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The Netherlands (Template:Lang-nl, Template:IPA2) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles (Dutch: Nederlandse Antillen), and Aruba. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, located in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.

The Netherlands is often called Holland. This is incorrect as the provinces of North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country's twelve provinces (for more on this and other naming issues see Netherlands terminology).

The Netherlands is a densely populated and geographically low-lying country and is popularly known for its windmills, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and gouda pottery, dikes, tulips, bicycles, and social tolerance. Also well-known are its liberal policies toward drugs, prostitution, gay rights, abortion and euthanasia.

The Netherlands has an international outlook, and among other affiliations is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD and has signed the Kyoto protocol. The country is host to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the European Union's criminal intelligence agency (Europol) at The Hague. It is also one of the Benelux nations along with Belgium and Luxembourg.

History Edit

Main article: History of the Netherlands

Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the Eighty Years' War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces declared itself independent from Spain, and they formed the Union of Utrecht, which is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. Philip II, the son of Charles V, was not prepared to let them go that easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain finally recognized Dutch independence.

RepublicEdit

After gaining formal independence from the Spanish Empire under King Philip IV of Spain, the Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe. (See Dutch colonial empire)

Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders led to insurance and retirement funds as well as such less benign phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world's first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 16361637, and according to Murray Sayle, the world's first bear raider - Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount.[1]

KingdomEdit

Template:See also After briefly being incorporated in the First French Empire under Napoleon, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815, consisting of the present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition, the king of the Netherlands became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890 as a result of ascendancy laws which prevented Queen Wilhelmina from becoming Grand Duchess.

The Netherlands possessed several colonies, most notably the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New Amsterdam, now known as New York). These 'colonies' were first administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they become official colonies.

During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialise compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to its unique infrastructure of waterways and reliance on wind power.

World War I & IIEdit

The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the Second World War. The country was quickly overrun and surrendered on May 14 after the bombing of Rotterdam, although a French force held the province of Zeeland for a short time after Dutch surrender.

During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust along with significant numbers of Dutch Roma (Gypsies). Some Dutch e.g. members of Henneicke Column collaborated with Nazi occupiers in hunting down and arresting hiding Jews. Between 8,000 and 9,000 of Dutch Jews were rounded up in this manner and consequently deported to German extermination camps and murdered.

Dutch civilians were often treated brutally. Dutch workers were conscripted for labour in German factories, civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. The Allied 21st Army Group was given the task to conduct military operations to liberate The Netherlands after the breakout from Normandy. British, Canadian, Polish and American soldiers fought on Dutch soil beginning in September 1944. A first thrust, Operation Market Garden north from France to Arnhem, failed. Canadian units fighting to liberate the Sheldt estuary fought their way into Holland and liberated most of the countryside, but not the urban areas of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. German forces held out until the German surrender of May 8, 1945. German forces killed Dutch civilians in Amsterdam on the last day of the war. The disrupted transportation system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock made the winter of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife among the Dutch population. The country suffered a similar "severe winter" in 1945-46 because of abnormal cold and the slow reconstruction.

After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states. The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) cooperation. Furthermore, the Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve into the European Union.

File:Holland Batavia at shipyard.jpg

Naming conventionsEdit

Main article: Netherlands (terminology)

Various terms have been used in English to refer to the Netherlands and its inhabitants.

'(The) Netherlands' is the official name of the European part of the 'Kingdom of the Netherlands' (as opposed to overseas areas). The term 'Holland' is commonly used as a synonym for the Netherlands, but it actually only refers to a region in the west of the country, which has long been the most economically powerful part of the country. The prominence of this region meant that the whole country is often referred to as 'Holland' all over the world. The country's people and language are called Dutch.

Instead of the word Dutch the word Netherlands can be used as an adjective (e.g. the Netherlands government).

PoliticsEdit

Main article: Politics of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and a parliamentary democracy since 1848; before that it had been a republic from 1581 to 1806 and a kingdom between 1806 and 1810 (it was part of France between 1810 and 1813). The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterized by a common strife for broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole.

