January former foreign minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became NATO secretary-general. (See Biographies (de Hoop Scheffer, Jaap ).) After the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March, law-enforcement agencies throughout Europe began to coordinate their efforts more closely. As of August 10, the Crimes of Terrorism Act made it a criminal offense to recruit for a jihad or to conspire to commit a serious terrorist crime and raised the penalties for serious crimes committed with terrorist intent. Two Dutch soldiers lost their lives in Iraq during the year, which prompted the deployment of additional armoured vehicles and four-wheel-drive vehicles fitted with machine guns, as well as approximately 60 additional troops. The Netherlands held the rotating six-month EU presidency from July 1 to December 31.

      The Dutch royal family experienced a turbulent year. Princess Juliana (Juliana, Princess ), former monarch and mother of Queen Beatrix, died on March 20; Juliana's husband, Prince Bernhard (Bernhard, Prince ), died on December 1. (See Obituaries.) Prince Johan Friso, Queen Beatrix's second son, married Mabel Wisse Smit on April 24 in Delft and relinquished his claim to the throne. The christening on June 12 of Princess Catharina-Amalia Beatrix Carmen Victoria (born Dec. 7, 2003), the daughter of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife, Princess Máxima, signaled a shift in attitudes. Although the baptism of the future queen was a private, rather than a state, affair, it marked the first public appearance in The Netherlands of Princess Máxima's father, Jorge Zorreguieta, whose political past in Argentina had been a delicate issue in the approval of the crown prince's marriage. A poll showed that 84% of the Dutch approved of Zorreguieta's presence at the christening.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2004

41,528 sq km (16,034 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 16,238,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

      The Netherlands went to the polls on Jan. 22, 2003, to elect a new parliament. With nearly 80% of eligible voters participating, the Labour Party (PvdA) made the most dramatic gains, increasing from 23 to 42 seats (out of 150), while the Christian Democrats (CDA) won the greatest number of seats (44). The Socialist Party, which had been polling at 20 or more seats just two months previously, received only 9. The CDA and PvdA attempted to form a government, but this effort was abandoned after weeks of negotiations. In the end, a centre-right coalition was formed, and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's second cabinet within a year was sworn in on May 27.

      The U.S.-led war in Iraq highlighted dissent among the Dutch, as well as concern for the responses of the country's Islamic residents and citizens. A lively debate continued in The Netherlands about the value, meaning, and appropriate methods of integration of foreign residents and citizens of foreign descent. Fewer refugees arrived in 2003, apparently in response to tightened entrance policies. The government promised that it would soon settle on clear criteria with which to finally decide the fate of asylum seekers who had been in residence for many years.

      In February Royal Ahold, a Dutch food retailer that ranked third in the world, found that it had overstated its earnings for two years, which caused the value of the company's stock to decline dramatically (by over 60% the first day).

      The 18-year prison sentence of Volkert van der Graaf, who assassinated politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002, was confirmed upon appeal. Considerations in favour of a heavy sentence included concern that van der Graaf might reoffend in the future and that his act had harmed the democratic process significantly. Not having a previous criminal record counted in his favour, but it was not enough.

      Reports indicated that some 1,400 people died in The Netherlands during Europe's summer heat crisis. Historically high temperatures and drought also caused dikes to break in the province of Utrecht and in Rotterdam. These dikes contained peat, which had dried out so thoroughly that the dikes lost their structural integrity, sagged, and slid from their normal positions, causing local flooding. The government began an additional inspection of some 14,000 km (about 8,700 mi) of regional and local dikes.

      On June 30 Prince Johan Friso, the second son of Queen Beatrix, announced his engagement to Mabel Wisse Smit, with the wedding scheduled to take place in 2004. Amid revelations that the prince and his fiancée had initially been less than forthcoming with information about her connections to an alleged gangster (who was murdered in 1991), the prince decided not to pursue a request for the States-General's approval of his marriage. This action effectively removed Johan Friso from his right of succession as second in line to the throne, after his older brother, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, whose daughter, Amalia, born in December, assumed the second position in the succession.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2003

41,528 sq km (16,034 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 16,142,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Wim Kok and, from July 22, Jan Peter Balkenende

      The year 2002 was an eventful one in The Netherlands. On February 2 Crown Prince Willem-Alexander married Argentine Máxima Zorreguieta (see Biographies (Willem-Alexander, Crown Prince, and Princess Maxima )) in a civil ceremony in the old Berlage Stock Exchange building in Amsterdam, followed by a church blessing in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). The newlyweds were driven through the city in the Golden Coach, and they waved to the crowds from the balcony of the Palace on Dam Square.

      On April 10 the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation published its report following five years of research into the massacre that took place in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in July 1995, when more than 7,000 Islamic men and boys were murdered while the area was under the protection of a Dutch battalion of the UN Protection Force. The independent report held the UN and the Dutch government partially responsible for the fiasco, stating that while they had acted out of humanitarian ideals, they had put Dutch forces in an impossible position by not providing proper armaments and a clear mandate. In response, the Dutch government, led by Prime Minister Wim Kok, tendered its resignation. Kok asserted that while the report had laid the blame for the deaths squarely on Bosnian Serbs, it had also attributed mistakes to the international community, including Dutch leaders. Kok stated, “The international community is anonymous and cannot take responsibility in a visible way vis-à-vis the victims and survivors of the events in Srebrenica. I can—and do—take that responsibility.” Many praised Kok's integrity, while regretting that his successful political career in The Netherlands had ended on this sombre note.

      In the subsequent election campaign, immigration and integration, crime, health care, and the economy were central issues. A relatively new political party achieved national prominence. Pim Fortuyn (see Obituaries (Fortuyn, Wilhelmus Simon Petrus )), a flamboyant political outsider, criticized Dutch political culture as too cautious and consensus-oriented, and he proceeded to express his opinions less neutrally. He argued, for instance, that The Netherlands should tighten its immigration policies and, referring to the Dutch tradition of gay rights, that essential Dutch values were being challenged by the presence of Islamic residents and citizens. The nation was deeply shocked when Fortuyn was killed on May 6. The motives of the alleged gunman, who was apprehended immediately, were unclear. Although subsequent political debates and campaigning were canceled, elections were nevertheless held on May 15. The List Pim Fortuyn became the second largest party, after the Christian Democrats—a dramatic shift from the previous right-left “purple coalition.” The formation of the government and the first months in power were fraught with dissent and upheaval, however, and on October 16 the coalition government collapsed. New elections were scheduled for January 2003.

      Prince Claus, the husband of Queen Beatrix, died on October 6, after years of poor health. (See Obituaries (Claus, Prince ).)

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2002

41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 15,968,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Wim Kok

      The Dutch economy was strong in 2001—jobs were plentiful; incomes went up across the board; and the government continued to invest in public projects and in strengthening the economy. Though growth seemed to be slowing, the government planned to invest more than €3.5 billion in 2002 to improve health care, education, and safety. The government also planned to continue to pay down the national debt.

      The year began with a catastrophic fire during New Year's celebrations in a café in Volendam, in which more than 180 people were hurt; at least 12 people eventually died of their injuries. The number of casualties was much higher than expected because proper safety precautions had been ignored. An estimated 2,000 individuals were traumatized to such an extent that they would need ongoing psychological treatment. In the aftermath—with memories still fresh from the explosions in a fireworks factory in Enschede the previous year—renewed interest surfaced in the enforcement of safety standards.

      The agricultural sector suffered from an outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease, which dampened farmers' morale and had adverse effects on their income. Beyond the sphere of agriculture, travel restrictions interfered with commerce and led to the cancellation of some celebrations of the national holiday (Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day) and some World War II memorial events. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (also referred to as “mad cow” disease) was also detected in The Netherlands.

      Though the euro was about to become the only legal tender in January 2002, The Netherlands nonetheless celebrated its tradition of creating beautifully designed currency by issuing one “last” guilder coin in mid-June. One side was drawn by a 12-year-old boy, whose design, selected from more than 50,000 submissions, sported a cartoonish flag-waving “Dutch lion.” Sixteen million copies of the popular coin were put into circulation.

      The royal family turned its attention to matrimony. Prince Constantijn, the third son of Queen Beatrix, married Laurentien Brinkhorst. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander announced his engagement to Máxima Zorreguieta. The proposed marriage was approved by the States-General after skillful negotiation by Prime Minister Wim Kok. At issue was the fact that Zorreguieta's father had been the minister of agriculture in Argentina during the Jorge Rafaél Videla regime. Kok authorized an independent study to explore the extent of her father's involvement in human rights violations. Zorreguieta denied having known of any such violations by his government at the time and stated that he would not attend the nuptials, scheduled for Feb. 2, 2002. Máxima Zorreguieta publicly expressed regret that her father had “worked hard” for a regime that had engaged in unacceptable practices. The fact that she was able to make such statements in Dutch helped establish her credibility with the Dutch public.

      The Netherlands made news around the world on April 1 when the first four gay and lesbian couples were legally married in Amsterdam. Almost 400 couples followed suit that month. Of those, 80% were already registered as domestic partners, an option that had been available since 1998.

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2001

41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 15,896,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Wim Kok

      The economic ascent of The Netherlands continued in 2000. The 2001 budget presented by the government in September was the first since 1950 to show a surplus (when budgeted, rather than after the fact, as were those for 1999 and 2000). It featured substantially raised expenditures in such categories as education, research, health care, and infrastructure plus roughly 7 billion guilders ($2.8 billion) for tax relief and 20 billion guilders ($7.9 billion) to pay down the national debt at an accelerated rate.

      On May 13 the nation was shocked when the city of Enschede suffered one of the largest disasters in The Netherlands since World War II. An explosion in a fireworks warehouse and the subsequent fire left at least 21 people dead and nearly 1,000 injured. Some 400 houses were destroyed, and many more were damaged. An investigation into the causes was ongoing, but it appeared likely that hazardous materials had been stored on the premises without a permit.

      Several politicians attempted during the year to launch a reevaluation of the role of the monarch in Dutch government. It was generally accepted that Queen Beatrix chose not to exert all the influence that she was granted by law, and the questioners suggested that at least this more limited practice should become a matter of legislation and that perhaps the role of the monarch should officially be made purely ceremonial. The proposal was rejected for various reasons, including an unwillingness to change a system that was perceived to be working well, a sense of historical connection with the House of Orange since the 16th century as a symbol of national unity and identity, and the general popularity of the queen and the crown prince. Two landmark pieces of legislation were passed late in the year. In November the parliament voted to allow physicians to end the lives of seriously ill patients who have asked to die. The Netherlands thus became the first country to legalize mercy killing and doctor-assisted suicide. In December the government gave final approval to laws that allow same-sex couples to marry and to adopt children.

      The discovery by British Customs and Excise of 58 deceased illegal migrants in a Dutch truck intensified discussions of the role and treatment of migrants. The related issue of the status of immigrants in The Netherlands and the question of how the nation could be a more fully multicultural society also remained important topics of debate. The government aimed to offer more courses in Dutch language and citizenship to improve immigrants' opportunities for integration.

      The year was a significant one for Dutch-Japanese relations. Both countries celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first arrival in Japan of a Dutch trading ship. As The Netherlands, particularly those citizens with ties to Indonesia, also memorialized the 55th anniversary of the Japanese capitulation that ended World War II in Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori expressed apologies on behalf of the Japanese people.

      Dutch athletes took home 25 medals from the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, significantly more than they had on any previous occasion. (See Biographies: Inge de Bruijn.) The record had been 19 at the Games in Amsterdam in 1928. In October protesters against globalization demonstrated in Amsterdam during a conference there attended by the president of the World Bank. (See Economic Affairs: Sidebar.)

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 2000

41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 15,777,000
Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague
Chief of state:
Queen Beatrix
Head of government:
Prime Minister Wim Kok

      Internationalization was evident in a variety of contexts in The Netherlands in 1999. A revision of the Van Dale, the standard Dutch dictionary, published in September (the first revision since 1992), reflected this trend by demonstrating the increasing flexibility of various aspects of Dutch society, including the economy, expansion of the Internet, and internationalization of cuisine.

      Internationalization and a move to increasing flexibility was also evident in the world of business. The Dutch metals giant Koninklijke Hoogovens NV fused with British Steel Corp. PLC to form Corus Group PLC; subsequently, the Dutch government, which throughout the 1990s had been selling stock it held in large companies, divested itself of its holdings in this company, with the proceeds, as customary, to be paid toward the national debt. International mergers and acquisitions proceeded apace: within one week in June, the Dutch beer giant Heineken NV acquired a Spanish brewery, which gave Heineken a one-third market share for beer in Spain, France, Italy, and Poland and a three-quarters share of the Greek market; ABN Amro Holdings NV, a banking conglomerate, purchased a small Egyptian securities brokerage firm; and Getronics NV acquired Wang Global, an American computer firm, for $2 billion. Koninklijke KPN NV, a Dutch telecommunications firm, expanded its holdings in the Irish Telecom Eireann as well as the Bulgarian Telecommunications Co.

      Some 3,000 members of the Dutch armed forces took part in peace operations in the Balkans and elsewhere, and The Netherlands supported NATO efforts to end the conflict in Kosovo. Participation in the elections to the European Parliament reached a new low of less than 30%, however. The Netherlands was elected to a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council starting in 1999.

      Concern with food safety reached new heights—some described it as hysteria—after several scares and scandals occurred in short succession. These involved various kinds of foods and food products, including Coca-Cola and several varieties of meat and poultry, which were recalled after being deemed unsafe. The government made food safety a high priority. The Dutch government and citizens continued to debate appropriate standards for awarding asylum and for the treatment of refugees, as well as appropriate compensation for victims of the Nazi occupation during World War II.

      By September, the time of the queen's annual speech from the throne, economic news was positive: the economy was judged to be “strong and resilient”; employment growth was “extremely favourable”; the government deficit for 2000 was projected at only one-half percent of gross domestic product; and the debt ratio was falling more quickly than expected.

      Preparations were under way for commemorating the 400th anniversary of Dutch-Japanese relations in 2000; special exhibitions in a variety of historical and art museums were planned. The Nobel Prize for Physics for 1999 was awarded to two Dutch researchers, Gerardus 't Hooft and Martinus J.G. Veltman, for their contributions toward a firmer mathematical foundation for particle physics theory. (See Nobel Prizes .)

Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

▪ 1999

      Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 15,691,000

      Capital: Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague

      Chief of state: Queen Beatrix

      Head of government: Prime Minister Wim Kok

      Local elections were held throughout The Netherlands on March 4, 1998. They were regarded as the final test for the administration of Prime Minister Wim Kok before the general elections in May. The coalition of the liberal parties—People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Democrats 66 (D66)—and the Labour Party as a whole withstood the challenge to their dominance. D66 lost half of its support, but this was balanced by a slight growth of the other parties. The radical right-wing Centre Democratic Party was defeated decisively, losing all of its seats in the large cities.

      General elections for the 150-seat Second Chamber of the parliament took place on May 6. Substantial victories were achieved by the Labour Party of Prime Minister Wim Kok, which increased its representation in the Chamber from 37 to 45 seats; the VVD, up from 31 to 38; and the socialist-ecologist Green Left Party, up from 5 to 11. Though D66 suffered a loss of 10 seats, the coalition strengthened its position in the parliament. The largest opposition group, the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal, lost five seats, down from 34 to 29. The party had dominated Dutch politics for many years until losing in the election of 1994.

      Prime Minister Kok inaugurated his new Cabinet on August 3. The major change involved the resignation of Hans van Mierlo as minister of foreign affairs and his replacement by Jozias van Aartsen. Van Mierlo, a leading light of D66, retired from political life. The new leader of the party was the health minister, Els Borst.

      In September Queen Beatrix gave her traditional speech to open the new parliamentary year. She forecast that the nation's economic growth would slow down somewhat in the near future. Government budgets for the first time in years would be increased slightly. Growth in private consumption was expected. On May 3, at a meeting of top officials of the European Union, The Netherlands was one of the 11 nations whose participation in the EU's economic and monetary union was formally endorsed.

      Beginning in September, continual rainfall caused serious trouble for The Netherlands. During September much of the nation's southwest was inundated. In October and November the northeast suffered comparable damage. Agricultural losses were extensive. The only positive aspect was that the project to strengthen the dikes along the major rivers was almost completed.


▪ 1998

      Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 15,619,000

      Capital: Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague

      Chief of state: Queen Beatrix

      Head of government: Prime Minister Wim Kok

      A major conference of the European Union (EU) was held June 16-18, 1997, in Amsterdam. The European leaders were hoping to reach an agreement on establishing the European economic and monetary union (EMU) in 1999, which would result in the Euro (a common European currency). The leaders also discussed the possible future inclusion of other—particularly Eastern European—countries in the EU and the institutional mechanisms needed to accomplish this. (See European Union, above.)

      Queen Beatrix delivered her traditional speech to open the new parliamentary year. In it she expressed optimism for the country, based on the steady growth of the economy and good economic prospects for the near future. On July 1 Wim Duisenberg, president of the central bank of The Netherlands, was appointed the new president of the European Monetary Institute, the most powerful monetary institution in Europe. Duisenberg had served as minister of finance in the left-wing Cabinet of Joop den Uyl from 1973 to 1977.

      On March 19 a public referendum was held in Amsterdam to discuss the expansion of the city into the waters of the IJmeer, a lake on the east side of the city. Ecologists were strongly opposed to the plan because of the damage it would cause to the environment. A majority of the population (62%) voted against the expansion, but in spite of the vote, the City Council decided to go ahead with the project. They justified their decision on the fact that only 40% of the electorate voted.

      On April 15 a visit of a Dutch trade mission to China, led by the minister of economic affairs, was canceled by the Chinese government. The minister had supported a resolution by the EU condemning the human rights situation in China. The cancellation of the visit resulted in a significant deterioration in relations between The Netherlands and China.

      U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton visited The Netherlands in May to meet Prime Minister Wim Kok, who was also serving as chairman of the EU. Together with 50 European leaders and Queen Beatrix, they commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. Kok urged the establishment of a new Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Eastern European economies.

      On Jan. 4, 1997, after an interruption of 10 years, a severe winter once again allowed ice skaters to compete in the Elfstedentocht, a 200-km (125-mi) race that passes through 11 cities in Friesland province. Traditionally, this event causes a feeling of excitement throughout The Netherlands, partly because the Dutch climate seldom allows the race to be held. More than 16,000 people participated in the event, which was won by a farmer, Henk Angenent.

      See also Dependent States, above.

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy of northwestern Europe, The Netherlands, a Benelux country, is on the North Sea. Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 15,589,000. Cap., Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague. Monetary unit: Netherlands guilder, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 1.72 guilders to U.S. $1 (2.71 guilders = £1 sterling). Queen, Beatrix; prime minister in 1996, Wim Kok.

