Capital : Amsterdam
Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord Brabant, Noord Holland, Zuid Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland
Size: 1600 sq m Popn: 15 178 000
The Low Countries, inhabited by Celts and Germanic peoples, were on the eastern border of Celtic Gaul, the Roman province of Gallia. The land south of the Rhine was brought under Roman rule in 51 BC by Julius Caesar as governor of Gaul. The Frisii and Batavi were within the Empire as part of the province of Germania Inferior from AD 14 but the Saxons to the north of the Rhine remained independent. The Frisians and Saxons were among the Germanic tribes who invaded Britain after the Romans left, many of them settling permanently and establishing new kingdoms.
Both Frisia (784-5) and Saxony (772-804) were eventually incorporated into the Frankish Empire and converted to Christianity. As the Empire was weakened by Viking and Magyar raids, Frisia became divided into Hainault, Brabant and Upper Loraine. Like Saxony, they were part of the Kingdom of Germany after the C10th and remained within the Holy Roman Empire despite French annexation of neighbouring Flanders. Local feudal lords, headed by the Count of Holland and the Bishop of Utrecht, were almost independent although they owed allegiance to the HRE. In the late C14th and early C15th, the Dukes of Burgundy built up a chain of territories which included the 17 separate provinces of the Low Countries, some of the richest lands in Europe, but the defeat of Charles the Bold prevented further expansion. His daughter and heiress, Mary, married Maximilian of Austria and all the Netherlands were in Habsburg hands by 1543, forming part of their grandson Charles V's huge hegemony.
In 1566, 1572 and 1576, the Dutch rebelled against the central government of Philip II in Spain which they feared was destroying their traditional liberties. They were led by William the Silent and his sons Maurice and Frederick Henry. The seven northern provinces were united as the Northern Provinces by the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and armed opposition continued until 1609, forcing Spain to recognise them as independent as the Dutch Republic under the Treaty of Westphalia. The remaining area to the west, now Belgium and Luxembourg, was reconquered by Spain and was known as the Spanish Netherlands. In the Republic, there was long struggle between the Orangist or popular party under the Prince of Orange, as chief magistrate or stadholder, and the oligarchal or states' rights party which seized control under Johann de Witt in 1650. William of Orange (III of England) regained the position of stadtholder with the French invasion of 1672.
France and England had already weakened the country through commercial competition and attacked the country during the C17th. The Dutch Republic or United Netherlands remained independent but some of the Spanish Netherlands was lost to France in the late C17th. Despite the wars, the Dutch managed to be a world power in trade, art and science and to found an empire in the East and West Indies. In the early C18th, the Netherlands were exhausted by wars with French under Louis XIV and the country welcomed the revolutionary army in 1795. Under Napoleon, the whole area was briefly under direct rule from Paris with the title of 'King of Holland' being given to his brother, Louis, replacing the 'satellite state' of the Batavian Republic.
The Congress of Vienna united the north and south Netherlands but the south broke away in 1830 to become independent Belgium. The Dutch colonial Empire established in the C19th included Dutch Guiana in South America and much of Indonesia. Many Dutch settlers went to South Africa where their language, Afrikaans, is still very similar to Dutch. Until the Second World War, the Netherlands pursued a strictly neutral policy but after occupation by Germany in 1940-5, it began to co-operate with its neighbours, joining the Western European Union, NATO, the Benelux Customs Union, the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Atomic Energy Community and the EEC.
There was increased immigration and unemployment after the granting of independence to former colonies (Indonesia 1949, adding W New Guinea 1963, Surinam 1975). All governments have been coalitions since 1945 and the parties' main differences concern economic policies. The monarchy continued with the three Queens, Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix, who have established a tradition of abdicating in favour of their successor in order to enjoy retirement. In 1989, the Christian Democrats under Ruud Lubbers won most seats and formed a coalition with the leftist Labour Party.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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