The head of state is the monarch, at present Queen Beatrix. Constitutionally the monarch still has considerable powers, but in practice it has become a ceremonial function. The monarch can exert most influence during the formation of a new cabinet, where he/she serves as neutral arbiter between the political parties.

In practice the executive power is formed by Dutch cabinet. Because of the multi-party system no party has ever held a majority in parliament since the 19th century, therefore cabinets have to be formed. The cabinet consists of around thirteen ministers of which between one and three ministers without portfolio, and as many state secretaries. The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who is conventionally the leader of the largest party in the coalition. He is a primus inter pares.

The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the States-General which also has legislative powers. The 150 members of the Second Chamber, the Lower House are elected in direct elections, which are held every four years or after a cabinet crisis. The provincial assemblies are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the First Chamber, the Upper House, which has less legislative powers, as it can merely reject laws, not propose or amend them.

Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social areas. They meet regularly with government in the Social-Economic Council. This body advises government and its advice cannot be put aside easily.

While historically the Dutch foreign policy was characterized by neutrality, since the Second World War the Netherlands became a member of a large number of international organisations, most prominently the UN, NATO and the EU. The Dutch economy is very open and relies on international trade.

The Netherlands has a long tradition of social tolerance. In the 18th century, while the Dutch Reformed Church was the state religion, Catholicism and Judaism were tolerated. In the late 19th century this Dutch tradition of religious tolerance transformed into a system of pillarization, in which religious groups coexisted separately and only interacted at the level of government. This tradition of tolerance is linked to the Dutch policies on recreational drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, which are among the most liberal in the world.

Since suffrage became universal in 1919 the Dutch political system has been dominated by three families of political parties: the strongest family were the Christian democrats currently represented by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), second were the social democrats, of which the Labour Party (PvdA) is currently the largest party and third were the liberals of which the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is the main representative. These cooperated in coalition cabinets in which the Christian democrats had always been partner: so either a centre left coalition of the Christian democrats and social democrats or a centre right coalition of Christian democrats and liberals. In the 1970s the party system became more volatile: the Christian democratic parties lost seats, while new parties, like the radical democrat and progressive liberal D66, became successful.

In the 1994 election the CDA lost its dominant position. A "purple" cabinet was formed by the VVD, D66 and PvdA. In 2002 elections this cabinet lost its majority, due to the rise of LPF, a new political party around the flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn, who was shot to death a week before the elections took place. The elections also saw increased support for the CDA. A short lived cabinet was formed by CDA, VVD and LPF, led by the leader of the Christian democrats, Jan Peter Balkenende. After the 2003 elections in which the LPF lost almost all its seats, a cabinet was formed by the CDA, the VVD and D66. The cabinet initiated an ambitious program of reforming the welfare state, the health care system and immigration policies.

In June 2006 the cabinet fell, as D66 voted in favour of a motion of no confidence against minister of immigration and integration Rita Verdonk in the aftermath of the upheaval about the asylum procedure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali instigated by the Dutch immigration minister Verdonk. A care taker cabinet was formed by CDA and VVD, and the general elections were held on 22 November 2006. In these elections the Christian Democratic Appeal remained the largest party and the Socialist Party made the largest gains. The formation of a new cabinet started two days after the elections. Initial investigations toward a CDA-SP-PvdA coalition failed, after which a coalition of CDA, PvdA and ChristianUnion was formed.

The results of the elections were: Template:Netherlands general election, 2006

Administrative divisionsEdit

File:Netherlands map large.png
Main article: Provinces of the Netherlands

Template:Seealso

The Netherlands is divided into twelve administrative regions, called provinces, each under a Governor, who is called Commissaris der Koningin (Commissioner of the Queen), except for the province Limburg where the commissioner is called Gouverneur (Governor) which underlines the more "non-Dutch" mentality.