      On Feb. 1, 1996, a parliamentary commission inquiring into the police methods against organized crime in The Netherlands presented its final report. The commission was established as a result of conflicts in the police force, which in 1994 caused the discharge of two government ministers. The main conclusions of the report were that the links between organized crime and the noncriminal were less extensive than was often suggested in the media and that the use of criminals to infiltrate operations involving large-scale drug trafficking did not prove effective and had dangerous side effects. The main recommendation was to create clear legal regulations for police inquiries.

      On March 15 the Fokker aviation company was adjudged bankrupt after the Dutch government terminated further credit to it. During its lifetime of 77 years, Fokker aircraft were the pride of Dutch industry. Parts of the Fokker concern were transferred to a newly created holding company, wherein crucial activities could be continued. Despite this, more than 5,000 highly specialized employees lost their jobs.

      The events leading to the bankruptcy began in December 1993 when Daimler-Benz AG of Germany became the controlling shareholder of Fokker, and the Dutch government withdrew from its financial responsibility for the firm. After severe financial losses on its investments in Fokker, Daimler-Benz eliminated its support. Rescue talks with Samsung of South Korea failed before the deadline from the government of March 15. In October talks were resumed between Samsung and the government, but delays on the Korean side caused Fokker to abandon hope in late November. The bankruptcy of Fokker resulted in part from the policy of the minister of economics, Hans Wijers, to strengthen the operation of the private market and to hold back public support for private companies as much as possible.

      On June 28 Robin Linschoten was forced to resign as minister of state for social affairs and employment. His resignation was caused by a combination of two incidents. The first was the accusation that at the end of 1995 he deliberately held back information from Parliament concerning the possible consequences of the privatization of the national health regulations. The second and decisive factor was his failure to provide leadership to the supervising commission on institutions in order to implement regulations for social insurances. Although Linschoten was one of the leaders of the right-wing party of the governing coalition, his discharge did not affect the stability of the Cabinet under Prime Minister Wim Kok.

      Queen Beatrix gave her traditional speech on September 15 to open the new parliamentary year. She noted that the growth rates of the nation's economy and of employment were higher than in the surrounding countries. The government deficit was reduced, and The Netherlands was expected to meet the criteria for accession to the European economic and monetary union in 1997.

      A goal of the government for the future was to improve the transportation infrastructure of the very densely populated western part of The Netherlands. One of the issues to be decided was the route of the high-speed train from Paris to Amsterdam, which would have important environmental effects on the "green" areas between the cities of The Netherlands.


      See also Dependent States .

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy of northwestern Europe, The Netherlands, a Benelux country, is on the North Sea. Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 15,487,000. Cap., Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague. Monetary unit: Netherlands guilder, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 1.60 guilders to U.S. $1 (2.53 guilders = £1 sterling). Queen, Beatrix; prime minister in 1995, Wim Kok.

      During the period Jan. 23-Feb. 6, 1995, people living near the Meuse, Rhine, Waal, and IJssel rivers in The Netherlands suffered from heavy flooding. At the same time, large areas in the southern and central regions of the nation were threatened by the bursting of dikes. Almost a quarter of a million people had to leave their homes and were evacuated to safer parts of the country. Severe breaches in the dikes were prevented, however. It was the second year in a row that The Netherlands had experienced problems with its elaborate hydraulic system.

      One of the causes of the flooding was that the river-beds in Germany, Belgium, and France had been canalized. Another was that urbanization in the surrounding countries prevented the regions near the rivers from functioning naturally as a sponge for the rainwater. Thus, in those countries the buffer capacity for rainwater was decreased, and The Netherlands consequently had to deal with faster and higher streams of water during the winter. Risks were also increased because the dikes were in a bad state of repair. In February a plan to restore and strengthen 685 km (425 mi) of the dike system at an estimated cost of 1.3 billion guilders was announced. The efforts were to be concluded at the end of 1996.

      Elections in the 12 provinces of The Netherlands took place on March 8. The centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) was the big winner, increasing its representation in the provincial legislatures from 116 to 208 seats. The major loser was the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal, which declined from 257 to 185 seats, thus continuing the fall that began in the national election in 1994. Generally, the success of the VVD was ascribed to the independent role that its leader, Frits Bolkestein, played in the States-General.

      In July Srebrenica, one of the so-called safe areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was conquered by Serb troops. Dutchbat, a lightly armed contingent of 300 Dutch troops that had a peacekeeping task in that area on behalf of the United Nations, was taken hostage. One Dutch soldier was killed. At home a vigorous public debate began concerning the extent to which Dutchbat had been confronted with a "mission impossible" in trying to keep peace where none had existed since before the unit arrived.

      Queen Beatrix paid an official visit to Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, in August. It was an emotional occasion because 50 years earlier, on Aug. 17, 1945, Indonesia had proclaimed its independence from Dutch rule. The Dutch government did not recognize the proclamation until 1949. On September 19 the queen delivered her traditional speech to open the new parliamentary year. It was an optimistic address foreseeing a period of economic growth.

      The island of St. Martin in the Caribbean Sea, the southern third of which is controlled by The Netherlands, was severely hit in September by Hurricane Luis. Wind speeds of more than 190 km/h (120 mph) were measured. At least nine people died, and between 7,000 and 10,000 people lost their homes. (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

      See also Dependent States .

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy of northwestern Europe, The Netherlands, a Benelux country, is on the North Sea. Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 15,401,000. Cap., Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague. Monetary unit: Netherlands guilder, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 1.73 guilders to U.S. $1 (2.74 guilders = £1 sterling). Queen, Beatrix; prime ministers in 1994, Ruud Lubbers and, from August 22, Wim Kok.

      The local elections held on March 2, 1994, resulted in severe losses for both parties of the government coalition—the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the Labour Party. The biggest winners were the centre-left Democrats 66 and the centre-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). The general parliamentary elections of May 3 confirmed the trend of the earlier voting, but with the losses being even more dramatic for the CDA. Labour was now the largest single party in Parliament, and small gains were made by xenophobic far-right parties and by parties representing the elderly. (For tabulated results, see Political Parties, above.) Never in Dutch history had a government coalition lost so much of its support, and analysts described the result as a historical turning point that marked the end of the Christian Democratic era. The main causes of the decline of the CDA were the difficult task the new party leader, Elco Brinkman, had in trying to succeed the popular Ruud Lubbers, who had held the post for 12 years before resigning to run for the presidency of the European Commission, and the clumsy maneuvering of the CDA leadership on social policy affecting elderly voters.

      On August 22 Queen Beatrix appointed a new Cabinet. The new government was headed by Prime Minister Willem ("Wim") Kok, leader of the Labour Party, minister of finance in the previous Cabinet, and, earlier, the leader of the country's largest labour union. The Cabinet, composed of Labour and members from the VVD and Democrats 66, was called a "purple" cabinet, so named for the mix of the red and blue colours of the parties represented. It was the first time since 1918 that a Cabinet had been formed without any minister from a Christian Democratic party. Among the serious problems of the new government were high rates of unemployment and the soaring costs of social benefits. The Cabinet also intended to work to stimulate technological innovation in research and industry, to strengthen the quality and flexibility of primary and secondary education, and to continue the restructuring of the national army into a small and effective professional organization.

      Meanwhile, on August 16 Brinkman had resigned as leader of the CDA. He was held responsible for the fact that the CDA did not take part in the negotiations for the forming of the new Cabinet. Two days later Enneus Heerma succeeded him as chairman of the parliamentary faction of the CDA. Heerma, a former secretary of state, had successfully initiated a privatization project in public housing.

      Earlier, on May 27, the minister of justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, and the minister of internal affairs, Ed van Thijn, had been forced to resign their positions in the interim Cabinet. The scandal was caused by the way they had handled the liquidation of an interregional investigating team, made up of cooperating police forces, against organized crime. A parliamentary report concerning the affair concluded that their action was unnecessary and had ended a very effective operation. It also concluded that the liquidation was a struggle between political factions to discredit one another. Especially for van Thijn, the incident was a dramatic event in his political career. Formerly the highly successful mayor of Amsterdam, he had been appointed to the Cabinet post only in January on the unexpected death of Ien Dales, a popular personality and prominent representative of Labour. It was for van Thijn a return to national politics, for during the period 1973-78 he had been chairman of the parliamentary faction of Labour and he had served as minister of internal affairs once before, in 1981-82. Now, however, he stood in the impossible position of having to judge, in his position as minister, his own role in the affair as mayor of Amsterdam. (KLAAS J. HOEKSEMA)

      See also Dependent States .

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy of northwestern Europe, The Netherlands, a Benelux country, is on the North Sea. Area: 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 15,302,000. Cap., Amsterdam; seat of government, The Hague. Monetary unit: Netherlands guilder, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 1.82 guilders to U.S. $1 (2.76 guilders = £1 sterling). Queen, Beatrix; prime minister in 1993, Ruud Lubbers.

      On Jan. 12, 1993, Defense Minister Relus ter Beek presented a list of priorities for restructuring the military. A 44% reduction in manpower was foreseen by 2002. Land forces would be reduced by 54% and the navy by 25%. The main task of the armed forces was defined as "peacekeeping crisis control"; Dutch troops would participate only in international peacekeeping operations that were initiated by the United Nations or in the context of European alliances.

      On January 28 the lower house of Parliament passed a bill on new disability benefits, ending a debate that had begun in 1991. The Labour Party, a member of the ruling coalition, acceded in the vote only after Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers threatened to bring down the Cabinet. A compromise was reached to retain the existing benefit level (70% of full income), but new benefits would depend on individual circumstances, and allowances would be somewhat lower than before. The new arrangements were necessary because the growing number of disabled people—900,000, or one-seventh of the workforce—had overburdened the Dutch economy. A parliamentary inquiry in May-June 1993 examined allegations that on a large scale workers laid off during the economic recession of the 1980s got disability benefits to which they were not entitled, but the inquiry found no proof of such irregularities.

      Following 20 years of sharp national debate on the issue of euthanasia, on February 9 Parliament voted in favour of a bill that would permit physicians to assist in suicide under strict medical and ethical conditions. In late November the Senate voted 37-34 in favour of a carefully worded bill that did not legalize euthanasia but set forth guidelines indicating what doctors could do without fear of criminal prosecution. For one thing, patients would have to ask repeatedly to die before the doctor could intervene. The bill was expected to become law in 1994.

      On June 4 Elske ter Veld, secretary of state for social affairs, resigned after an emotional debate. She had been an active proponent of social welfare, sometimes going beyond the program of the Labour Party, and her departure caused serious rifts in the party faction in Parliament. She was replaced by Jacques Wallage, a former secretary of state in the Department of Education.

      Roel in 't Veld, the new secretary of state for education, in turn had to resign on June 17, having been in office for only eight days. He was accused of abuse of his position while he was a professor at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Job Cohen, rector of the University of Limburg at Maastricht, took over as education secretary on June 30.

      In her speech on "Prinsjesdag," the traditional ceremonial opening of the parliamentary year on the third Tuesday in September, Queen Beatrix stressed the alarming rate of unemployment in The Netherlands. Joblessness was on the rise for the first time since 1988, and near-term projections were gloomy, with a postwar record high foreseen in 1994. Other topics for government consideration in late 1993 were the stabilization of the deficit, maintenance of social security, and a general reduction of the costs of labour.


      See also Dependent States, below.

* * *

Netherlands, flag of The  country located in northwestern Europe, also known as Holland. ‘‘Netherlands " means low-lying country; the name Holland (from Houtland, or “Wooded Land”) was originally given to one of the medieval cores of what later became the modern state and is still used for 2 of its 12 provinces (Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland). A parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch, the kingdom includes the six former island colonies of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government The Hague (Hague, The).

      The country is indeed low-lying and remarkably flat, with large expanses of lakes, rivers, and canals. Some 2,500 square miles (6,500 square km) of The Netherlands consist of reclaimed land, the result of a process of careful water management dating back to medieval times. Along the coasts, land was reclaimed from the sea, and, in the interior, lakes and marshes were drained, especially alongside the many rivers. All this new land was turned into polders, usually surrounded by dikes. Initially, man power and horsepower were used to drain the land, but they were later replaced by windmills, such as the mill network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The largest water-control schemes were carried out in the second half of the 19th century and in the 20th century, when steam pumps and, later, electric or diesel pumps came into use.

      Despite government-encouraged emigration after World War II, which prompted some 500,000 persons to leave the country, The Netherlands is today one of the world's most densely populated countries. Although the population as a whole is “graying” rapidly, with a high percentage over age 65, Amsterdam has remained one of the liveliest centres of international youth culture. There, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, the Dutch tradition of social tolerance is readily encountered. Prostitution, “soft-drug” (marijuana and hashish) use, and euthanasia are all legal but carefully regulated in The Netherlands, which was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

      This relative independence of outlook was evident as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Dutch rejected monarchical controls and took a relatively enlightened view of other cultures, especially when they brought wealth and capital to the country's trading centres. In that period Dutch merchant ships sailed the world and helped lay the foundations of a great trading country characterized by a vigorous spirit of enterprise. In later centuries, The Netherlands continued to have one of the most advanced economies in the world, despite the country's modest size. The Dutch economy is open and generally internationalist in outlook. With Belgium and Luxembourg, The Netherlands is a member of the Benelux (Benelux Economic Union) economic union (European Community), which in the 1950s and 1960s served as a model for the larger European Economic Community (EEC; now embedded in the European Union [EU]), of which the Benelux countries are members. The Netherlands is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Economic Co-operation and Development, Organisation for) (OECD), and it plays host to a number of international organizations, especially in the legal sector, such as the International Court of Justice.

      The Dutch reputation for tolerance was tested in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when an increase in immigration from non-European Union countries and a populist turn in politics resulted in growing nationalism and even xenophobia, marked by two race-related political assassinations, in 2002 and 2004, and the government's requirement that immigrants pass an expensive ‘‘integration " test before they enter the country.

  The Netherlands is bounded by the North Sea to the north and west, Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south. If The Netherlands were to lose the protection of its dunes and dikes, the most densely populated part of the country would be inundated (largely by the sea but also in part by the rivers). This highly developed part of The Netherlands, which generally does not lie higher than about three feet (one metre) above sea level, covers more than half the total area of the country. About half of this area (more than one-fourth of the total area of the country) actually lies below sea level.

      The lower area consists mainly of polders (polder), where the landscape not only lies at a very low elevation but is also very flat in appearance. On such land, building is possible only on “rafts,” or after concrete piles, sometimes as long as 65 feet (20 metres), have been driven into the silt layer.

      In the other, higher area, the layers of sand and gravel in the eastern part of the country were pushed sideways and upward in some places by ice tongues of the Saale Glacial Stage, forming elongated ridges that may reach a height of more than 330 feet (100 metres) and are the principal feature of the Hoge Park Veluwe National Park. The only part of the country where elevations exceed 350 feet (105 metres) is the border zone of the Ardennes. The Netherlands' highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the extreme southeastern corner, rises to 1,053 feet (321 metres).

Drainage and dikes
 The Zuiderzee was originally an estuary of the Rhine River. By natural action it then became a shallow inland sea, biting deep into the land, and eventually it was hollowed into an almost circular shape by the action of winds and tides. In 1920 work was begun on the Zuiderzee project, of which the IJsselmeer Dam (Afsluitdijk), begun in 1927, was a part. This 19-mile- (30-km-) long dam was completed in 1932 to finally seal off the Zuiderzee from the Waddenzee and the North Sea. In the IJsselmeer, or IJssel Lake, formed from the southern part of the Zuiderzee, four large polders, the IJsselmeer Polders, with a total area of about 650 square miles (1,700 square km), were constructed around a freshwater basin fed by the IJssel and other rivers and linked with the sea by sluices and locks in the barrier dam.

      The first two polders created there—Wieringermeer and North East (Noordoost) Polder, drained before and during World War II—are used mostly for agriculture. The two polders reclaimed in the 1950s and '60s—South Flevoland Polder (Zuidelijk) and East Flevoland Polder (Oostelijk)—are used for residential, industrial, and recreational purposes. Among the cities that have developed there are Lelystad and Almere.

      In the southwest, the disastrous gales and spring tide of Feb. 1, 1953, which flooded some 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) of land and killed 1,800 people, accelerated the implementation of the Delta Project, which aimed to close off most of the sea inlets of the southwestern delta. These delta works were designed to shorten the coastline by 450 miles (725 km), combat the salination of the soil, and allow the development of the area through roads that were constructed over 10 dams and 2 bridges built between 1960 and 1987. The largest of these dams, crossing the five-mile- (eight-km-) wide Eastern Schelde (Oosterschelde (Eastern Schelde)) estuary, has been built in the form of a storm-surge barrier incorporating dozens of openings that can be closed in the event of flood. The barrier is normally open, allowing salt water to enter the estuary and about three-fourths of the tidal movement to be maintained, limiting damage to the natural environment in the Eastern Schelde. In the interest of the commerce of the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, no dams were constructed in the New Waterway, which links Rotterdam to the North Sea, or the West Schelde (Western Scheldt), an approach to Antwerp, Belg. The dikes along these waterways consequently had to be strengthened.

      A region with a very specific character has been formed by the great rivers—Rhine (Rhine River), lek, Waal, and Maas (Meuse (Meuse River))—that flow from east to west through the central part of the country. The landscape in this area is characterized by high dikes along wide rivers, orchards along the levees formed by the rivers, and numerous large bridges over which pass the roads and railways that connect the central Netherlands with the southern provinces.

 In the late Pleistocene Epoch (between about 125,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago), the Scandinavian ice sheet covered the northern half of The Netherlands. After this period, a large area in the north of what is now The Netherlands was left covered by moraine (glacial accumulation of earth and rock debris). In the centre and south, the Rhine and Maas rivers unloaded thick layers of silt and gravel transported from the European mountain chains. Later, during the Holocene Epoch (about 12,000 years ago), clay was deposited in the sheltered lagoons behind the coastal dunes, and peat soil often subsequently developed in these areas. If the peat soil was washed away by the sea or dug away by humans (for the production of fuel and salt), lakes were created. Many of these were reclaimed in later centuries (as mentioned above), while others now form highly valued outdoor recreational areas.

      The climate of The Netherlands is temperate, with gentle winters, cool summers, and rainfall in every season. Southerly and westerly winds predominate, and the sea moderates the climate through onshore winds and the effect of the Gulf Stream.

