A variety of ancient peoples and tribes have made the Netherlands what it is today. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the dry sandy soils and coastal areas were already being inhabited by our ancestors, the Neanderthals. From around 1000 years BC onwards, both Celtic and Germanic tribes began to arrive and mix with the local population.
THE NETHERLANDS IS BORN
During the Eighty Years' War, the Low Countries began to extend its commerce internationally, entering into the spice trade with India and founding colonies in Brazil, North America, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. The various regions that constituted the Low Countries, enjoyed a large degree of independence at the outset of the Eighty Years War, but that came to an abrupt end in 1579 with the signing of the Union of Utrecht. The agreement led to an amalgamation of several Protestant regions that were to unite against the Catholic Spanish rulers in a rebellion led by Prince William of Orange. In 1581 this ‘Union’ proclaimed its independence and formed a Republic of seven united regions of the Netherlands. In 1609 the Republic received international recognition and the Netherlands as we know it, was born. During the period that followed, international trade increased dramatically bringing significant wealth to the Republic and the seventeenth century became known as the ‘Golden Age’.
NETHERLANDS AND A UNITED KINGDOM
The eighteenth century saw the return of more turbulence, particularly with the Dutch economy, as the battle between the Patriots and
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
|The Netherlands managed to remain neutral during the First World War, but as the surrounding countries became engaged in bitter conflict, the economy declined sharply and the country suffered from food shortages. The Netherlands also took in a large number of refugees fleeing the war-ravaged countries of its |
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
With the financial crisis of the thirties, however, came the end of economic affluence. Unemployment rose rapidly, and the government implemented a package of austerity measures. Simultaneously, the Netherlands experienced an influx of Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany. Amidst the global unrest and threat of war, the Netherlands endeavored once more to preserve its neutrality, however, this time it was not spared. When Germany finally invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the government (including Queen Wilhelmina) fled to Great Britain. Many Jews attempted to escape or went into hiding, perhaps the most famous example being Anne Frank. For those Jews that remained the situation was bleak, with most of them ending up in the gas chambers of the Nazi concentration camps. The Dutch Jewish population was decimated with a horrifying 75 percent disappearing during the Nazi occupation. Throughout the
INDEPENDENCE DUTCH COLONIES AND INTERNATIONALISATION
Shortly after the end of World War II, the Dutch East Indies began its own struggle for independence. The Netherlands initially intended to suppress this movement, but eventually pulled back under pressure from both the United Nations and the United States, who were financing much-needed post-war reconstruction in the Netherlands, in the form of the Marshall Plan. In 1949 the Dutch East Indies finally got its independence and went one step further to become ‘Indonesia’.
After the disaster of World War II, the Netherlands decided to give up its policy of neutrality and became an active participant in the UN, the European Community, and NATO, in addition to becoming a highly regarded economic partner for many countries around the globe. The Netherlands also formed the Benelux countries with close
Nowadays the Netherlands is a multicultural, internationally oriented and in many ways extremely progressive society, with a rich history that is reflected in contemporary Dutch culture. You only need to walk into a Dutch supermarket to find tins of syrup waffles decorated with Delft Blue Dutch paintings and Dutch biscuit tins proudly embellished with portraits of Rembrandt, along with more exotic Dutch food products such as nasi goreng paste and delicious peanut butter satay sauce from Indonesia.