All provinces are divided into municipalities (gemeenten), 458 in total (1 January 2006).

The country is also subdivided in water districts, governed by a water board (waterschap or hoogheemraadschap), each having authority in matters concerning water management. As of 1 January 2005 there are 27. The creation of water boards actually pre-dates that of the nation itself, the first appearing in 1196. In fact, the Dutch water boards are one of the oldest democratic entities in the world still in existence.

GeographyEdit

Main article: Geography of the Netherlands

Template:See also A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is the flatness. Hilly landscapes can be found only in the central part, the south-eastern tip of the country and where the glaciers pushed up several hilly ridges such as the Hondsrug in Drenthe, the stuwwallen near Nijmegen, Salland, Twente and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.

Below sea levelEdit

About half of its surface area is less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above sea level, and much of it is actually below sea level (see map showing these areas). An extensive range of dykes and dunes protects these areas from flooding. Numerous massive pumping stations keep the ground water level in check. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the south-eastern most point of the country, is 322.7 metres (1,053 ft) above sea level. The Vaalserberg is a foothill of the Ardennes mountains. A substantial part of the Netherlands, for example, all of the province of Flevoland (contains the largest man-made island in the world) and large parts of Holland, have been reclaimed from the sea. These areas are known as polders. This not only explains why The Netherlands is called "A land won from the sea" but has also led to the famous Dutch saying "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands".

FloodsEdit

In years past, the Dutch coastline has changed considerably as a result of human intervention and natural disasters. Most notable in terms of land loss are the 1134 storm, which created the archipelago of Zeeland in the south west, and the 1287 storm, which killed 50,000 people and created the Zuiderzee (now dammed in and renamed the IJsselmeer — see below) in the northwest, giving Amsterdam direct access to the sea. The St. Elizabeth flood of 1421 and the mismanagement in its aftermath destroyed a newly reclaimed polder, replacing it with the 72 square kilometres (28 sq mi) Biesbosch tidal floodplains in the south-centre. The most recent parts of Zeeland were flooded during the North Sea Flood of 1953 and 1,836 people were killed, after which the Delta Plan was executed.

File:Satellite image of the Netherlands in May 2000.jpg

The disasters were partially man-made; the people drained relatively high lying swampland for use as farmland. This drainage caused the fertile peat to compress and the ground level to drop, locking the land users in a vicious circle whereby they would lower the water level to compensate for the drop in ground level, causing the underlying peat to compress even more. The vicious circle is unsolvable and remains to this day. Up until the 19th century peat was dug up, dried, and used for fuel, further adding to the problem.

To guard against floods, a series of defences against the water were contrived. In the first millennium, villages and farmhouses were built on man-made hills called terps. Later, these terps were connected by dikes. In the 12th century, local government agencies called "waterschappen" (English "water bodies") or "hoogheemraadschappen" ("high home councils") started to appear, whose job it was to maintain the water level and to protect a region from floods. (The water bodies are still around today performing the same function.) As the ground level dropped, the dikes by necessity grew and merged into an integrated system. In the 13th century, windmills came into use to pump water out of the areas by now below sea level. The windmills were later used to drain lakes, creating the famous polders. In 1932, the Afsluitdijk (English "Closure Dike") was completed, blocking the former Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) off from the North Sea and thus creating the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake). It became part of the larger Zuiderzee Works in which four polders totalling 1,650 square kilometres (637 sq mi) were reclaimed from the sea.