 The position of the country—between the area of high-pressure air masses centred on the Azores and the low-pressure region centred on Iceland—makes The Netherlands an area of collision between warm and polar air masses, thus creating unsettled weather. Winds meet with little resistance over the flat country, though the hills in the south significantly diminish the velocity of the potent wind that prevails along the coast. On average, frost occurs 60 days per year. July temperatures average about 63 °F (17 °C), and those of January average 35 °F (2 °C). Annual rainfall averages about 31 inches (790 mm), with only about 25 clear days per year. The average rainfall is highest in summer (August) and autumn and lowest in springtime. The country is known—not least through the magnificent landscapes of Dutch painters—for its heavy clouds, and on an average day three-fifths of the sky is clouded.

Plant and animal life
      Most wild Dutch plant species are of the Atlantic district within the Euro-Siberian phytogeographic region. Gradients of salt and winter temperature variations cause relatively minor zonal differences in both wild and garden plants from the coast to more continental regions. The effects of elevation are negligible. Vegetation from coastal sand dunes, muddy coastal areas, slightly brackish lakes, and river deltas is especially scarce in the surrounding countries. Lakes, marshes, peatland, woods, heaths, and agricultural areas determine the general floral species. Clay, peat, and sand are important soil factors for the inland vegetation regions.

      Animal life is relegated by region according to vegetation. Seabirds and other sea life, such as mollusks, are found especially in the muddy Waddenzee area and in the extreme southwest. Migrating birds pass in huge numbers through The Netherlands or remain for a summer or winter stay. Species of waterbirds and marsh and pasture birds are numerous. Larger mammals, such as roe deer, red deer, foxes, and badgers, are mostly restricted to nature reserves. Some species, such as boars, beavers, fallow deer, mouflons, and muskrats, have been introduced locally or reintroduced. Some reptiles and amphibians are endangered. Numerous species of river fish and river lobsters have become scarce because of water pollution. There is a diversity of brackish and freshwater animals inhabiting the many lakes, canals, and drainage ditches, but the vulnerable species of the nutritionally deficient waters have become rare.

      Nature reserves have been formed by governmental and private organizations. Well-known reserves include the Naardermeer of Amsterdam, the Hoge Veluwe National Park, and the Oostvaardersplassen in the centre of the country. Some endangered species are protected by law.


Ethnic groups
 Popular belief holds that the Dutch (Netherlands, The) are a mixture of Frisians, Saxons (Saxon), and Franks (Frank). In fact, research has made plausible the contention that the autochthonous inhabitants of the region were a mixture of pre-Germanic and Germanic population groups who in the course of time had converged on the main deltaic region of western Europe. There emerged from these groups in the 7th and 8th centuries some major polities based on certain ethnic and cultural unities that then came to be identified as Frisians, Saxons, and Franks.

      The Dutch Republic originated from medieval statelets, and its legal successor, the Kingdom of The Netherlands, has attracted countless immigrants through the centuries. A strong impetus was the principle of freedom of thought, which engendered the relative tolerance that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries. These sentiments were—and are—most manifest in the prosperous commercial and industrial centres in the western provinces, which attracted many members of persecuted religious or political minorities. Among these were southern lowlanders, French Huguenots (Huguenot), and Portuguese Jews, along with many people who sought to improve their economic situation, such as Germans and non-Iberian Jews. In the 20th century, immigrants from the former Dutch overseas colonies added to the influx; they included Indonesians and peoples from the Moluccas and from Suriname on the northeast coast of South America. In recent decades, however, as Muslims from Turkey and Morocco arrived in large numbers, Dutch embracement of diversity has been more tenuous. At the beginning of the 21st century, not only did a virulent anti-immigrant movement emerge, but also the government required that immigrants pass a test in their country of origin relating to Dutch language and culture before they were allowed to enter The Netherlands.

      The language in the whole of the country is Dutch (Netherlandic language), sometimes referred to as Netherlandic (Dutch language), a Germanic language that is also spoken by the inhabitants of northern Belgium (where it is called Flemish). Afrikaans (Afrikaans language), an official language of South Africa, is a variant of the Dutch spoken by 17th-century emigrants from the Holland and Zeeland regions. Apart from Dutch, the inhabitants of the northern province of Friesland also speak their own language (called Frisian (Frisian language) in English), which is closer to English than to either Dutch or German. In the major cities especially, many people are fluent in several languages, reflecting the country's geographic position, its history of occupation, and its attraction for tourists. English, French, and German are among the languages commonly heard.

The heritage of Dutch humanism
      The considerable hospitality exhibited by the Dutch is perhaps to some extent rooted in the spirit of humanism that was typical of the Dutch Republic of the 16th to the 18th century. Figures such as Desiderius Erasmus (Erasmus, Desiderius) in the 16th century and Hugo Grotius (Grotius, Hugo) in the 17th century epitomize that spirit. It resulted in a rather pragmatic mode of thinking that has dominated Dutch bourgeois culture since the 16th century, coexisting with growing commercial acumen. Evolving Dutch society came to encompass a diversity of religious traditions, from rigid Calvinism and more-tolerant forms of Protestantism (Protestant Heritage) to conformist Roman Catholicism. Calvinism was always the religion of the national elite, while Roman Catholicism could be practiced only behind closed doors before 1798 (when all religions were pronounced equal before the law), and at various times certain sects were persecuted. In comparison with some of its neighbours, The Netherlands historically has shown a remarkable degree of religious tolerance.

 In terms of formal allegiance, the present Dutch population can be divided into three almost equal groups relative to religion: Roman Catholics (the southern provinces of Limburg and Noord-Brabant are traditionally almost monolithically Catholic, but in terms of absolute numbers more Catholics live north of the great rivers than in Noord-Brabant and Limburg), Protestants (particularly the adherents to the Netherlands Reformed Church (Netherlands Reformed Church, The)), and the nonreligious. The adherents of Islam have developed a wide range of institutions in The Netherlands and constituted about 6 percent of the population at the turn of the 21st century.

      Secularization has made its mark in The Netherlands; the Christian Democrat parties of the centre, whose political platform included planks such as public funding for religious education, had attracted more than 50 percent of the vote up to the 1960s, but in the 1990s they were ejected from government for the first time in the 20th century. Nonetheless, the educational institutions and political parties that evolved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries along denominational lines remain as potent as the more or less secularized parties and institutions that sprang from socialist and liberal movements. The “pillarization” of Dutch society—that is, the founding of separate institutions such as hospitals, schools, and periodicals by various groups—commands much less religiosity and devotion now, but these organizations are still central to education, political life, and public service.

      These more or less converging societal groupings have not completely obliterated a range of age-old regional cultural distinctions. They are sometimes vividly preserved, as in the case of the northern province of Friesland, which proudly conserves the ancient Frisian culture. With more-recent immigration, new cultural groups are becoming significant.

Settlement patterns
      Modern urbanization in The Netherlands took place mainly in the 20th century. In 1900 more than half the population was still living in villages or towns of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. A century later this proportion had decreased to about one-tenth. There has, nevertheless, been a decrease in the city-proper populations of the large metropolitan centres. These inner cities are now becoming economic and cultural centres, their populations having spread outward in search of newer housing and greater living space in suburbs, new residential quarters of rural settlements, and new towns. In the 1960s and '70s the authorities stimulated this development by subsidizing house building in a number of so-called growth nuclei and by moving several groupings of public offices from the western core area of the country to more-rural areas in the north, east, and south. More recently, however, government planning policy has aimed at again concentrating the population in and around the existing cities, especially in the western portion of the country.

      In this part of The Netherlands, the bulk of the population is concentrated in the horseshoe-shaped urban core known as the Randstad (“Rim City,” or “City on the Edge”), comprising such cities as Rotterdam, The Hague (Hague, The), Leiden, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Hilversum, and Utrecht. Extensions of the Randstad stretch toward the east ( Arnhem, Nijmegen) and the south ( Breda, Tilburg, Eindhoven), thus forming the so-called Central Netherlands Urban Ring. Other urban centres are Groningen in the northeast, Enschede and Hengelo in the east, and Maastricht and Heerlen in the southeast. It is government policy to keep traditional towns and cities separated by strips of agricultural or recreational land.

Demographic trends
      Exceptionally high fertility rates until the 1960s contributed to The Netherlands' being one of the world's most densely populated countries. Since then, trends have shifted, owing mainly to wider use of birth control pills (a consequence of growing secularization) and to the increased participation of women in higher education and the workforce. At the beginning of the 21st century, Dutch birth and death rates were both among the world's lowest, resulting in a somewhat older society, with most population growth arising from immigration.

      Emigrants (emigration) exceeded immigrants by an average of almost 20,000 each year from 1947 to 1954. Thereafter the economy and labour potential of the more industrialized European countries attracted an increasing number of labour migrants from southern Europe, Turkey, and Morocco, so that the balance of in-migration and out-migration remained more or less static. From 1970 there was a continuous immigrant surplus, and in the early 21st century, one-fifth of The Netherlands' population was made up of residents born abroad or with at least one foreign-born parent. In the late 1990s, with most other doors to immigration closed by government policy and the possibility of entry for family reunification largely expended, the numbers of applications for asylum were high. There was also an increase in the immigration of Dutch nationals from the Netherlands Antilles. Following legislation in 2001 that further tightened immigration restrictions, the annual number of asylum seekers fell, but the issue of immigration remained on the political forefront.

      For many years prior to 1970, internal migration showed a constant flow from the more rural provinces in the north, east, and south toward the more strongly urbanized western part of the country. After 1970, however, the trend toward migration to the west was reversed. Subsequent emigration was mainly from Zuid-Holland and Noord-Holland (the most heavily populated provinces) toward Utrecht and the less densely populated provinces, where government regional policy stimulated industrial growth— Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Gelderland, and Zeeland.

 Since World War II, The Netherlands has been a highly industrialized country occupying a central position in the economic life of western Europe. Although agriculture accounts for a small percentage of the national income and labour force, it remains a highly specialized contributor to Dutch exports. Because of the scarcity of mineral resources—with the important exception of natural gas—the country is dependent on large imports of basic materials.

      The Netherlands has a market economy, but the state traditionally has been a significant participant in such fields as transportation, resource extraction, and heavy industry. The government also employs a substantial percentage of the total labour force and effects investment policy. Nonetheless, during the 1980s, when the ideological climate favoured market economics, considerable privatization was initiated, government economic intervention was reduced, and the welfare state was restructured. State-owned companies such as DSM (Dutch State Mines) and KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) were among those privatized. Nonetheless, The Netherlands has, relatively speaking, a highly regulated mixed economy.

      Since World War II, economic development has been consciously stimulated by government policy, and state subsidies have been granted to attract industry and services toward the relatively underdeveloped north and certain other pockets of economic stagnation. Despite these subsidies, the western part of the country remains the centre of new activity, especially in the service sector.

      The country's agricultural land is divided into grassland, arable farmland, and horticultural land. Dutch dairy farming is highly developed; the milk yield per acre of grassland and the yield per cow are among the highest in the world. A good percentage of the total milk production is exported after being processed into such dairy products as butter, cheese, and condensed milk. Meat and eggs are produced in intensively farmed livestock holdings, where enormous numbers of pigs, calves, and poultry are kept in large sheds and fed mainly on imported fodder. Most cereals for human consumption as well as fodder are imported.

  horticulture carried on under glass is of special importance. The export of hothouse tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, cut flowers, and houseplants has greatly increased, and The Netherlands now contains a substantial share of the total European horticultural area under glass. Open-air horticulture also produces fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, and bulbs, the latter from the world-famous colourful bulb fields. Only one-tenth of the land is forested. The Dutch fishing industry, while not large, is nevertheless significant. At the beginning of the 21st century, three-fourths of the fish consumed in The Netherlands was foreign caught, yet about four-fifths of the total catch was exported. As a result, the country is unusual in exporting more fish than it imports.

Resources and power
      With the increasing use of oil and especially natural gas, coal mining (concentrated in the southeast) was discontinued in 1974 because of the rising cost of production. The Netherlands imports several million tons of coal annually to meet domestic and industrial needs, including those of such industrial installations as the steel works of IJmuiden at the mouth of the North Sea Canal.

      The production of crude oil, of which there are minimal deposits, covers only a small part of Dutch requirements. The wells are located near Schoonebeek, in the northeast, and in the southwest. Large amounts of crude oil are imported for refining in The Netherlands, and much of the refined petroleum is exported.

      The discovery of natural gas in 1959 had a tremendous influence on the development of the Dutch economy. The gas fields are in the northeastern Netherlands—with the largest field at Slochteren—and beneath the Dutch sector of the North Sea. Under the Geneva Convention (Geneva Conventions) of 1958, The Netherlands was allocated a 22,000-square-mile (57,000-square-km) block of the continental shelf of the North Sea, an area larger than the country itself. Technological advances led to an increase in offshore production in the last decades of the 20th century.

      One-third of the natural gas produced is exported, primarily to countries of the European Union (EU), helping to improve the balance of payments in the economic sector—in which The Netherlands has usually had its largest deficit. The natural gas discoveries began a trend in Dutch industries toward greater use of domestically produced fuel. Purchase, transport, and sale of the gas are in the hands of The Netherlands Natural Gas Company, a limited company in which shares are held by Dutch and American firms and the Dutch state. One of the results of the reliance on gas is that nuclear power is very limited in The Netherlands. On the other hand, the flat maritime landscape is well suited to the use of wind turbines, which are increasingly employed in agricultural areas. Among the country's other resources are zinc, extracted at Budel, sodium at Delfzijl, and magnesium at Veendam.

      Modern Dutch industrial development began relatively late, about 1870, and production rose even during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Further development became a priority after World War II, when ascending population figures and growing farm-labour surpluses necessitated the creation of tens of thousands of jobs each year. Manufacturing industries accounted for about one-fifth of the labour force in the early 21st century but only about one-eighth of production value. Important components of the manufacturing sector include food and beverages, metal, chemical, petroleum products, and electrical and electronics industries. Textile manufacturing, shipbuilding, and aircraft construction were important historically, but employment in those sectors has greatly declined. The government has encouraged new industrial development in the fields of microelectronics, biotechnology, and the so-called digital economy.

Finance, trade, and services
      Commercial banking in The Netherlands is in the hands of a few large concerns, and there has been a trend toward mergers of banks and insurance companies over several decades. The state-owned Netherlands Central Bank supervises the banking system. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, one of the oldest in the world, was founded in the early 1600s.

      Trade is conducted mainly with Europe and North America. The member states of the EU are The Netherlands' dominant trading partners, receiving three-fourths of Dutch exports and providing one-half of the country's imports. In 1958 (just as the Common Market was established) some 40 percent of Dutch exports went to West Germany (now Germany), Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Italy. By the beginning of the 21st century, the main trading partners were Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the United States, Russia, and China. In the same period, the service industry accounted for about seven-tenths of the labour force and about two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP), with tourism playing a vital role. The most frequent foreign visitors are Germans, Britons, Americans, and Belgians.

Labour and taxation
      Dutch employers are organized mainly in separate but closely cooperating organizations: one Roman Catholic and Protestant and one nondenominational. The labour force had a tripartite organization before the Socialist and Roman Catholic unions merged as Netherlands Trade Union Federation (Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging; FNV), leaving the Protestant union, the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond; CNV), and a few small independent organizations far behind in membership. Employer organizations and labour unions are represented on the Joint Industrial Labour Council, established in 1945 for collective bargaining, and on the Social and Economic Council, which serves mainly to advise the government. These corporatist arrangements were substantially deregulated in the 1980s as neoliberal, market-oriented policies were carried out. Socioeconomic planning remains extremely important, however, and the Central Planning Bureau's economic models are integral to all forms of economic policy.

      The Dutch government uses both direct and indirect taxation to finance its extensive welfare programs. In 1969 it began levying a value-added tax (VAT). In addition to a graduated personal income tax, there is also a property tax, a motor vehicle tax, an excise tax on certain products, an energy tax, and a tax on legal transactions.

Transportation and telecommunications
 In The Netherlands transportation is of special importance because the country functions as a gateway for the traffic of goods between western Europe and the rest of the world. (Amsterdam, for example, has been the centre of diamond exchange for centuries.) Trade flows through Dutch harbours, continuing its passage by riverboat, train, truck, and pipeline. Maritime traffic accounts for more than half the total amount of goods loaded and unloaded in The Netherlands, and, indeed, the whole southern part of the North Sea may be likened to an immense traffic square, fed by the Thames, Rhine, Maas, and Schelde rivers, with links into the hinterland of the continent that make it one of the greatest commercial arteries of the world. Rotterdam has the country's best-equipped modern harbour, the largest on the continent. Europoort, the region between Rotterdam and the North Sea, can easily be reached by the biggest oceangoing ships; it serves as an approach via the New Waterway Canal to Rotterdam harbour. For some 40 years, until it was eclipsed by busier Asian ports in the early 21st century, Rotterdam handled more tonnage than any other harbour in the world. In petroleum processing too, Rotterdam is one of the world's leading centres, with facilities to receive the largest supertankers. The number of rivercraft is probably unsurpassed by any other country.

      Other important ports, though dwarfed by Rotterdam-Europoort, are Amsterdam and, on the Western Schelde (Western Scheldt), Flushing and Terneuzen. KLM initiated scheduled service between Amsterdam and London in 1920 and became one of the world's leading airlines, merging with Air France in 2004 to form Air France-KLM. Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol)—on the site of the former Haarlem Lake at about 13 feet (4 metres) below sea level—is among Europe's largest airports. Smaller airports of international importance are Rotterdam (Zestienhoven), Eindhoven, and Maastricht.

      In terms of internal traffic, motor vehicles, accommodated by a comprehensive road network, dominate both passenger and goods transport, despite the fact that there is a dense modern railway network. Dutch road haulage companies are market leaders and constitute a large slice of such business in the EU. Moreover, Dutch shipping companies handle about two-fifths of the EU's freight transport by water. The Netherlands' network of inland waterways, made up of some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of rivers and canals, is linked with Belgian, French, and German systems. Besides such natural waterways as the Rhine, Lek, Waal, and Maas rivers, many artificial waterways—the Juliana Canal, the Amsterdam-Rhine River Canal (between Amsterdam and Tiel), the Maas-Waal Canal (west of Nijmegen), and others—connect the major ports on the coast with the hinterland.

      The telecommunications system in The Netherlands is highly advanced, with extensive fibre-optic and mobile networks. Per capita cell phone usage in The Netherlands is comparable to that of most western European countries (though considerably less pervasive than in Scandinavia); per capita personal computer use is high by western European standards.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      The Kingdom of The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. The monarchy is hereditary in both the male and female lines. The constitution, which dates from 1814, declares that the head of state, the monarch, is inviolable and thereby embodies the concept of ministerial responsibility. It further provides that no government may remain in power against the will of Parliament. The States General (Staten-Generaal), as Parliament is officially known, consists of two houses: a First Chamber, whose members are elected by the members of the councils of the 12 provinces, and a directly elected Second Chamber. Both houses share legislative power with the government, officially known as the Crown (Kroon), defined as the head of state acting in conjunction with the ministers. The two houses control government policy. The First Chamber can only approve or reject legislation but does not have the power to propose or amend it.

      Every four years, after elections to the Second Chamber have been held, the government resigns, and a process of bargaining starts between elected party leaders aspiring to form a government that will be assured of the support of a parliamentary majority. It usually takes a few months of maneuvering before a formateur, as the main architect of such a coalition is known, is ready to accept a royal invitation to form a government. The head of state then formally appoints the ministers. In the event of political crises resulting in the fall of the government before the end of a four-year period, the same process of bargaining takes place. The monarch, acting on the advice of the ministries, has the right to dissolve one or both chambers, at which time new elections are held.

Local government
      In local government, the most important institutions are the municipalities (gemeenten). Since World War II the number of municipalities—which once totaled more than 1,000—has been dramatically reduced as a result of redivisions. Each municipality is run by a directly elected council that is presided over by a burgemeester (mayor), who is appointed by the national government and serves as chairman of the executive, the members of which are elected by and from the council; in the early 21st century, there was active discussion of directly electing mayors. In those areas to which the councils' own ordinances are applicable, the municipalities are autonomous. In many instances, national legislation or provincial ordinances provide for the cooperation of municipal authorities.

      The country is divided into 12 provinces: Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Zeeland, Noord-Brabant, and Limburg. Their administrative system has the same structure as the municipal government: directly elected councils (staten), which elect the members of the executive, except for the chairman, who is appointed by the national government. The main functions of the provinces include oversight of the municipalities within their borders and of district water-control boards (waterschappen).

      In The Netherlands the ordinary administration of justice is entrusted exclusively to judges appointed for life; there is no jury system. There are cantonal courts (kantongerechten), which exercise jurisdiction in a whole range of minor civil and criminal cases. More-important cases are handled by one of the district courts (rechtbanken), which also can hear appeals from cantonal court decisions. Appeals against decisions from the district courts are heard by one of five courts of appeal (gerechtshoven). The Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) ensures a uniform application of the law, but it cannot determine constitutionality. In the legislative process itself, the government and Parliament together pass judgment on the constitutionality of a bill under consideration. Laws that are at variance with the country's international agreements cannot be enforced by the courts.

      The Netherlands also plays an important role in international law. The Hague is the seat of the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and Europol.

Political process
      The Second Chamber, the provincial councils, and the municipal councils are elected according to a system of proportional representation. In general elections for the Second Chamber, it can take as little as 0.66 percent of the overall vote to get one of the seats in the chamber. As a result, a large number of parties and political movements are represented in Parliament. The principal Dutch political parties in the early 21st century included the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), formed in the 1970s from a coalition of the leading Christian parties; the Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid; PvdA); the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie; VVD); the Socialist Party; Democrats 66 (D66); and the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid; PVV), led by Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam populist, who draws on support for the now defunct List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), named for its founder, Wilhelmus Fortuyn, an anti-immigration populist who was assassinated in 2002. There is also a comparatively high proportion of women representatives in the States General (more than one-third in the early 21st century). The franchise is extended to all Dutch citizens who have reached age 18, except for a few special groups, such as the mentally impaired. About three-fourths of the citizenry are registered voters.

      The Dutch armed forces consist of an army, a navy, and an air force; there is also a small unit of military police. Until the 1990s, all male citizens were liable for military service at age 18; however, the end of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, and the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact rapidly changed Dutch defense needs. The military is now an all-volunteer force open to males and females who are at least age 20. With fewer personnel than before, it concentrates on crisis control and higher mobility.

Health and welfare
      Following World War II, The Netherlands developed an elaborate system of social security, providing all its citizens with universal health care and old age and unemployment benefits. All citizens are entitled to four national insurance schemes: the General Old Age Pensions Act, the General Widows and Orphans Act, the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act, and General Disability Benefits. There also are four employee insurance schemes: the Sickness Benefits Act, the Disability Insurance Act, the Compulsory Health Insurance Act, and the Unemployment Insurance Act. The system is supplemented by a number of social services, the most important being the General Family Allowance Act, which provides for family allowances for children up to age 17 and under certain circumstances for older children (including those not entitled to student grants), and the National Assistance Act, under which benefits are paid to claimants who have little or no income.

      The system is one of the most generous in the world, but since the 1980s its costs have become increasingly prohibitive. As with the systems employed by many other Western democracies, there were major revisions to the Dutch scheme, such as cost-sharing provisions and restrictions involving temporary workers, the self-employed, and non-Dutch nationals. The government pension is used in combination with pensions from employers and from private insurance plans.

      A severe housing shortage began developing after the mid-20th century and became a source of political controversy. By the 1970s, in the face of continually growing demand, even an unprecedented boom in housing construction proved inadequate. Demographic changes led to a rapid increase in the number of households, and rising standards of living fueled the consumption of space per person. This crisis abated by the mid-1970s, only to be replaced by a financial one.

      Rent controls, as well as alternative investment opportunities and the introduction of the social security of the welfare state, reduced the private rental sector from more than 60 percent in 1947 to less than 15 percent by the late 1980s. The expansion of the postwar housing stock was made possible only by massive investment in subsidized rental housing, run by not-for-profit housing associations. Concurrently, the generously subsidized homeowner sector expanded. Today just over half of Dutch homes are owned by their occupants (still a low figure by EU standards). Since the early 1990s the government has stepped back from its central role in controlling and subsidizing rents and has concentrated available public resources more on lower income groups. By 2001, a century after the Housing Act of 1901, The Netherlands officially declared an end to the housing shortage.

      All primary, secondary, and higher education is provided by either governmental (municipal or state) or private institutions. The latter are, with a few exceptions, run by Protestant and Roman Catholic organizations. All private schools are, when they conform to legally fixed standards, financed from governmental funds on an equal footing with their public (openbare) counterparts. Dutch secondary education is not a comprehensive system (that is, the same for all pupils) but one consisting of several tracks. Among these are the five-year Higher General Education track, the mandatory preparation for institutions of higher education other than the university; and the six-year Preparatory Scientific Secondary Education track, which is mandatory for university admittance.

      The system of higher education is a binary one. There are dozens of institutions for Higher Professional Education, and they cover many professional fields complementary to those served by the country's principal universities. The latter are all publicly financed. A number of the major universities cover a general range of disciplines, including the four state universities—of Leiden (Leiden, State University of) (founded 1575), Groningen (1614), Utrecht (Utrecht, State University of) (1636), and Limburg at Maastricht (1976)—and the (former municipal) University of Amsterdam (1632), the Erasmus University at Rotterdam (1973), the (originally Calvinist) Free University at Amsterdam (1880), the (originally Roman Catholic) Radboud University of Nijmegen (1923), and the University of Tilburg (1927). Other governmental universities are more specialized: the universities of technology at Delft (1842), Eindhoven (1956), and Enschede (Twente University; 1961) and the Agricultural University at Wageningen (1918). In addition, the Open University, established in 1984, provides for both university and vocational education through correspondence courses.

Environmental control
      In The Netherlands, as in all industrialized countries, the increasing pollution of both the natural and man-made environments is a major problem. Pollution in The Netherlands has certain specific aspects that are closely linked to the country's geography. For example, the maritime situation, together with the low-lying character of the coastlands, gives rise to a serious salination problem. The great European rivers—the Rhine, Maas, and Schelde—have historically transported many waste products to The Netherlands and into the adjoining North Sea. High population density and its associated intensive land use also increase the concentration of all forms of pollution.

      Dutch policy regarding the environment is among the toughest and most ambitious in the world. The government sets stiff targets for reducing pollution and other environmental damage, which firms are then invited to meet by their own measures. Since the late 1980s national environmental policy plans have increasingly addressed the causes of pollution. Thus, commuters are encouraged to travel by public transport; farmers are induced to reduce the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers; and industries are regulated to promote cleaner production processes and to reduce emissions of pollutants into the air, water, and soil.

Cultural life
      The cultural life of The Netherlands is varied and lively. Dutch painting and crafts are world renowned, and Dutch painters are among the greatest the world has ever known. The Dutch themselves take great pride in their cultural heritage, and the government is heavily involved in subsidizing the arts, while abjuring direct artistic control of cultural enterprises. Indeed, the long-enduring tradition of Dutch freedom of expression has undoubtedly played a significant role in the flowering of Dutch culture through the ages.

Daily life and social customs
      The symbols of Dutchness—wooden shoes, lace caps, tulips (tulip), and windmills—are known throughout the world, but they tell only a small part of the story of contemporary life in The Netherlands. Except in places such as Vollendam and Marken and on occasions of national celebration, traditional dress long ago gave way to a style of dress in line with that of the rest of northern Europe. Flowering bulbs and tubers, including tulips, remain an important export commodity, and various festivals celebrate them. They are also displayed in the annual spring flower exhibition at Keukenhof Gardens and in venues such as the Aalsmeer flower market.

      Dutch cuisine is notable for many individual dishes, including filled pancakes (pannekoeken); pastries such as banket (an almond paste-filled treat), oliebollen (a deep-fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar), and speculaas (spice cookies); and a great variety of hard cheeses, including Edam and Gouda, the world-renowned varieties that originated in the towns for which they are named. Jenever, the Dutch ancestor of gin, is a malted barley-based spirit produced in two basic types, jonge (‘‘young ") and oude ("old," which contains a higher percentage of malt wine and thus is stronger and often yellowish as a result of the aging of the malt wine). Both types contain a variety of botanicals, notably juniper (genever), for flavouring. Dutch licorice, which is exceptionally salty, is a popular candy. Indonesian rijsttafel (‘‘rice table ")—which developed as a method by which Dutch plantation owners could sample many Indonesian foods in the colonies—was imported to The Netherlands and has become a staple cuisine in larger Dutch cities. In addition to the holidays of Christian tradition (Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, and Ascension), the Dutch celebrate Queen's Day (April 30), Remembrance Day (May 4), and Liberation Day (May 5), though the last is commemorated only at five-year intervals.

The arts
Painting and sculpture
 The history of Dutch painting offers such a deep, rich lode of names that only a few can be touched on here. Certainly among the most revered are those of Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh (Gogh, Vincent van). Rembrandt, painting in the 17th century, became a master of light and shadow, a technique reflected in his landscapes as well as such portraits as his monumental group portrait now known as Night Watch. Van Gogh, born in the 19th century, was a powerful influence in the development of modern art.

      Among other great painters of the Low Countries are Jan van Eyck (Eyck, Jan van), the founder of the Flemish school; allegorist Hiëronymus Bosch (Bosch, Hiëronymus); portraitist Frans Hals; (Hals, Frans) landscapists Albert Cuyp (Cuyp, Aelbert) and Jacob van Ruisdael (Ruisdael, Jacob van); still-life artists such as Johannes Vermeer (Vermeer, Johannes), Willem Heda (Heda, Willem Claesz), and Willem Kalf (Kalf, Willem); and the geometrically inclined Piet Mondrian (Mondrian, Piet). (For a broader discussion of Dutch painting, see painting, Western.) Highlights of Dutch architecture range from the Dutch Baroque works of Pieter Post (Post, Pieter) to 21st-century practitioners such as Rem Koolhaas (Koolhaas, Rem). The Schroeder House (1924), in Utrecht, designed by De Stijl (Stijl, De) architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (Rietveld, Gerrit Thomas), was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Literature and the performing arts
       Dutch literature and theatre have always been handicapped by the smallness of the proportion of the human race that speaks Dutch (Netherlandic language). Perhaps the greatest name of Dutch letters was that of the Renaissance humanist Erasmus (Erasmus, Desiderius). Contemporary Dutch writers who are internationally known include Harry Mulisch (Mulisch, Harry) and Cees Nooteboom (Nooteboom, Cees). The country's performing arts are widely encouraged and supported. The National Ballet at Amsterdam and the Netherlands Dance Theatre at The Hague (Hague, The) are internationally renowned. Theatre companies are all private foundations, though the state and the municipalities provide financial assistance. The Dutch film industry is small. Among the most noteworthy recent directors are Johan van der Keuken, Marleen Gorris, and Paul Verhoeven. The International Film Festival Rotterdam is the country's leading film festival, and the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam is the national motion picture archive.

      The Netherlands has not produced composers of the stature of some of its neighbouring countries, although it has built a fine reputation for performance. The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra is world famous, and the Residentie Orchestra at The Hague and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra also have fine reputations. Various other towns have orchestras and choral groups, and there is a Dutch National Opera Company. Noted musical events include the World Music Festival at Kerkrade and the North Sea Jazz Festival at Rotterdam.

Cultural institutions
      The Netherlands has a rich range of state-supported museums. The most famous is the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam, noted for its collection of works by the great 17th-century Dutch masters (especially Rembrandt). Other major museums endowed by the state include the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Het Loo (the former royal palace) in Apeldoorn, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, recognized for its collection of contemporary paintings. Two museums, the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller (Kröller-Müller State Museum) in Otterlo (Veluwe), are renowned for their collections of paintings by van Gogh. Often overlooked are a number of exceptional smaller museums such as the Huis Lambert van Meerten (Lambert van Meerten House) in Delft and the Nederlands Tegelmuseum (Netherlands Tile Museum) in Otterlo, both of which specialize in tiles. The most popular folk museums are the Openluchtmuseum (Open Air Museum) at Arnhem and the Zuiderzeemuseum at Enkhuizen.

Sports and recreation
      Favourite regions for open-air recreation are the seacoasts with their wide sandy beaches and the many interior lakes in the western and northern parts of the country. They are frequented by both Dutch and foreign visitors. The Dutch also are attracted to hilly areas, such as the Veluwe, while foreign visitors go in droves to the old cities in the western part of the country, with Amsterdam ranking as the most popular destination. Favourite foreign vacation spots for the Dutch are the Mediterranean coasts during the summer holidays and the Alps during winter holidays.

 Cycling is a popular activity—for commuting, recreation, and sport—involving at least half the population. Other favourite sports include tennis, field hockey, and ice skating. The Elfstedentocht is a popular ice-skating race that passes through 11 cities in the province of Friesland; it is held only during winters with heavy ice. The Dutch are also avid players and fans of football (soccer), and club teams such as the storied Ajax FC of Amsterdam and the Dutch national team have experienced much international success, not least in the 1970s, when the national team, led by Johan Cruyff (Cruyff, Johan) and Johan Neeskens, pioneered the concept of “total football,” which calls for players with all-around skills to perform both defensive and attacking duties. The Netherlands made its Olympic debut in the 1900 Games in Paris, and the Summer Games were held in Amsterdam in 1928. Dutch Olympic athletes have won medals in cycling, speed skating, and swimming.

Media and publishing
      The constitution guarantees freedom of the press but does not allow journalists to protect their sources. The Dutch press has a long-standing reputation for high-quality reporting, newspapers having been printed in Amsterdam as early as 1618. One of the oldest newspapers in Europe is the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant, now called the Haarlems Dagblad, which was founded in 1656. By far the greatest circulation is enjoyed by the right-of-centre De Telegraaf, from Amsterdam. The most widely read newspapers in political and intellectual circles are the liberal NRC Handelsblad in Rotterdam and the left-leaning De Volkskrant in Amsterdam. Several free tabloids and Internet-based dailies have taken over some market share.

      The majority of radio and broadcast television transmissions are produced by a small number of associations, all under private initiative. They were originally very much part of the pillarization system, and each represented a political or religious point of view, such as Roman Catholicism, various forms of Protestantism, Socialism, Humanism, and others. Most of these associations, however, have long since lost their ideological distinctiveness and illustrate how the shell of the pillarized system has remained in existence long after its contents have ebbed away. Nevertheless, religious organizations, political parties, and small factional groups are still guaranteed access to the airwaves by Netherlands Broadcasting Corporation, which is responsible for news and the programming of unreserved airtime. The government itself exerts no influence on the programming, and advertising is restricted and is controlled by a separate foundation. All public broadcasting is financed by a licensing fee and by the yield from television and radio advertising. Commercial broadcasting was introduced in the early 1990s, and there are now a host of terrestrial and satellite channels that can be received in most parts of the country, thanks to the extremely dense Dutch cable television network.

Marcus Willem Heslinga Henk Meijer Michael J. Wintle

      This section surveys the history of the Kingdom of The Netherlands from its founding in 1579 to the present. For a discussion of the period prior to that date, see Low Countries, history of the (Low Countries, history of).

The Union of Utrecht
      On Jan. 23, 1579, the agreement at Utrecht was concluded, forming a “closer union” within the larger union of the Low Countries led by the States General sitting in Brussels. Included in the Union were the provinces and cities committed to carrying on resistance to Spanish rule: Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland (Guelders), and Zutphen (a part of Overijssel) as the first signatories, followed in the next year by the whole of Overijssel, most of Friesland, and Groningen, all in the north; and in the south by the cities of Antwerp and Breda in Brabant, and Ghent, Brugge (Bruges), and Ypres (Ieper) in Flanders. Designed to establish a league for conduct of the war of independence and ultimately to strengthen the central government in Brussels, the Union of Utrecht became in fact the foundation of a separate state and a distinct country in the northern Netherlands. The new state was named the United Provinces (Dutch Republic) of the Netherlands, or, more briefly, the Dutch Republic, and its government was known in the international community as the States General.

      The people of the northern Netherlands began to be distinguished from the inhabitants of the south (to whom the name Flemings (Fleming and Walloon) continued to cling) by the appellation Hollanders (French: Hollandais; Italian: Olandese; German: Holländer; and so forth), after their principal province. The English, however, came to apply exclusively to the Hollanders the term Dutch, which previously they had applied to all German speakers (from German Deutsch, Dutch Duits). The name Netherlanders, which remained in use in the Low Countries for the inhabitants of the United Provinces specifically and for all those, north or south, who spoke Dutch (Netherlandic language) (Netherlandic), passed out of currency in most foreign countries or came to be restricted to the northerners. The transformation had a price: the erosion of the bond of historical identity between northerners and southerners—or Dutch and Belgians, as they would be called beginning in the 19th century.

      The treaty that formed the basis of the new northern union established a military league to resist the Spaniards on a “perpetual” basis, and it provided for closer political arrangements between the provinces than those of “allies” in the ordinary sense. The provinces united “for all time as if they were a single province”; each remained sovereign in its internal affairs, but all acted as a body in foreign policy. Decisions on war and peace and on federal taxation could be made only unanimously. The union did not throw off the formal sovereignty of the king of Spain, but it confirmed the effective powers of the provincial stadtholders (stadtholder) (formally the “lieutenants,” or governors, of the king) as their political leaders (there was no “stadtholder of the United Provinces,” as foreigners often assumed, although several of the provincial stadtholderates were often united in the same person). The union moved away from the religious settlement embodied in the Pacification of Ghent (Ghent, Pacification of) of two years before and toward a predominance of the Calvinists (Calvinism) and their monopoly of public practice of religion in the key provinces of Holland and Zeeland.