Delta WorksEdit

After the 1953 disaster, the Delta project, a vast construction effort designed to end the threat from the sea once and for all, was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002. The official goal of the Delta project was to reduce the risk of flooding in the Zeeland to once per 10,000 years. (For the rest of the country, the protection-level is once per 4,000 years.) This was achieved by raising 3,000 kilometres (1,864 mi) of outer sea-dikes and 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) of inner, canal, and river dikes to "delta" height, and by closing off the sea estuaries of the Zeeland province. New risk assessments occasionally show problems requiring additional Delta project dike reinforcements. The Delta project is one of the largest construction efforts in human history and is considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Because of the high cost of maintaining the polders some have argued that maybe some of the deepest polders should be given up. Additionally, the Netherlands is one of the countries that may suffer most from climatic change. Not only is the rising sea a problem, but also erratic weather patterns may cause the rivers to overflow.Template:Fact

RiversEdit

The country is divided into two main parts by three rivers Rhine (Rijn), Waal, and Meuse (Maas). These rivers not only function as a natural barrier, but also as a cultural divide, as is evident in the different dialects spoken north and south of these "Large Rivers" (de Grote Rivieren) and the (former) religious dominance of Catholics in the south and Calvinists in the north. The south-western part of the Netherlands is actually one river delta of these rivers and two arms of the Scheldt (Westerschelde & Oosterschelde).

The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is south-west, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.

NatureEdit

Template:Seealso

EconomyEdit

Main article: Economy of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which the government has reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial activity is predominantly in food-processing (for example Unilever and Heineken), chemicals (for example DSM), petroleum refining (for example Royal Dutch Shell), and electrical machinery (for example Philips). Slochteren has one of the largest natural gas fields in the world, which has so far (2006) resulted in a total revenue of €159 billion since the mid 1970s. With just over half of the reserves used up and an expected continued rise in oil prices, the revenues over the next few decades are expected to be at least that much.[3]

Third in worldwide agricultural exportsEdit

A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than 4% of the labour force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Dutch rank third worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the United States and France, with exports earning $55 billion annually. A significant portion of Dutch agricultural exports are derived from fresh-cut plants, flowers, and bulbs, with the Netherlands exporting two-thirds of the world's total. The Netherlands also exports a quarter of all world tomatoes, and one-third of the world's exports of peppers and cucumbers.[4] The Netherlands' location gives it prime access to markets in the UK and Germany, with the port of Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe. Other important parts of the economy are international trade (Dutch colonialism started with cooperative private enterprises such as the VOC), banking and transport. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners.

As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the Guilder, on January 1, 1999, along with the other adopters of the single European currency. Actual Euro coins and banknotes followed on January 1, 2002. In the first years of the third millennium, economic and employment growth came to a standstill, which the government tried to resolve by reducing expenses.

16th largest economyEdit

Template:See also The Netherlands has the 16th largest economy in the world, and ranks 10th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Between 1998 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably in 2001-05 due to the global economic slowdown, but the first quarter of 2006 showed promising growth of 2.6%. Inflation is 1.3% and is expected to stay low at around 1.5% in the coming years. The Dutch Statistics Agency, CBS, however, has claimed the inflation is at 0.9%, the lowest since 1989. According to the definition used by the CBS, unemployment is at 5.5% of the labour force[5] By Eurostat standards however, unemployment in the Netherlands is at only 3.5% - the second lowest rate of all European Union member states (figures: Feb 2007). The Netherlands also has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326.

DemographicsEdit

Main article: Demographics of the Netherlands
File:Netherlands-demography.png

Average HeightEdit

The population of the Netherlands is physically the tallest in the world, with an average height of over 1.85 meters (6 feet 1 inch) for adult males and 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) for adult females.

Population densityEdit

The Netherlands is the 23rd most densely populated country in the world, with 395 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,023 sq mi)—or 484 people per square kilometre (1,254/sq mi) if only the land area is counted, since 18.4% is water. Partly because of this it is also one of the most densely cabled countries in the world. Internet penetration is at 65.9% the 19th highest in the world.[6]

VarietyEdit

According to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the official statistics bureau of the Netherlands, the ethnic origins of the citizens are very diverse. The vast majority of the population however still remains Dutch. They were: 80.8% Dutch, 2.4% German, 2.4% Indonesian (Indo-European, Indo-Dutch, Moluccan), 2.2% Turks, 2.0% Surinamese, 1.9% Moroccan, 1.5% Indian, 0.8% Antillean and Aruban, and 6.0% other.[7] However, this does not include the whole Kingdom of the Netherlands (such as the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, which have a non-Dutch majority community), and only includes the population in the Netherlands itself. The Netherlands also has a resident population of some 800,000 people of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent (Indonesia being a former colony of the Netherlands).