      The immediate political significance of the union was that it complemented the Union of Arras, concluded earlier in January, which began the reconciliation of the southerners with King Philip II of Spain. The two “unions,” parallel but opposite, thus undermined the policy of William I (Prince William of Orange (William I)) of collaboration between Roman Catholics and Calvinists throughout the Low Countries in resistance to the Spanish domination, which required mutual toleration between the religions. But it took some time before the “general union,” with its base in the States General at Brussels, fell apart irrevocably. For another half decade the prince struggled to keep intact the broader union and at the same time to ensure its military and political support from abroad. Although Archduke Matthias (Matthias I) of Habsburg, named governor-general by the States General in 1577 after the deposition of Don Juan (Juan de Austria), remained the formal head of state until 1581, the prince continued to exercise his leadership. That the prince was the head and heart of the rebellion was recognized by Philip II in 1580, when he put him under the ban of outlawry. William's Apology in defense of his conduct was followed in 1581 by the Act of Abjuration (Akte van Afzwering), by which the States General declared that Philip had forfeited his sovereignty over the provinces by his persistent tyranny. This was a declaration of independence for the whole of the Low Countries, but the military and political events of the next decade limited its permanent effect to the northern provinces under the “closer union” of Utrecht.

Foreign intervention
      Yet independence did not become William's objective even after the proclamation of the Act of Abjuration. Archduke Matthias returned home in 1581 after William turned to François, duke of Anjou (Anjou, François, duc d'), who agreed to take over the “lordship” of the Low Countries in 1580. The prince hoped for assistance from the duke's brother, King Henry III of France, and considered the lordship of Anjou as only a kind of limited, constitutional sovereignty like that which the rebels had hoped to impose on Philip II at the beginning of their rising. Anjou, however, saw the lordship as a means to total dominion over the Netherlands. Irritated by restraints upon his authority, he even attempted the seizure of power by military force, which resulted in the so-called French Fury of Jan. 17, 1583, when his troops tried to capture Antwerp. The coup misfired, but William managed to keep Anjou (who returned to France) in his post despite the outraged feelings of the Netherlanders.

       Holland and Zeeland were on the verge of offering the title of count to William when he was assassinated on July 10, 1584, at Delft, by Balthasar Gérard, a fanatical young Roman Catholic from Franche-Comté, spurred by the promises of the ban of Philip II. William's death did not end the rebellion, as Philip had hoped, but it did result in the almost unnoticed disappearance of the central government in Brussels. The States General, which now met at The Hague (Hague, The) in Holland, represented only the provinces in the Union of Utrecht.

      With the Spaniards steadily overrunning Flanders and Brabant, the Dutch in their plight did not immediately abandon William's policy of seeking foreign assistance. But after Henry III of France and Elizabeth I of England both refused sovereignty over the country, the States General in 1586 named as governor-general Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester (Leicester, Robert Dudley, earl of, Baron Denbigh), whom Elizabeth had sent to command Dutch and English auxiliary forces against the Spaniards after the fall of Antwerp. Leicester, like Anjou before him, endeavoured to make himself absolute master of the country, relying on the support of popular Calvinism and of the outlying provinces that were jealous of Holland to create a strong centralized government under his authority. Holland thwarted Leicester's efforts, which culminated in an attempted invasion of Holland from Utrecht in 1587. With Leicester's departure, the United Provinces put aside all efforts to obtain a foreign protectorate and stood forth as an independent state.

The formation of a new government
      Although derived from historical institutions, the government of the United Provinces was in practice largely a new set of institutions, not created but confirmed by the Union of Utrecht. Their primary force lay in the provinces, seven in number (Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Friesland, and Groningen), which were ruled by assemblies of provincial States representing the towns and the landed nobility. Although the stadtholders (stadtholder) (who after a few years came to be drawn exclusively from the house of Orange (Orange, House of)) were elected by the States of the provinces, they at the same time possessed important prerogatives in the selection of members of the town governments from which the provincial assemblies ultimately derived their authority, and they were the acknowledged military leaders of the republic. Central government passed from the Council of State to the States General, which was more explicitly subordinated to provincial authority. Although it conducted the military and diplomatic work of the republic, the States General failed to obtain effective rights of direct taxation (except for import and export duties assigned to the admiralties), and its major decisions were taken under the rule of unanimity.

      In practice the province of Holland, by far the wealthiest province in the union and the contributor of more than half the revenues of the central government, became the preponderant political force in the country, along with the stadtholders of the house of Orange. The relationship between Holland and the house of Orange governed the republic's politics for the two centuries of its existence. As collaborators, Holland and the princes of Orange could make the clumsy governmental system work with surprising effectiveness; as rivals, they imperiled its potency as a state, at least until one or the other emerged a temporary victor, but neither force was able to rule permanently without the other.

  The decades immediately after 1587 were marked by close collaboration between Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Oldenbarnevelt, Johan van), “advocate (pensionary)” of Holland (the legal and executive secretary of the provincial States), and Maurice of Nassau, William I's second son (the first, Philip William, became prince of Orange and remained loyal to Spain), who was named stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland and became the commander of the republic's armies. The result was a series of military triumphs over the Spanish forces under Alessandro Farnese, duke di Parma e Piacenza (Farnese, Alessandro, duke of Parma and Piacenza). Maurice recaptured the Dutch territories north of the great rivers and extended them southward into much of Brabant and enough of Flanders to cut off Antwerp from the sea. These victories are recorded in the historical memory of the Dutch as “the closing of the garden,” the territory that became the republic of the United Provinces and then (with a few additions) the modern Kingdom of The Netherlands. These victories were accompanied by England's and France's diplomatic recognition of the States General as the government of an independent state.

Ascendancy of the Dutch economy
      The military prowess of the fledgling republic rested upon the wealth of Holland—which managed in wartime to maintain and extend its trade to all Europe and, after the turn of the century, even to East Asia. Amsterdam replaced Antwerp, the great port on the Schelde River, as the principal warehouse and trading centre for all Europe, even while Holland maintained the leadership in shipping it had already garnered during the 16th century. The foundation of Dutch economic prosperity lay in the fishing and shipping industries. Even during the period of Antwerp's ascendancy, ships from Holland and Zeeland had carried a large portion of the goods that passed through the Schelde, and now that Amsterdam had taken over from Antwerp, Dutch shipping only expanded its predominance. Dutch fishermen had harvested the North Sea for centuries, and the salted cargoes were sold widely throughout western and central Europe.

      Dutch trade benefited, as had that of Flanders, from the location of the country at the nexuses of the great north-south and east-west trade routes of Europe. To these was added the route to the East Indies early in the 17th century. Amsterdam and the lesser ports of Holland and Zeeland became the principal European suppliers of grain and naval stores from the Baltic, to which they shipped manufactured goods and wines from the south. Germany's principal exports were now shipped down the Rhine, as Dutch ports replaced the Hanseatic (Hanseatic League) towns of northern Germany. The bulk of French exports were carried in Dutch ships, and even Spain and Portugal depended on the Dutch for grain and naval stores (thereby enabling the Dutch to finance their war of independence). During the 17th century the Dutch assumed a major role in supplying grain and other northern commodities to the countries of the Mediterranean and also became the principal importer of spices and other luxury goods from the East. England too relied to a great extent upon Dutch shipping. The Dutch advantages lay not only in their situation but also in the efficient design of their bulky flyboats (fluiten), manned by small crews at less cost than any of their competitors.

      Modern banking institutions developed to meet the needs of the vastly expanding trade. Amsterdam's “exchange bank” was instituted in 1609 to provide monetary exchange at established rates, but it soon became a deposit bank for the safe settling of accounts. Unlike the Bank of England (England, Bank of), established almost a century later, it neither managed the national currency nor acted as a lending institution (except to the government in emergencies). Private bankers met the need for credit, as well as acting as brokers in financial transactions. The need for commercial exports, as well as a growing population at home, spurred industry in many towns. Although the shipbuilders on the Zaan, northwest of Amsterdam, and the sugar refiners in particular developed large-scale operations, sometimes including machinery, Dutch industry generally remained small in scale, as indeed nearly all manufacturing was in the 17th century.

      Dutch industry was heavily dependent on trade, and major manufactures grew up in the western towns connected with international commerce. In processing and finishing textiles, Dutch manufacturers were often capable of undercutting competition abroad. Agricultural products were also traded. Grain was produced on Dutch farms, especially in the inland provinces, but rather than compete with the massive grain imports from the Baltic, coastal agriculture focused on cash crops for use in industry (flax, hemp, dyes, etc.), dairy and livestock farming, and market gardening. This kind of market-oriented agriculture was more profitable than the traditional production of basic foodstuffs.

The Twelve Years' Truce
      The Twelve Years' Truce, which began in 1609, arose out of political controversies that were to dominate the republic for the next two centuries. The collaboration between the house of Orange and the leaders of the province of Holland, which had thwarted Spain in its reconquest of the Netherlands north of the great rivers, was replaced by an intermittent, but often fierce, rivalry between them, in which the other tensions of Dutch political life were reflected and incorporated: the jealousy among the lesser provinces of a Holland that they considered too wealthy, too mighty, and too arrogant but that they knew they needed for their own defense; the misunderstanding between maritime and landward provinces; the annoyance of landed nobles that they were dependent upon the goodwill of burghers in Holland (they preferred the prince of Orange, whom they saw as one of themselves); the resentment of the popular classes, men of small property and of none, toward the town regents (members of government) from whom they looked to the princes of Orange to protect them; and the antipathy of the Reformed (Netherlands Reformed Church, The) clergy toward the regents, who obstructed their desire to make the state serve the church. The debate over whether to conclude a peace with Spain mingled these various interests with that of the house of Orange, partly because Maurice opposed peace, partly because it involved making some compromise with Spain, and partly because it would mean a reduction of his influence in the state; but the province of Holland in particular, under Oldenbarnevelt's leadership, felt that the independence and security of the United Provinces had been sufficiently assured to permit a reduction of the immense expenditures for the war. When Spain reduced its immediate proposal to a truce rather than permanent peace, agreed to treat the United Provinces as independent and sovereign, which was just short of outright recognition, and put aside efforts to win guarantees for Dutch Catholics, the pressure for conclusion of a truce could not be withstood.

 The Twelve Years' Truce did not, however, end controversy within the republic. If anything, it only sharpened Maurice of Nassau's opposition to Holland and Oldenbarnevelt. The staunch Calvinists endeavoured to hold the Reformed Church to the strict orthodoxy expounded by Franciscus Gomarus (Gomarus, Franciscus), a Leiden professor of theology, against the broader, less rigorous tenets upheld by his colleague Jacobus Arminius (Arminius, Jacobus). The Gomarists (Gomarist) demanded that the government uphold their principles because the Reformed Church was the only true church, but they reserved for themselves the right to declare what the correct doctrines were; and they vigorously asserted that other religious groups, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish alike, should be suppressed or at least penalized and restricted. On the other hand, the Arminians (Arminianism) had the support of the leaders of Holland and a majority of its towns, who felt that what was in effect the state church had to be under the authority of the government. Both out of principle and out of a desire not to hamper trade with men of all religions, they favoured a broadly inclusive Reformed Church and toleration for those outside its ranks.

 The efforts of Gomarists to seize churches for their own use in defiance of town authorities led to incipient civil war. Maurice broke openly with the dominant party in Holland when it attempted to set up little provincial armies in Holland and Utrecht. In 1618 he acted under the authority of the States General—in which the majority of provinces favoured the Gomarists (now called the Contra-Remonstrants (Remonstrant) because they had opposed an Arminian petition) over the Remonstrants (Remonstrant) (Arminians)—to crush the resistance of Oldenbarnevelt's party. Oldenbarnevelt, two of his chief supporters in Holland (including the great jurist Hugo Grotius (Grotius, Hugo)), and an ally in Utrecht were arrested and tried for treason by a special court instituted by the States General. The defendants affirmed that they were subject only to the authority of the sovereign province that they served. The sentence, which to foes of the house of Orange over the centuries became an act of judicial murder, sent Oldenbarnevelt, then aged 71, with almost four decades of service as Holland's leader, to his death by beheading in May 1619. Grotius and another defendant (the third had committed suicide) were sentenced to life imprisonment, although Grotius escaped, sensationally, a few years later.

      During those fateful months, the Reformed Church held a national synod at Dordrecht (Dort, Synod of). Dominated by the Contra-Remonstrants, the synod expelled the Remonstrants, reaffirmed the doctrines of the church along Gomarian lines, and ordered the preparation of a new translation of the Bible (the famous States Bible, which consolidated the Dutch language (Netherlandic language) much as the contemporary King James Version consolidated English). The triumph of Maurice and the Contra-Remonstrants meant that war with Spain would be a virtual certainty upon the expiration of the Twelve Years' Truce in 1621—all the more because the Spanish authorities in the southern Netherlands insisted upon including rights for Dutch Catholics in a permanent treaty and even sought an acknowledgment by the States General of the nominal overlordship of the king of Spain. Maurice did not use his new uncontested power to reform the complicated incoherence of the Dutch constitution; the structure of government and the distribution of formal power remained the same. Maurice was not a politically minded ruler and was satisfied as long as he had his way in military matters. The United Provinces remained essentially republican in character.

War with Spain (Eighty Years' War) (1621–48)
 The war resumed in 1621 under Maurice's leadership. But his victory touch was gone, and the republic appeared to be in danger when the great fortress of Breda, (Breda) on the southern frontier, fell to the Spaniards in 1625. Only a few weeks before, Maurice had died. The danger was all the greater because the Austrian Habsburgs (Habsburg, House of), in alliance with their Spanish cousins, were waging a successful struggle against their Protestant foes in Germany in the first stages of the Thirty Years' War. But Maurice's half brother, Frederick Henry (Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau), who succeeded him as prince of Orange, stadtholder, and commander in chief, resumed the course of victory. He completed the recapture of the towns recently gained by the Spaniards and extended the territory under the States General to the key fortress of Maastricht on the Maas (Meuse), well to the south. At the same time, the Dutch navy won a series of victories over the Spaniards, including Piet Heyn's (Heyn, Piet) celebrated capture of their silver fleet off the coast of Cuba (1628) and the destruction of a Spanish fleet in the Downs, off the English coast, by Maarten Tromp (Tromp, Maarten) in 1639.

      Frederick Henry turned out to be a more subtle and purposeful politician than Maurice. On the one hand, he ended the suppression of the Remonstrants, with whose religious views he sympathized, without exasperating the Contra-Remonstrants beyond repair. On the other hand, he established a firm grip over the policies of the republic, notably by establishing a close alliance with France aimed at the joint conquest of the Spanish Netherlands. Frederick Henry's political predominance within the republic was based upon his control of the lesser provinces, which had a majority in the States General and which could outweigh the influence of Holland.

      Gradually Holland turned against him, especially after he arranged the marriage of his young son William (William II) (later William II) to Princess Mary Stuart (Mary Of Orange), daughter of Charles I of England, on the eve of the English Civil War (1642–51). This fateful dynastic bond tied the interests of the house of Orange to the royal families of England, first to the Stuarts (Stuart, House of) and later to the Hanoverians (Hanover, House of). The position of the house of Orange, however, was elevated by the connection; the French monarchy granted Frederick Henry the honorary address of “His Highness,” normally restricted to royalty; and the debate over the function of the princes of Orange in Dutch politics began to be conducted as a controversy over monarchy. A quasi-royal court rose up around Frederick Henry, and this in turn only clarified and strengthened the republicanism of his opponents, especially in Holland, who feared that the political leadership of the princes of Orange would be turned into an explicit monarchy.

      During the 1640s, however, Frederick Henry lost his physical and intellectual powers and was unable to prevent Holland from reasserting its predominance over the republic's policies. The States General entered into peace negotiations with Spain at Münster in Westphalia (Westphalia, Peace of). Frederick Henry died in 1647 before the conclusion of the talks, and his son, William II, could not prevent the signing and ratification of the treaty in January 1648. Spain now formally acknowledged the independence of the Dutch and indeed even urged its friendship upon the United Provinces, warning of the threat to both the Dutch and the Spanish from the rising power of France.

      Prince William was not ready to accept a permanent peace, and he negotiated secretly with the French for a resumption of the war, not only against Spain but also against republican England, which had executed his father-in-law, King Charles I, in January 1649. Needing a powerful army to wage the anticipated war, William bitterly fought the efforts of Holland to reduce the standing army and thereby to permit more rapid payment of the huge debt accumulated over the 80 years' struggle for independence. Efforts at compromise broke down during the spring of 1650 as the Hollanders and William each sought to compel the other to concede political inferiority.

      William decided to make use of his preponderance in the States General, and he led a delegation from that body to the towns of Holland to seek a change of their vote in the States of Holland; such a delegation was a direct violation of what Holland saw as its provincial sovereignty. Rebuffed by a number of town governments, most importantly by those of Amsterdam and Dordrecht, William decided to cut through the resistance by force. At The Hague, on July 30, 1650, he arrested six of the States' deputies from the recalcitrant towns and sent them to the castle of Loevestein (where Grotius had been imprisoned) on charges of having resisted lawful orders of the States General. At the same time, he sent an army to seize Amsterdam, but it was thwarted by delays on its march and by the determined resistance of the municipal authorities, supported by the common people. Amsterdam, however, faced a siege that might gravely imperil its trade, while the besiegers themselves ran the danger of being drowned should Amsterdam open the dikes. A compromise was soon worked out whereby William's opponents were released but were required to withdraw from government. William had cleared the way for his policies but at the price of arousing deep fears among the Dutch people—most of all in the powerful province of Holland—of military dictatorship, monarchical rule, and renewed involvement of the country in war. But before he could carry out his plans, William II died of smallpox in early November. A posthumous son, William III, was born a week later.

The first stadtholderless period
      Fate thus intervened to give Holland's (Holland) leaders, now intensely distrustful of Orangist influence, a chance to take over the country from the leaderless party of their antagonists. They governed the country for a little more than two decades, during what is known as the “first stadtholderless period” (1650–72) because the five leading provinces did not appoint a successor to William II. (It should be noted, however, that William II's cousin, William Frederick, of the junior branch of Orange-Nassau, continued to govern Friesland as well as Groningen, which also elected him stadtholder.) During the early months of 1651, a Great Assembly of the States General, with expanded delegations from all the provinces, met at The Hague to consider the new situation. Holland was satisfied to consolidate the leadership it had so unexpectedly regained and conciliated the lesser provinces by leaving undisturbed the religious settlement of 1619 and by granting amnesty to those who had supported William II in 1650. But Holland's fears of the increased powers of the central government had been so stiffened that it depended upon its own preponderance, rather than upon constitutional reforms, to achieve effective government.

      Yet efficiency of rule, so difficult to obtain when the powers to make and apply policy were so widely scattered, became all the more necessary when the republic became embroiled in war with the English (Anglo-Dutch Wars) Commonwealth in 1652. Nonetheless, the system was surprisingly efficient. The conflict with England arose out of a medley of causes: first, the English (England) republicans, after their successes against the royalists, took up the cause of defending English commercial interests against the Dutch and passed the Navigation Act (Navigation Acts) of 1651, forbidding Dutch shippers from acting as middlemen in English trade both in Europe and overseas; second, the English sought to bring the Dutch into a political union directed primarily against the Stuarts and their cousins of the house of Orange. But the Dutch, whatever resentment the Hollanders bore against the Orange dynasty, were unwilling either to court civil war or to abandon their dearly won independence in a union that would make them junior partners to the English. An accidental clash between the Dutch and English fleets led to full-scale war in which a greatly improved English navy won the upper hand. By 1654 the Dutch were compelled to accept peace on English terms, including a secret promise by Holland (“Act of Seclusion”) to exclude forever the prince of Orange from the stadtholderate and the supreme command.

 The decision to accept a humiliating peace as the only way to terminate a disastrous war had been taken at the insistence of the young Johan de Witt (De Witt, Johan), who had taken office in 1653 as councillor pensionary of Holland (the same office once held by Oldenbarnevelt). With the return of peace, became the brilliant leader of the republic's foreign and domestic policy. He rebuilt the Dutch navy, reduced indebtedness, improved the financial condition of both the States General and the States of Holland, and restored the republic's prestige in Europe. Carefully averting any renewal of strife with England, he was able not only to compel France to back down in a naval dispute but also to send a powerful Dutch fleet to save Denmark from Swedish conquest in the First Northern War (Northern War, First) (1657–60).

 When the exiled English king, Charles II, was restored to his throne in 1660, de Witt continued his policy of staying on good terms with England no matter who ruled there; this policy, however, foundered on the same two issues—commercial rivalry and the status of the house of Orange—that had brought about the war of 1652–54. Charles not only accepted the renewal of the Navigation Act of 1651 but intensified the rivalry with the Dutch by demanding forcefully that they acknowledge his sovereignty over the adjacent seas, pay tribute for the right to fish in the North Sea, and open the Dutch East Indies to English traders. When naval warfare resumed in 1664 off Africa, followed by war in Europe the next year, Charles took up the cause of the young prince of Orange. By persuading the Orangists that his price for peace was restoration of William III to the offices of his forefathers, the English monarch built up a friendly party in the United Provinces that urged acceptance of his terms and even fostered a conspiracy to overthrow the government of de Witt and his friends. But de Witt managed to meet the new threat. An Orangist plot in Holland was uncovered and put down in 1666.

      When Charles had demanded too high a price for Dutch friendship in 1660–62, de Witt had negotiated an alliance with the French, who feared that the restoration of the prince of Orange would create a hostile Anglo-Dutch coalition. Furthermore, success in the fighting at sea increasingly went to the newly rebuilt Dutch navy. In 1667 the Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames and the Medway to Chatham, destroying the English shipyards and burning the fleet at its moorings. In that same year, however, the French, under Louis XIV, who had only belatedly sent naval and land forces to aid the Dutch, began an invasion of the Spanish (Spanish Netherlands) (southern) Netherlands (present-day Belgium) in the War of Devolution (Devolution, War of). As French conquest of the southern Low Countries constituted a threat to both the Dutch Republic and Britain, those states came to terms in the standoff Peace of Breda (Breda, Treaty of) (July 31, 1667), followed in January by an Anglo-Dutch alliance compelling France to make peace with Spain.

      This Triple Alliance (so called because Sweden became a third partner) proved to be de Witt's undoing, although he had no effective diplomatic strategy to put in its place. Louis XIV, balked in his aim of conquest, considered that the Dutch had betrayed their alliance and turned to Charles II with proposals for a joint war against the United Provinces. Charles, bitterly resentful over his humiliating defeat at Chatham, accepted the French offer of a richly subsidized alliance. Even as the threat from France emerged more clearly, the Orangists imagined that the Dutch could still win over Charles by the restoration of William III, but they were able to obtain only the prince's appointment as commander in chief early in 1672. Charles joined the French in open war (Dutch War) in the spring of 1672, counting upon William to accept rule of a rump Dutch (Dutch War) Republic after France and Britain had taken away important territories for themselves. But William, who was given full power, including the stadtholdership, during a storm of riots and near rebellion that swept the country in June and July after the French invasion penetrated to its heart, took over the leadership of the Dutch defense from de Witt, who was lynched by a mob in The Hague in August. With William's support, the States General rejected the Anglo-French terms.

William III
      The tide of war now turned against the aggressors. The Dutch navy under Adm. Michiel Adriaanszoon de Ruyter (De Ruyter, Michiel Adriaanszoon) repeatedly defeated the allied fleets off the coast of the republic, while the Dutch armies held on behind the flooded polders of the “water line.” When other powers—Spain, at first as an auxiliary and then as a full participant, the German emperor, and Brandenburg—joined the Dutch side, the French armies withdrew from the republic. During six years of bitter war, William III was able to bring about the withdrawal of England (1674) and the defeat of all French war aims against the Dutch; yet his Grand Alliance was unable to bring Louis XIV to his knees, although Spain paid the price of a peace negotiated at Nijmegen (Nijmegen, Treaties of) in 1678. But during these years in which his political control of the republic, while strong, was not absolute, William was no more interested in constitutional reform than de Witt, his predecessor in the leadership of the country, had been. He was satisfied to expel adversaries from office and dominate the decisions taken by men who represented the same groups and the same social principles as those whom they replaced; but Holland, whose wealth ultimately was the basis for all Dutch power, political and military, slipped from under his thumb and asserted its autonomy of judgment and decision. The transformation of the republic, which had been from its origins an aristocracy dominated by mercantile wealth, into an oligarchy of inherited power, continued unimpeded by William; he had used the violence of the urban citizenry during the crisis of 1672 to unseat his opponents, including de Witt, but he was no more sympathetic than they had been to the vague democratic aspirations that were expressed here and there.

      During the decade after the conclusion of the Peace of Nijmegen, the tension between William and Holland (particularly Amsterdam) worsened, because the prince was fixed upon a policy of renewed resistance to Louis XIV, while the Hollanders preferred peace at any reasonable price. But the upsurge of the threat from France in the late 1680s—the French incursions into western Germany and the threat of French domination of England under James II, a stalwart Roman Catholic and a pensioner of Louis XIV—brought William and Holland into agreement upon the need to support the prince's expedition to England in 1688, which resulted in his acceptance of the English throne, jointly with his wife, Mary Stuart, early the next year. William, as king-stadtholder, had to give primacy to English interests because England was the more powerful partner in the alliance. He therefore approved the arrangement whereby England concentrated its efforts against France on the sea, while the Dutch did so on land; the result was neglect of the Dutch navy. Ironically, the final triumph of the English over the Dutch in their commercial rivalry was a consequence of their alliance, not their enmity.

      The war begun in 1689 ended with a stalemate peace in 1697, followed by two treaties between the maritime powers and France for partition of the Spanish monarchy. In 1700, however, Louis XIV accepted the bequest of the Spanish throne for his grandson, Philippe d'Anjou ( Philip V of Spain), and war was resumed the next year.

      William died, childless, in 1702. When Holland again took the initiative for government without a stadtholder, it was followed by the other provinces with much greater alacrity than had been the case in 1650–51. Resentment had built up against William, who had been preoccupied with foreign affairs and did little to improve domestic politics, and the absence of an adult heir meant that there was no effective opposition to the new course. Leadership of the Dutch state for the next 45 years came from the councillor pensionaries of Holland, who were often able men but either unwilling or unable to do more than conduct current business without attempting the delicate and explosive task of restructuring the government. On the contrary, constitutional rigidity became the credo not only of Dutch republicans but also of the Orangist party, with the only point in contention between them being whether the prince of Orange-Nassau, who was stadtholder of Friesland, should be elected to the same office in the other provinces. William IV, who followed his father in Friesland in 1711, was chosen stadtholder in Groningen in 1718 and in Gelderland (and the district of Drenthe) in 1722. Even without a stadtholder in the principal provinces, Dutch subordination to English interests remained intact during the War of the Spanish Succession (Spanish Succession, War of the) (1701–13) and the succeeding years of peace.

Dutch civilization in the Golden Age (1609–1713)
      The century from the conclusion of the Twelve Years' Truce in 1609 until either the death of Prince William III in 1702 or the conclusion of the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 is known in Dutch history as the “Golden Age.” It was a unique era of political, economic, and cultural greatness during which the little nation on the North Sea ranked among the most powerful and influential in Europe and the world.

The economy
      It was a grandeur that rested upon the economic expansion that continued with scarcely an interruption until 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years' War. The half century that followed was marked by consolidation rather than continued expansion, under the impact of the revived competition from the other nations, notably England and France, whose policies of mercantilism were to a large degree directed against the near monopoly of the Dutch over the trade and shipping of Europe. Although the Dutch tenaciously resisted the new competition, the long-distance trading system of Europe was transformed from one largely conducted through the Netherlands, with the Dutch as universal buyer-seller and shipper, to one of multiple routes and fierce competitiveness. Nonetheless, the wealth earned during a long century of prosperity made the United Provinces a land of great riches, with more capital by far than could find outlet in domestic investment. Yet the economic burden of repeated wars caused the Dutch to become one of the most heavily taxed peoples in Europe. Taxes were imposed on the transit trade in and out of the country. But as mercantile competition became stiffer, the rate of such taxation could not be safely increased, and the burden therefore fell increasingly on the consumer. Excise and other indirect taxes made the Dutch cost of living one of the highest in Europe, although there was considerable variance between the different areas of the republic.

      Dutch prosperity was built not only upon the “mother trades”—to the Baltic and to France and the Iberian lands—but also upon the overseas trades with Africa, Asia, and America. The attempt of the Spanish monarchs (who also ruled Portugal and its possessions from 1580 to 1640) to exclude Dutch merchants and shippers from the lucrative colonial commerce with East Asia led the Dutch to trade directly with the East Indies. Individual companies were organized for each venture, but the companies were united by command of the States General in 1602 in order to reduce the costs and increase the security of such perilous and complex undertakings; the resulting United East India Company established bases throughout the Indian Ocean, notably in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), mainland India, and the Indonesian archipelago. The Dutch East India Company, like its rival English counterpart, was a trading company granted quasi-sovereign powers in the lands under its dominion. Although the East India fleets that returned annually with cargoes of spices and other valuables provided huge profits for the shareholders, the East India trade of the 17th and 18th centuries never provided more than a modest fraction of Dutch earnings from European trade. The West India Company (Dutch West India Company), established in 1621, was built upon shakier economic foundations; trade in commodities was less important than the trade in slaves (slavery), in which the Dutch were preeminent in the 17th century, and privateering (privateer), which operated primarily out of Zeeland ports and preyed upon Spanish (and other) shipping. The West India Company had to be reorganized several times during its precarious existence, while the East India Company survived until the end of the 18th century.

 The social structure that evolved with the economic transformation of Dutch life was complex and was marked by the predominance of the business classes that later centuries called the bourgeoisie, although with some significant differences. The social “betters” of Dutch aristocracy were only to a limited extent landed nobles, most of whom lived in the economically less advanced inland provinces. Most of the Dutch elite were wealthy townsmen whose fortunes were made as merchants and financiers, but they frequently shifted their activities to government, becoming what the Dutch called regents, members of the ruling bodies of town and province, and drawing most of their incomes from these posts and from investments in government bonds and real estate.

      The common people comprised both a numerous class of artisans and small businessmen, whose prosperity provided the base for the generally high Dutch standard of living, and a very large class of sailors, shipbuilders, fishermen, and other workers. Dutch workers were in general well paid, but they were also burdened by unusually high taxes. The farmers, producing chiefly cash crops, prospered in a country that needed large amounts of food and raw materials for its urban (and seagoing) population. The quality of life was marked by less disparity between classes than prevailed elsewhere, although the difference between a great merchant's home on the Herengracht in Amsterdam and a dockworker's hovel was all too obvious. What was striking was the comparative simplicity even of the wealthy classes and the sense of status and dignity among the ordinary people, although the exuberance that had earlier marked the society was toned down or even eliminated by the strict Calvinist morality preached and to some extent enforced by the official church. There was, too, a good deal of mingling between the burgher regents who possessed great wealth and political power and the landed gentry and lesser nobility who formed the traditional elite.

      One of the characteristic aspects of modern Dutch society began to evolve in this period—the vertical separation of society into “pillars” (zuilen) identified with the different Dutch religions. Calvinist Protestantism became the officially recognized religion of the country, politically favoured and economically supported by government. But the Reformed preachers were thwarted in their efforts to oppress or drive out other religions, to which a far-reaching toleration was extended. Mass conversion to Calvinism had been confined mainly to the earlier decades of the Eighty Years' War, when Roman Catholics (Roman Catholicism) still frequently bore the burden of their preference for the rule of the Catholic monarchs in the southern Netherlands. Sizable islands of Roman Catholicism remained in most of the United Provinces, while Gelderland and the northern parts of Brabant and Flanders conquered by the States General were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, as they remain today.

      Although public practice of Catholicism was forbidden, interference with private worship was rare, even if Catholics sometimes bought their security with bribes to local Protestant authorities. Catholics lost the traditional form of church government by bishops, whose place was taken by a papal vicar directly dependent upon Rome and supervising what was in effect a mission; the political authorities were generally tolerant of secular priests but not of Jesuits (Jesuit), who were vigorous proselytizers and were linked to Spanish interests. Protestants included, along with the predominant Calvinists of the Reformed Church, both Lutherans in small numbers and Mennonites (Mennonite) (Anabaptists), who were politically passive but often prospered in business. In addition, the Remonstrants (Remonstrant), who were driven out of the Reformed Church after the Synod of Dort (Dordrecht; 1618–19), continued as a small sect with considerable influence among the regents.

      There were also other sects emphasizing mystical experiences or rationalist theologies, notably the Collegiants among the latter. Jews (Jew) settled in the Netherlands to escape persecution; the Sephardic (Sephardi) Jews from Spain and Portugal were more influential in economic, social, and intellectual life, while the Ashkenazim (Ashkenazi) from eastern Europe formed a stratum of impoverished workers, especially in Amsterdam. Despite unusually open contacts with the Christian society around them, Dutch Jews continued to live in their own communities under their own laws and rabbinic leadership. Successful though some Jews were in business, they were by no means the central force in the rise and expansion of Dutch capitalism. Indeed, no clear pattern can be detected of religious affiliation affecting the growth of the Dutch business community; if anything, it was the official Dutch Reformed Church (Netherlands Reformed Church, The) that fulminated most angrily against capitalist attitudes and practices, while the merely tolerated faiths often saw their adherents, to whom economic but not political careers were open, prospering and even amassing fortunes.

 The economic prosperity of the Dutch Republic in this “golden century” was matched by an extraordinary flowering of cultural achievement, which drew from the country's prosperity not only the direct resources of financial nourishment but also a driving and sustaining sense of purpose and vigour. This was reflected in the first instance by a notable series of historical works: the contemporary chronicles of the revolt by Pieter Bor and Emanuel van Meteren; the highly polished account by Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (Hooft, Pieter Corneliszoon), a masterpiece of narration and judgment in the spirit of Tacitus; the heavily factual chronicle of Lieuwe van Aitzema, with its interspersed commentary of skeptical wisdom; Abraham de Wicquefort's history of the Republic (principally under the first stadtholderless administration); and the histories and biographies by Geeraert Brandt. These were works in which a proud new nation took account of its birth pangs and its growth to greatness. Only in the latter part of the century did Dutch historians begin to express a sense that political grandeur might be transient.

      Political theorists shared the same concerns, although the effort to fit new experience and ideas into the traditional categories derived from Aristotle and Roman law created an air of unreality about their work, perhaps even more than was true of political thinkers elsewhere in Europe. Theorists such as the Gouda official Vrancken in the days of the foundation of the republic and Grotius (Grotius, Hugo) in the early 17th century portrayed the republic as essentially unchanged since the early Middle Ages or even since antiquity—a country where sovereignty resided in provincial and town assemblies, which had partly lost their control to counts and kings before regaining it in the revolt against Philip II. The next surge of political debate came after mid-century, when for a little more than two decades the country was governed without a prince of Orange as stadtholder.

      The controversy over whether the young Prince William had any right by birth to the offices of his forefathers probed the fundamental character of the republic, for even a quasi-hereditary stadtholdership created an incipient monarchy within the traditional structure of aristocratic republicanism. The debate involved the issue not so much of centralization versus provincialism as where the leadership of the republic properly lay, whether in the house of Orange or in the province of Holland and notably its greatest city, Amsterdam. Only the celebrated philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (Spinoza, Benedict de), an outsider by origin and character (a Jew by birth and upbringing), elevated these political questions to the level of universality.

 Another great philosopher of the 17th century who resided in the Dutch Republic was the Frenchman René Descartes (Descartes, René). Though an outsider, Descartes found in the Netherlands a freedom from intellectual inquisitions and personal involvements. He lived there for two decades while engaged in studies that would help transform modern thought.

      Scientific activity in the United Provinces also reached a high level. The physicist Christiaan Huygens (Huygens, Christiaan) approached Isaac Newton (Newton, Sir Isaac) himself in power of mind and importance of scientific contribution. The engineer and mathematician Simon Stevin (Stevin, Simon) and the microscopists Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (Leeuwenhoek, Antonie van) and Jan Swammerdam (Swammerdam, Jan) rank in the front of their fields.

  Dutch literature, which knew great creativity during the Golden Age, remained the possession of the relatively small number of those who spoke and read Dutch. Figures such as the historian P.C. Hooft or the poets Constantijn Huygens (Huygens, Constantijn) and Joost van den Vondel (Vondel, Joost van den) (the last of whom was also a distinguished playwright) wrote with a power and a purity worthy of the best that France and England produced at that time. Music was hampered by the Calvinists' antipathy to what they saw as frivolity. Organ music was barred from services in Reformed churches, although town authorities frequently continued its performance at other times. The great organist-composer J.P. Sweelinck (Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon) was more influential in encouraging the creative wave in Germany than among his own countrymen.