ReligionEdit

Main article: Religion in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is one of the more secular countries in the world, with only 39% being religiously affiliated (31% for those aged under 35), although 62% are believers (but 40% of those not in the traditional sense). Fewer than 20% visit church regularly .

Major citiesEdit

There are no cities with a population over 1 million in the Netherlands, but the four cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht can in many ways be regarded as a single 'big city' conurbation, the Randstad ('rim or edge city') with about 7 million inhabitants and an agricultural 'green heart' (het Groene Hart). The unity of this conurbation can be illustrated by the current idea effort to create a circular train system connecting the four cities.

The 5 largest cities are, in order of descending population:

Only Eindhoven is not located in the Randstad.

LanguagesEdit

The official language is Dutch, which is spoken by a large majority of the inhabitants, the exception being some groups of immigrants.

Another official language is Frisian, which is spoken in the northern province of Fryslân. Frisian is co-official only in the province of Fryslân, although with a few restrictions. Several dialects of Low Saxon (Nedersaksisch in Dutch) are spoken in much of the north and east and are recognised by the Netherlands as regional languages according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

There is a tradition of learning foreign languages in the Netherlands: about 85% of the total population have basic knowledge of English, 55–60% of German and 25% of French.Template:Fact Courses in Spanish, Arabic, Ancient Greek, and Latin are offered in schools as well.

CultureEdit

Template:Life in the Netherlands

Main article: Culture of the Netherlands
See also: List of museums in the Netherlands, Sport in the Netherlands, Music of the Netherlands, List of Dutch people, Public holidays in the Netherlands
File:Holbein-erasmus.jpg

The Netherlands have had many well-known painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of the "Dutch Masters", such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M.C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist. Han van Meegeren was an infamous Dutch art forger.

The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza, and all of Descartes' major work was done there. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (16291695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan and invented the pendulum clock.

In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flourished as well, with Joost van den Vondel and P.C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the bad treatment of the natives in Dutch colonies. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard (van het) Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she died in the Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.

Replicas of Dutch buildings can be found in Huis ten Bosch, Nagasaki, Japan. A similar Holland Village is being built in Shenyang, China.

Windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, and Delftware pottery are among the items associated with the Netherlands.

Miscellaneous topicsEdit

Template:Columns

FootnotesEdit

  1. "Japan Goes Dutch", London Review of Books [April 5, 2001]: 3-7).
  2. Since 2004 the official name of this province is 'Fryslân'; the name in the regional language (Frisian). The Dutch name, 'Friesland' is also frequently used.
  3. web reference geschiedenis.vpro.nl.
  4. http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200501/146118432.pdf#search=%22netherlands%20main%20agriculture%20export%20flowers%22
  5. Note that people who are medically unfit for labour receive benefits and are not listed as unemployed.
  6. Top 35 countries with the highest internet penetration rate Internetworldstats.com.
  7. http://www.cbs.nl/NR/rdonlyres/CCD504EA-9D41-40C2-AE28-BFB0A51C2045/0/2005k3b15p096art.pdf

ReferencesEdit

BibliographyEdit

  • Paul Arblaster. A History of the Low Countries. Palgrave Essential Histories Series New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 298 pp. ISBN 1-4039-4828-3.
  • J. C. H. Blom and E. Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries (1998)
  • Jonathan Israel. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806 (1995)
  • J. A. Kossmann-Putto and E. H. Kossmann. The Low Countries: History of the Northern and Southern Netherlands (1987)

External linksEdit

Template:Sisterlinks Template:Wikiatlas

History, geography, and politicsEdit

Moving to the NetherlandsEdit

TravelEdit

MiscellaneousEdit

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