 The art whose achievements rank at the very top was painting, which rested upon the broad patronage of a prosperous population. Group portraits of regents and other influential citizens adorned town halls and charitable establishments, while still lifes and anecdotal paintings of popular life hung in profusion in private homes. Some of the greatest work, from the brushes of such painters as Frans Hals (Hals, Frans), Jan Steen (Steen, Jan), and Johannes Vermeer (Vermeer, Johannes), were painted for these markets, but the greatest of Dutch painters, Rembrandt van Rijn, broke through the boundaries of the group portrait to create works with his own extraordinary mood and inward meaning. Landscape painters, notably Jacob van Ruisdael (Ruisdael, Jacob van), captured the distinctive Dutch flatland, broad skies with massed clouds, and muted light. Architecture remained at a lesser level, merging with some success the native traditions of brick buildings and gable roofs and fashionable Renaissance styles. Sculpture remained a largely foreign art.

The 18th century
Economic and political stagnation
      Once the Dutch fleet had declined, Dutch mercantile interests became largely dependent on English goodwill, yet the rulers were more concerned with reducing the monumental debt that weighed heavily upon the country. During the 18th century, Dutch trade and shipping were able to maintain the level of activity reached at the end of the 17th century, but they did not match the dramatic expansion of French and especially English competitors. The Dutch near monopoly was now only a memory. Holland remained rich in accumulated capital, although much of it could find no outlet for investment in business. Some went into the purchase of country houses, but a great deal was used to buy bonds of foreign governments; the bankers of Amsterdam were among the most important in Europe, rivaling those of London and Geneva.

 Dutch culture failed to hold its eminence; individuals such as medical scientist Hermann Boerhaave (Boerhaave, Hermann) or jurist Cornelis van Bynkershoek (Bynkershoek, Cornelis van) were highly respected, but they were not the shapers and shakers of European thought. Dutch artists were no longer of the first order, and literature largely followed English or French models without matching their achievements. The quality of life changed; instead of the seething activity of the 17th century, the 18th century was one of calm and easeful pleasantness, at least for men of property. The middling classes in town and countryside also knew continuing prosperity; conditions for the labouring classes continued to be hard, although foreign visitors thought the workers lived better there than elsewhere. There was a residual class of unemployed who subsisted on the charity of town governments and private foundations. Religious life was more relaxed, particularly among Protestants. Roman Catholics, still without political rights but facing milder restrictions, fell into a quarrel between adherents of Jansenism (see Roman Catholicism: Jansenism (Roman Catholicism)), which followed Augustinian theology, especially in the matter of predestination, and supporters of Rome, in particular the Jesuits; the former split off to form the Old Catholic Church (Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands), a small denomination that still exists. The educated classes widely accepted the principles and attitudes of the Enlightenment, although without the sharp hostility to religion that characterized the French philosophes (philosophe).

      During the second stadtholderless period of Dutch government (1702–47), the republican system became an immobile oligarchy. The “liberty” defended by the regents as soundly republican was in practice the rule of hereditary patricians, responsible to neither the citizenry below nor a stadtholder above. Although William IV yearned for restoration to the offices held by the princes of Orange before him in the provinces to the south, he accepted, with no less admiration and commitment than the regents, the perfection and immutability of the Dutch constitutional system, with the single difference that he envisioned it including the stadtholderate for all the provinces.

      It was not until the War of the Austrian Succession (Austrian Succession, War of the) (1740–48) that the power of the regents began to crumble. As in 1672, disaster on the battlefield proved the Achilles' heel of a regime that had not built up a broad popular political base. The regents had not been able to overcome the traditional commitment of the people to the house of Orange as their natural leader and saviour. French and Prussian (Prussia) armies swarmed over the Austrian (Austrian Netherlands) (formerly Spanish) Netherlands and were poised for invasion of the United Provinces, which were linked by alliance with England, although they had remained formally neutral. When the French forces crossed into Dutch territory, rioting reminiscent of 1672, although less widespread and violent, led to the fall of the second purely republican government and the election of William IV as hereditary stadtholder of all the provinces. Otherwise there was little change; some regents were compelled to step down from their posts, and leadership in the hands of the prince of Orange was uncontested. William rebuffed the efforts of burghers in Amsterdam and other towns who had supported his restoration in order to achieve democratic reforms, in which participation in government would be extended to men of modest property (although not to wage workers or to paupers).

The Patriot movement
 During the next decades, in the face of the rigid conservatism of the princes of Orange ( William V succeeded his father in 1751 and assumed personal government in 1759) and under the influence of the French Enlightenment, an essentially new political force began to take shape. Known as the Patriot movement after an old party term used by both republicans and Orangists, it applied fundamental criticism to the established government. Although the Patriot movement was representative of the new democratic and Enlightenment ideals, it had strong roots in native Dutch traditions. From the beginning, the United Provinces had rejected specifically democratic institutions in favour of frankly aristocratic government (in the Aristotelian sense), but the notion that the regents had a duty to serve not their own private interests but those of the country and the people had persisted in theory and in mood. When the aristocracy ceased to recruit new members from below and thus became an enclosed caste, the discrepancy between its claim of service to the general welfare and the reality of its practice became evident.

      The Patriot movement took in a wide range of supporters: discontented noblemen such as the Gelderland baron Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol; wealthy bankers and businessmen without a voice in government; artisans and shopkeepers, traditionally Orangist in sympathy, who were dismayed to find their claims to an effective role in the politics of their towns rebuffed by the princes; and intellectuals committed to the new Enlightenment rejection of arbitrary power. The Patriots included in their ranks many Protestant dissenters and Roman Catholics, but Jews continued to look to the prince of Orange as their protector. Some regents, holding firm to the republicanism of their ancestors and resenting the return of the stadtholderate, found a new base for their ideas in the Patriot movement. Most regents, however, saw more peril in the new movement for broader popular government than in the stolid conservatism of the princes of Orange; a reconciliation between the camps of the patrician republicans and the Orangists began to take shape under the impact of a common threat from below.

      Again the events of war imperiled the established regime. Although the diplomacy of William V was firmly based upon the alliance with England, London became exasperated with the Dutch during the American Revolution (1775–83), when they attempted to continue to expand their profitable trade with the new American country as well as with France. Dutch flirtations with the Russian-sponsored League of Armed Neutrality, resistance to British searches of neutral vessels, and indications of Dutch negotiations for an alliance with the Americans only worsened relations. Finally, open hostilities erupted in the fourth Anglo-Dutch War (Anglo-Dutch Wars) (1780–84). The Dutch navy, sorely neglected for more than a half century, was utterly unprepared to battle the powerful British fleet, and the Dutch fleet's attempts to convoy their merchantmen brought only disaster.

      The onus of defeat fell upon the stadtholder. He was unable to stand firm against the increased agitation of the Patriots, who forced their way into governments of town after town in Holland and other provinces. Holland began organizing its own army, distinct from that under the prince's command, and civil war seemed in the offing. William V fled to Gelderland with his wife, Wilhelmina, the sister of Prussian King Frederick II. Holland declared him deposed.

      It was the strong-willed Wilhelmina, rather than her hesitant and rather docile husband, who took the lead in the restoration of the stadtholderate. Dutch politics had now become a concern of the great powers. France sided with the Patriots, not out of sympathy with their principles but because they opposed the stadtholder, who had fallen back into dependence upon English and Prussian (Prussia) support. As long as Frederick II ruled in Prussia, Wilhelmina's pleas for armed intervention fell on deaf ears, but when the throne passed to his nephew Frederick William II in 1786, the way opened for action. The Patriots counted on the support of the French, but the government at Versailles, then entering the final financial and political crisis of the monarchy that erupted in the Revolution of 1789, could give no more than verbal encouragement. Wilhelmina, working closely with the English ambassador, arranged to create a crisis by seeking to return to Holland; her detention at the provincial border was taken by Prussia as justification to send an army into the United Provinces. The Prussians quickly swept away the makeshift militias of Holland and Utrecht and restored the stadtholder, William V, to his offices. A period of repression of Patriots followed; many went into exile, first in the Austrian Netherlands and then in France.

      The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 gave new hope to the exiles and their friends at home. They looked now for more effective French assistance and at the same time found in the French revolutionary experience practical ideas for the reorganization of the government at home, notably the principle of a single, indivisible republic. The Patriots' hopes rose when the armies of the French Revolution (French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) swept over the Austrian Netherlands (which had had a brief interlude of independence in 1789–90) in 1792, but the French forces retreated the next year. It was not until 1794 that they returned to Belgium (as it now became customary to call the southern Netherlands), driving up to and then across the frontier of the United Provinces. The moment for which the Dutch Patriots had long been waiting was at hand: French power would more than outweigh the English and Prussian strength upon which the stadtholder relied (Prussia made a separate peace with France in 1795), and a democratic revolution, thwarted in 1787, would be possible. The freezing of the great rivers during the winter permitted the French forces to cross into the Dutch heartland, but, even before they arrived, the Patriots seized the reins of state from helpless William V, who abandoned office and fled to England.

The period of French dominance (1795–1813)
      The old republic was replaced by the Batavian Republic, and the political modernization of the Netherlands began—a process that would take more than half a century and pass through many vicissitudes, yet it was one marked by an extraordinary lack of violence. For all its flaws and inconsistencies, the old regime of the United Provinces had enjoyed many of the institutions and practices that other countries had to create in the fire of revolution: the sovereignty of parliamentary assemblies, wide-ranging political and religious toleration, equality of all citizens before the law, and an unusually broad distribution of the benefits of economic prosperity, however far the social system was from equality. Even the sense of nationhood had put down deep roots, although the awareness of differences of religion remained powerful. In a word, the Dutch had already achieved a large measure of the “liberty, equality, and fraternity” that had become the slogan of the French Revolution. The task that confronted the Batavian and the successor regimes was to adapt old institutions and create new ones that could meet the needs of a new era. But the Dutch statesmen had to operate within the confines of a small power shorn of most of its military and naval strength and yet more dependent than most other countries upon its trading and shipping.

The Batavian Republic (1795–1806)
      The Batavian Republic lasted 11 years, during which it proclaimed the sovereignty of the people but was in many respects a protectorate of France. The organization of government had to be approved not only by the Dutch people but also by whatever government happened to be in control in France. The constitutions therefore reflected not only Dutch conditions and ideas but also the arrangements in effect in Paris; nonetheless, they did create a new type of political system, a new regime, in the Netherlands. After much debate, the ancient historic provinces—so unequal in wealth, population, and influence—were replaced by a unitary republic divided into departments and electoral constituencies (suffrage) that were roughly equal in population, if not in wealth. The representatives elected to the National Assembly (which replaced the historic States General) were not delegates of provincial assemblies by whose decisions they were bound but deputies with full independence of judgment. The ancient system of government, with its medley of assemblies and boards with imperfectly differentiated functions, was replaced by a modern system of separate and explicitly defined legislative, executive, and judicial branches; functionally organized ministries directed the work of foreign affairs, internal affairs, war, and navy. The full legal equality of all citizens in all parts of the country was proclaimed; the residents of North Brabant, Zeeland-Flanders, Limburg, and Drenthe gained the same rights as all other citizens of the republic, just as their districts, once excluded from the States General, now participated in the national government equally with all others.

      The Reformed Church lost its standing as the sole official, protected church, supported out of state revenues, and equal status was accorded to all religious denominations, including Roman Catholicism and Judaism. Yet full separation of church and state was not proclaimed, and their relationship was to continue as one of the central factors in Dutch politics for more than a century. The historic privileges of class and locality were abolished; the liberty of each and all under the law and before the courts replaced the diverse “liberties” of town and province, noble and regent. Where, before, town governments had co-opted their members, deputies to the National Assembly were now elected; but the franchise was limited to property holders, and these chose their representatives not directly but through electors named by primary assemblies. Most of these institutional changes were permanent, though the republican form of government was replaced by a kingdom in 1806 and never reestablished.

      While these momentous changes were being debated and adopted, the ordinary work of state and nation had to continue amid conditions of almost unprecedented difficulty. England reacted to the French occupation of the Netherlands and the flight and overthrow of the stadtholder by a declaration of war and a blockade. Dutch overseas trade and fishing, the country's most essential occupations, were brought to a near standstill, while most of the Dutch colonies were seized by the English on behalf of William V. The French, however, remained relentless in their own exploitation of the occupied “fraternal republic.” The Dutch government, which took over the whole accumulated burden of national and provincial indebtedness, had also to bear the costs of the French occupying forces and to pay immense sums in tribute to the Paris government; indeed, the forced circulation of vastly inflated French assignats (paper currency) at face value was a scarcely disguised and very effective form of French taxation directly upon the Dutch people. Nor did the successive French governments—republican, consular, or imperial—grant the Dutch any greater freedom of trade with France or other countries under its control in compensation for the lost overseas business.

      As trade declined and industry languished, Dutch agriculture began to resume a primacy in the economy; it had always employed the majority of the workforce. The venturesome spirit for which Dutch businessmen had been so famed a century or two before seemed to be lost, replaced by what the Dutch themselves called a jansalie (stick-in-the-mud) attitude; once-bustling cities dwindled to mere market towns; even Amsterdam lost much of its population. As a result, it became difficult to consolidate the new government. A multiple executive modeled on the French Directory and lacking a firm base in established political institutions and practices reflected the intrigues of individuals rather than the programs of clearly delineated parties. The victors quarreled among themselves and looked to Paris to decide between them, or at least passively accepted its dictum, given by coups d'état organized or approved by the French army command.

      In 1805 Napoleon I gave quasi-dictatorial powers to R.J. Schimmelpenninck (Schimmelpenninck, Rutger Jan). Schimmelpenninck, called councillor pensionary after the fashion of the old provincial leaders, was actually an uncrowned and nearly absolute monarch (although, ultimately, power continued in Napoleon's hands); he nonetheless carried into practice many of the modernizing reforms that had been proposed but not adopted. Napoleon, however, decided the next year to incorporate the Dutch state directly into his “Grand Empire” of vassal states.

The Kingdom of Holland and the French Empire (1806–13)
      Renamed the Kingdom of Holland, the Netherlands received as its monarch Napoleon's younger brother Louis (Bonaparte, Louis). The four years of his kingship constituted one of the strangest episodes in Dutch history. Louis Bonaparte was a stranger in the land, yet he took its interests to heart, evading his brother's commands and winning the respect, if not quite the affection, of his subjects. The reconciliation of former Orangists, republicans, and Patriots began under his rule, for, in the face of the apparent permanence of the Napoleonic empire, they entered his government and worked together. Nonetheless, the brute fact remained that, for Napoleon, Holland was the kingpin of the “ Continental System,” which he hoped would bring England to its knees by cutting off its continental exports. French officials enforced the vigorous suppression of the smuggling of English and colonial goods to the Continent through Holland that had sprung up over the previous decade with London's connivance. King Louis's resistance to his brother's efforts and his refusal to put French interests ahead of those of the Dutch led to the emperor's decision to oust his brother from his throne in 1810 and to incorporate Holland into the French Empire.

      Little changed, however; the same officials—some Dutch, some French—continued to do the work of government in the country, which remained outside the French tariff system. As long as the Napoleonic empire seemed firmly based and permanent, Dutchmen served the new sovereign as they had King Louis, all the more readily because the exiled prince of Orange gave permission for such collaboration. Dutch soldiers continued to fight in Napoleon's campaigns, suffering heavy losses in the Russian invasion of 1812. But as it became increasingly obvious, after the failure of the Russian and Spanish campaigns, that the Napoleonic empire was collapsing, influential Dutchmen began to prepare for the creation of a new and independent regime; it was taken for granted that its head would be the prince of Orange—the son of William V, who had died in 1806—and that it was desirable that it be established by the Dutch people rather than imposed by the eventual allied victors. The movement for restoration was led by a remarkable figure, Gijsbert Karel van Hogendorp, a man of firm political principle who had refused to serve any of the governments that ruled in Holland after 1795 yet accepted the necessity for a reestablished prince of Orange to govern the country as a limited constitutional sovereign.

      During the autumn of 1813, van Hogendorp secretly planned a takeover of government from the French, which became possible without bloodshed during November as French troops withdrew to their homeland. On November 30, the hereditary stadtholder, at the invitation of van Hogendorp's provisional authority, returned from England to proclaim his reign as hereditary prince. In 1814 he granted a charter establishing a constitutional monarchy, with restricted powers for a Parliament elected by a narrow property suffrage. At the insistence of the victorious powers meeting at the Congress of Vienna (Vienna, Congress of), he took the title of king of The Netherlands and was also given sovereignty over the southern Netherlands, which included both present-day Belgium and Luxembourg. During the campaign against Napoleon after his return from Elba in 1815, Dutch troops played a role in his defeat at Waterloo (Waterloo, Battle of).

The Kingdom of The Netherlands (1814–1918)
      The reign of King William I, as the restored prince of Orange was now called, was one of the most critical periods in the history of The Netherlands. During this quarter-century the adaptation of the country to the conditions and requirements of modernity moved in a complex and even contradictory way, guided by a monarch who in his economic policy was far more forward-looking than most of his fellow citizens but who in politics resisted the expansion of Parliament and the introduction of liberal principles. He was a 19th-century version of the “enlightened despot,” a man intent upon power not so much for its own sake as in order to serve the welfare of his country as he saw it.

      The role of the States General—which continued to represent a general electorate of tax-paying citizenry—was strictly limited to the enactment of laws proposed by the government and to approval of a long-term budget; it was in no sense the representative of a sovereign people. The ministers of state were the agents of the king and responsible to him, not to the States General. Yet the basic structure of modern government had been created in The Netherlands; constitutional debate would be concerned with redistributing powers and responsibilities among existing institutions.

      William I was at his best in confronting the problem of reviving the economic life of the country after the shattering impact of the long French occupation. He put the support of both the government and his own private fortune behind encouragement of commerce and, to a lesser extent, of industry. He sponsored the formation of The Netherlands Trading Society, a nominally private firm that undertook the important but costly and risky enterprise of reorganizing Dutch long-distance trade (international trade) and shipping, particularly to the Netherlands East Indies, which England returned to Dutch sovereignty as part of the peace settlement. With the reopening of trade between the European continent and the wider world, the advantages of the Dutch position at the mouth of the great rivers favoured the revival of the traditional branches of Dutch enterprise; but competition from the ports of other countries, notably from Hamburg and Bremen, as well as from Britain, remained strong. Only in the Netherlands East Indies did the Dutch have a clear advantage over their rivals.

      The most difficult problem faced by the new regime in The Netherlands was the relations between Holland (which now became the everyday name for all the northern Netherlands, in Dutch as well as foreign usage) and Belgium. The king was passionately devoted to the preservation of a single state encompassing all the Low Countries, a unity lost in the revolt against Spain more than two centuries before and for the restoration of which he had paid by ceding most of the Dutch colonies (except the East Indies) to the United Kingdom. However, the sense of common nationhood, cultural and political, was quite weak among the people. The Belgians resented assuming a share of the burden of debt inherited by Holland; they were oriented toward industry, Hollanders toward trade. French was the language of the leading classes in the south, and the use of Dutch as the official language was bitterly opposed even by Flemings (Fleming and Walloon), who resented the Dutch version of the common Dutch-Flemish language. Most Flemings, as devout Roman Catholics, were hostile to the predominantly Protestant northern Dutch elite. William's efforts to assume the control that Napoleon had possessed over the Belgian Roman Catholic Church met fierce resistance.

 At the same time, the authoritarian character of William's government, particularly the sharp censorship of the press in Belgium, aroused the antipathy of liberals to the regime. The result was the outbreak of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1830, Revolutions of) and the proclamation of Belgian independence. William, supported by a majority of Dutchmen, who were angered by what they saw as Belgian ingratitude, was able to defeat the hastily organized Belgian army; but the European powers intervened to secure Belgian independence, although it was not until 1839 that a final settlement was reached and the last Dutch troops withdrew from Belgian soil. William, deeply despondent, abdicated the next year, leaving to his son, King William II, the task of coming to terms with the new situation.

William II and William III
      The new king was not a man of clear ideas or strong will, but he was able to do what his father dared not even envisage—oversee the transformation of The Netherlands into a parliamentary, liberal state. When the crisis of the 1848 revolutions (1848, Revolutions of) broke, first in France and then in central Europe, an alarmed William II turned to the leading liberal thinker, J.R. Thorbecke (Thorbecke, Johan Rudolf), to guide the change. A new constitution was written, largely modeled on the British (and Belgian) pattern, which gave effective supremacy to the States General and made the monarch a servant and not the master of government. The king died the next year, and the work of transformation continued under his son, William III (1849–90), who named Thorbecke prime minister. The constitutional monarchy was consolidated, even though Thorbecke stepped down in 1853 because of Protestant rioting against the reestablishment of a Roman Catholic hierarchy, with its archbishopric at Utrecht.

 Gradually, over the next century, the scope of Dutch democracy was extended to include ever-broader sections of the Dutch population in the franchise; universal male suffrage was achieved during World War I, and suffrage was extended to women in 1919. During this period modern political parties took shape, organized along religious and ideological lines; the principal groups were formed by Calvinists (the Anti-Revolutionary Party), socialists, liberals, and Roman Catholics. Other smaller minority parties developed subsequently. The central issue of political controversy became the schoolstrijd (“school conflict”), which pitted the liberal (and later socialist) advocates of state schools against the combined Calvinist and Catholic parties, which demanded state support for private (“special”) schools equivalent to that provided to state schools. For several decades, liberals remained generally in control and made few concessions on the school issue. But when the Protestant leader Abraham Kuyper (Kuyper, Abraham) formed a coalition with the Catholics in 1888, the religious parties were able to gain power and to favour the special schools over the public schools. Their policy was assailed by the secular parties, the traditional liberals, the progressives, and the socialists. The liberals, however, were at odds with the other secular parties on other issues, notably economic policies and the extension of the suffrage. The liberals tended to be the most conservative party on economic issues and favoured a restricted electorate; the progressives were vigorously democratic in outlook, as were the socialists, who also favoured universal suffrage, protection of the right to strike, labour legislation, and other welfare measures.

      These struggles between various ideologies—Catholic, Calvinist, socialist, and liberal—gradually resulted in the growth of the system of “pillars,” by means of which the country was split into more or less self-contained worlds, in which each group could live a largely separate life within the Dutch state. This distinctive political culture, known as “the politics of accommodation,” “pillarization,” or verzuiling, was to characterize Dutch public life for much of the 20th century, up to at least the 1960s.

      Another major issue of the latter half of the 19th century was the role of the Dutch East Indies. Until the 1860s, the Dutch operated a highly profitable monopoly regime there called the “Culture System,” which had been introduced to force the production of certain crops for export. Its profits helped balance the Dutch domestic budget and allowed essential investment in transportation and public services. At the same time, private enterprise clamoured for a share of the profits. Finally, there were humanitarian objections to the harsh conditions in the distant archipelago. As a result, the colony was opened up and deregulated, yet it continued to provide a significant part of Dutch national income all the way up to the outbreak of World War II.

Queen Wilhelmina and World War I
      During the first half of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina (1890–1948), the political situation remained fundamentally unchanged. The major parties came to recognize that the school struggle interfered with the solution of other problems. An agreement in principle was reached on the eve of World War I, by which the secular parties accepted state support for religious schools on a basis of equal funds in exchange for enactment of universal male suffrage. When war broke out in 1914, The Netherlands, which had declared its neutrality, put aside the proposed reforms in order to concentrate on the immediate problem of maintaining the country's livelihood in the face of blockades. The “Pacification,” as the compromise was called, was adopted in 1917 and put into effect after the return of peace. The war years saw almost all political controversies set aside, while the government took unprecedented action in maintaining trade and guiding economic life. Although spared the horrors of combat, the Dutch had to maintain a large standing army, and mutinies broke out among the soldiers in 1918.

      The century from the restoration of Dutch independence in 1813 until World War I saw fundamental transformations of Dutch life. The economic base was modernized; the role of agriculture diminished, with most Dutch farmers producing dairy, meat, and horticultural products for the market; and trade and shipping were revived in the face of fiercely competitive conditions. But most important was the rise of industry—first textiles in the eastern provinces, then coal in the southeast, and finally modern manufactures, notably the great Philips electrical products factories at Eindhoven. Rotterdam became one of the world's busiest ports and the centre of chemical and other industries. These changes were paralleled in society by the gradual extinction of pauperism, the domination of middle-class businessmen and professional men, and the gradual improvement of the conditions of working people and farmers, especially after the mid-19th century.

      Although religious freedom in The Netherlands was generally as great as anywhere else in Europe, orthodox Calvinists faced major difficulties, especially during the first half of the 19th century, when they protested against the modernizing ideas of the mainstream Calvinist Reformed (Netherlands Reformed Church, The) (Hervormde) Church; their efforts to create independent religious communities met with sharp resistance from the government. Some of the Gereformeerden (the older name for “Reformed” used by the conservatives) emigrated, many of them to the United States; however, in the second half of the century, this group prospered at home and took its place at the heart of the pillarized Dutch system.

  The cultural life of The Netherlands remained very largely confined within national boundaries; Dutch thinkers, writers, and artists responded strongly to influences from Germany, France, and England but themselves had little impact abroad. Dutch scientists maintained a respected position for their country; Hugo de Vries (Vries, Hugo de) was one of the principal founders of the science of genetics, while the physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (Lorentz, Hendrik Antoon) contributed greatly to Einstein's theories of relativity. Dutch artists were generally imitative; although The Hague school of Impressionists displayed great gifts, only Vincent van Gogh (Gogh, Vincent van), who spent most of his active life in France, achieved world reputation. Dutch literature ran parallel to main currents abroad; the Réveil early in the century was a movement of intensely religious romanticism with strongly conservative ideas, while Eduard Douwes Dekker (pseudonym Multatuli) in mid-century expressed the moods of social criticism with great power; the movement of “Men of the 'Eighties” (Tachtigers) brought to the fore an emphasis on aesthetic values and spirituality; and early in the 20th century, a literature of social protest reemerged.

The Netherlands since 1918
      The movement of The Netherlands into modernity was accelerated after 1918. Although the country became a member of the League of Nations (Nations, League of), it reaffirmed its neutrality, which seemed to have obtained the respect of the powers and which was symbolized by the presence of the International Court of Justice at The Hague (Hague, The). There was considerable harshness in relations with Belgium, which not only abandoned its neutrality for a close alliance with France but demanded territorial cessions from Holland. The Dutch government, although humiliated by a demand that it present its case before the peace conference at Versailles (Versailles, Treaty of), successfully resisted any amputation of its territory. The Dutch, for their part, refrained from giving any official support to the Flemish nationalist movement in Belgium, although a Great Netherlands movement, principally among intellectuals, emphasized the underlying unity of the Dutch and Flemings. Domestic politics followed the same course, with the Protestant political parties continuing to provide leadership for generally conservative policies, especially after the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

      At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Dutch sedulously maintained their neutrality, although their sympathies lay overwhelmingly with the Allied powers. Nonetheless, when Nazi (Nazi Party) Germany undertook the campaign against France in the spring of 1940, its forces struck not only against Belgium in order to outflank the French defenses but also against The Netherlands. The Dutch land armies were overwhelmed in less than a week, and the government, accompanied by Queen Wilhelmina and the royal family, withdrew to England, where they formed a government in exile.

      Much of the work of public administration and civil government under German military occupation was continued by Dutch organs of state, which made some effort to buffer German political repression, deportation of Jews, and forced employment of Dutch labour in Germany. A resistance movement sprang up, which, with the exception of the Dutch Nazi collaborators, spanned all groups from the conservatives to the communists. The Germans retaliated by executing Dutch hostages for such measures of resistance as the strike of Amsterdam dockworkers against the seizure and deportation of Dutch Jews to extermination camps in Germany. Some Jews were able to “go underground” (into hiding) with the assistance of friends, but the large majority were taken away to their deaths. In the final phases of the war, particularly after the Allied failure to capture bridgeheads across the rivers at Nijmegen and Arnhem, the Dutch suffered from severe food shortages, and, during the last months before liberation (May 1945), they were near famine (the so-called Hunger Winter).

The late 20th century
      After the war many aspects of Dutch life changed dramatically. Wilhelmina and her government returned from exile to reestablish a regime more strongly democratic than ever before. Anticipating the characteristic difficulties of postwar reconstruction, the government, industry, and labour agreed upon a plan for industrial and commercial expansion, with avoidance of the rapid expansion of prices or wages that would bring a threat of inflation. The plan worked effectively for more than two decades, and the Dutch were able to avoid drastic inflation until the breakdown of such corporatist consensus in the 1960s.

      Dutch industrialization moved forward with speed and depth, expanding to include the large-scale production of steel, electronics, and petrochemicals. Putting aside the policy of neutrality as a failure, The Netherlands entered vigorously into the postwar Western alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the various organizations of European unity (the Common Market (European Community); later the European Community within the European Union); however, its influence was limited, even though it joined with Belgium and Luxembourg in a closer union (Benelux (Benelux Economic Union)). Indonesia, where Dutch authority was reestablished after wartime occupation by Japanese forces, soon became the scene of a nationalist revolution. After some hesitation as well as bitterness, the Dutch were obliged to grant it full independence. In the Caribbean area, the Netherlands Antilles remained part of the Dutch kingdom, although no longer under the authority of the government at The Hague; the island of Aruba gained an autonomous status within the Antilles in 1986. Surinam became independent in 1975 and was renamed the Republic of Suriname in 1978.

      Dutch political alignments since the mid-20th century have evolved only gradually and until the 1990s were always dependent on the Christian Democrat parties of the centre. The first postwar governments were dominated by an alliance of the Labour and Catholic parties, which continued until the Labour Party went into opposition in 1958. Thereafter, with the exception of 1973–77, when the country had a left-led government, and 1981–82 and 1989–91, when it was ruled by a centre-left coalition, governments were formed by centre-right coalitions. After the early 1980s the government was faced not only with recurrent economic problems but also with the emotion-charged issue of siting U.S. nuclear cruise missiles (as part of the NATO defense strategy) in the country. It finally reached the decision in 1985, against widespread popular opposition, that 48 missiles would be sited by 1988. The issue was dissolved by the subsequent ending of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

 During the 1960s the generally peaceful mood of Dutch public life was broken by rioting of youth and labour groups, especially in Amsterdam. The most difficult crisis affected the royal family. The marriage (1966) of Princess Beatrix, the heiress to Queen Juliana (who had succeeded Wilhelmina on her abdication in 1948), to a German diplomat aroused acrimonious debate. The unsanctioned marriage of Princess Irene to a Spanish Carlist prince had already come as a shock even to Roman Catholics, but it was less difficult politically because she lost her right of succession. Juliana's husband and consort, Prince Bernhard (Bernhard, prince of The Netherlands, prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld), was involved in a bribery scandal and withdrew from public office. Juliana abdicated in 1980 and was succeeded as queen by Beatrix.

      By the 1970s Dutch politics, like Dutch society in general, had largely ceased to practice what was strictly defined as pillarization. Pillarization had received official confirmation in the Pacification of 1917 and removed most of the tinder from Dutch politics, but it also kept ordinary Dutchmen ideologically separated from each other to a greater degree than in most other Western countries. Yet, because the leaders of the pillar organizations worked well with each other and the right of each pillar to exist and function was unquestioned, public life generally ran smoothly.

      In the 1960s the system began to disintegrate. New radical political parties were formed, and, in the face of rapid secularization of the vote, the various Christian parties joined together in the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). However, the religious vote has continued to decline, and in the 1990s there were “purple” coalitions for the first time, between the (red) Labour Party and the (blue) Liberals (conservatives). The Communist Party, once influential beyond its small numbers, disbanded in 1991. The far-left groups joined with environmentalists to form an electoral group called Green-Left, which garnered about 5 percent of the vote beginning in the late 1990s.

Herbert H. Rowen Michael J. Wintle

Into the 21st century
      In the 1990s, while the economy prospered, environmental concerns increased, not only because of the country's vulnerability to rising sea levels, river flooding, and the effects of pollution but also because Dutch industry and agriculture were themselves major sources of pollution. In 2006 the Dutch government spurred the European Union (EU) to take a larger role in combating the effects of climate change (global warming).

      In the later 20th century, The Netherlands had gained a reputation for liberal social policies, such as the toleration of prostitution and of the limited use and sale of marijuana and hashish. Same-sex marriages (marriage law) and euthanasia were legalized, and penal sentences were relatively light. The Netherlands also was one of the most heavily planned and regulated Western societies, though there were efforts to reduce the role of the state in the 1980s and '90s.

 Although the Dutch tradition of tolerance generally extended to its immigrant population, anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn was able to tap into increasing Dutch uneasiness in 2002. Just nine days before that year's election, Fortuyn was assassinated—the country's first modern political killing. Nevertheless, his party gained enough support to become part of a centre-right governing coalition. Because of disputes within Fortuyn's party, however, the government resigned after only three months in office. In subsequent years, other anti-immigration parties rose in prestige, such as the Party for Freedom. Tension over immigration continued, with national debates on immigrant amnesty and assimilation, the clash of Christian and Islamic culture, and occasional acts of violence, notably the politically charged murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004. By 2006 the government required all potential immigrants to pass a test on Dutch culture and language (taken in their home country) before they could enter The Netherlands.

      In 2003 Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, head of the Christian Democratic Appeal, formed a centrist coalition with the liberal Democrats '66 and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. In the parliamentary elections of 2006, the Socialist Party made large gains, though the CDA retained its majority with Balkenende at the helm in a governing coalition with the Labour Party and the Christian Union. But the political landscape has changed a great deal in The Netherlands since the 1990s, symbolized by the two dramatic political assassinations. In 2005, in the first national referendum held in two centuries, Dutch voters rejected the new constitution of the EU, a result almost inconceivable in a country that, before about 2000, was classically pro-Europe and, perhaps more importantly, had generally been happy to leave such matters to its Eurocentric political elite. Having taken its populist turn, The Netherlands is now perhaps a less unusual country. It remains prosperous, but its welfare state is less distinctively generous, and the famed liberal state has been reined in, while skepticism of European integration and anti-Islam sentiments are increasingly loudly voiced.

Michael J. Wintle

Additional Reading

General works
An extensive source of information on all aspects of the country is The Kingdom of The Netherlands, a collection of 17 short booklets published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and updated frequently. Further resources (mainly in English) may be found in Peter King and Michael Wintle (compilers), The Netherlands (1988), an annotated bibliography.

Ronald H. Kranenburg and H. Meijer, Compact Geography of The Netherlands, 5th rev. ed. (2001), is a brief survey of geographic conditions. Informative atlases include R. Tamsma, The Netherlands in Fifty Maps (1988); and Pieter Hendrik Pellenbarg , The Netherlands in Maps: An Annotated Atlas of 25 Maps (1994), and Atlas of the Netherlands, 2nd ed. (1984–97). Audrey M. Lambert, The Making of the Dutch Landscape, 2nd ed. (1985), provides a historical geography. William Z. Shetter, The Netherlands in Perspective, 2nd rev. ed. (1997), is a general survey. Immigration and ethnic matters are considered in Jan Lucassen and Rinus Penninx, Newcomers: Immigrants and Their Descendants in The Netherlands (1997; originally published in Dutch, 1994). Dutch economic geography and conditions are addressed by Marc de Smidt and Egbert Wever (eds.), A Profile of Dutch Economic Geography (1984); recent economic developments are well covered in J.L. van Zanden, The Economic History of The Netherlands 1914–1995 (1998).

Ivo Schöffer, A Short History of The Netherlands, 2nd rev. ed. (1973), remains perhaps the best single-authored one-volume history of the northern Netherlands; a more recent one-volume history is Paul Arblaster, A History of the Low Countries (2006); and a multiauthor history is J.C.H. Blom and E. Lamberts (eds.), History of the Low Countries, 2nd rev. ed. (2006).Of the more specialized works, modern scholarship in English on the Dutch Republic is best represented by Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall (1995), and other works by that author; as well as by Karel Davids and Jan Lucassen (eds.), A Miracle Mirrored: The Dutch Republic in European Perspective (1995). Femme S. Gaastra, The Dutch East India Company (2003), deals with Dutch colonial history in the period before 1800. J.L. Price, Culture and Society in the Dutch Republic During the Seventeenth Century (1974), has become a modern classic, and his Dutch Society, 1588–1713 (2000), is also informative. Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (1987), is a brilliant, innovative, controversial study. E.H. Kossmann, The Low Countries, 1780–1940 (1978), offers a penetrating comparison between the politics and culture of The Netherlands and of Belgium. The economic and social aspects of modern Dutch history are covered by J. De Vries and A. Van Der Woude, The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy 1500–1815 (1995); M.J. Wintle, An Economic and Social History of The Netherlands 1800–1920 (2000); and J.L. Van Zanden, The Economic History of The Netherlands 1914–1995 (1998). M. Kuitenbrouwer, The Netherlands and the Rise of Modern Imperialism (1991), deals with colonial exploits since the mid-19th century. Arend Lijphart, The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in The Netherlands, 2nd ed., rev. (1975), is the classic study of Dutch “pillarization”; and R. Andeweg, Governance and Politics in The Netherlands (2005), provides an overview of politics in recent years.Michael J. Wintle

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Universalium. 2010.

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