|Languages||Dutch , Dutch|
The Netherlands means "lower countries" about its low elevation and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 m (3.3 ft) above sea level, and nearly 26% falling below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as builders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 14th century. Colloquially or informally the Netherlands is occasionally referred to by the pars pro-Tito Holland. In the Republican period, which began in 1588, the Netherlands entered a unique era of political, economic, and cultural greatness, ranked among the most powerful and influential in Europe and the world; this period is known as the Dutch Golden Age. During this time, its trading companies, the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company established colonies and trading posts all over the world.
With a population of 17.5 million people, all living within a total area of roughly 41,800 km2 (16,100 sq mi) —of which, the land area is 33,500 km2 (12,900 sq mi) —the Netherlands is the 16th most densely populated country in the world and the second-most densely populated country in the European Union, with a density of 523 people per square kilometer (1,350 people/sq mi). Nevertheless, it is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products by value, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, intensive agriculture, and inventiveness.
The Netherlands has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. The country has a tradition of polarization and a long record of social tolerance, having legalized abortion, prostitution, and human euthanasia, along with maintaining a liberal drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in Civil Law in 1870, though it was not completely removed until a new constitution was approved in 1983. The Netherlands allowed women's suffrage in 1919, before becoming the world's first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Its mixed-market advanced economy had the eleventh-highest per capita income globally. The Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indices of press freedom, economic freedom, Human development, and quality of life, as well as happiness. In 2020, it ranked eighth on the human development index and fifth on the 2021 World Happiness Index.
The prehistory of the area that is now the Netherlands was largely shaped by the sea and the rivers that constantly shifted the low-lying geography. The oldest human (Neanderthal) traces were found in higher soils, near Maastricht, from what is believed to be about 250,000 years ago. At the end of the Ice Age, the nomadic late Upper Palaeolithic Hamburg culture (c. 13.000–10. 000 BC) hunted reindeer in the area, using spears, but the later Ahrensburg culture (c. 11. 200–9500 BC) used bows and arrows. From Mesolithic Maglemosian-like tribes (c. 8000 BC) the oldest canoe in the world was found in Drenthe.
Indigenous late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers from the Swifterbant culture (c. 5600 BC) were related to the southern Scandinavian Ertebølle culture and were strongly linked to rivers and open water. Between 4800 and 4500 BC, the Swifterbant people started to copy from the neighboring Linear Pottery culture the practice of animal husbandry, and between 4300 and 4000 BC the practice of agriculture. The Funnelbeaker culture (c. 4300–2800 BC), which is related to the Swifterbant culture, erected the dolmens, large stone grave monuments found in Drenthe. There was a quick and smooth transition from the Funnelbeaker farming culture to the pan-European Corded Ware pastoralist culture (c. 2950 BC). In the southwest, the Seine-Oise-Marne culture — which was related to the Vlaardingen culture (c. 2600 BC), apparently more primitive culture of hunter-gatherers — survived well into the Neolithic period, until it too was succeeded by the Corded Ware culture.
Of the subsequent Bell Beaker culture (2700–2100 BC) several regions of origin have been postulated, notably the Iberian peninsula, the Netherlands, and Central Europe. They introduced metalwork in copper, gold, and later bronze and opened international trade routes not seen before, reflected in the discoveries of copper artifacts, as the metal is not normally found in Dutch soil. Numerous finds of rare bronze objects suggest that Drenthe was even a trading center in the Bronze Age (2000–800 BC). The Bell Beaker culture developed locally into the Barbed-Wire Beaker culture (2100–1800 BC) and later the Elp culture (c. 1800–800 BC), a Middle Bronze Age archaeological culture, having earthenware pottery of low quality as a marker. The initial phase of the Elp culture was characterized by timely (1800–1200 BC) that were strongly tied to contemporary tumuli in northern Germany and Scandinavia and was related to the Tumulus culture in central Europe. The subsequent phase was that of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields, following the customs of the Urnfield culture (1200–800 BC). The southern region became dominated by the related Hilversum culture (1800–800 BC), which inherited cultural ties with Britain of the previous Barbed-Wire Beaker culture.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the European Netherlands has a total area of 41,545 km2 (16,041 sq mi), including water bodies; and a land area of 33,481 km2 (12,927 sq mi). The Caribbean, Netherlands has a total area of 328 km2 (127 sq mi) It lies between latitudes 50° and 54° N, and longitudes 3° and 8° E.
The Netherlands is geographically very low relative to sea level and is considered a flat country, with about 26% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and only about 50% of its land exceeding one meter above sea level. The European part of the country is for the most part flat, except foothills in the far southeast, up to a height of no more than 321 meters, and some low hill ranges in the central parts. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made, caused by peat extraction or achieved through land reclamation. Since the late 16th century, large older areas are preserved through elaborate drainage systems that include dikes, canals, and pumping stations. Nearly 17% of the country's land area is reclaimed from the sea and lakes.
Much of the country was originally formed by the estuaries of three large European rivers: the Rhine (Rijn), the Meuse (Maas), and the Scheldt (Schelde), as well as their tributaries. The southwestern part of the Netherlands is to this day a river delta of these three rivers, the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta.
The European Netherlands is divided into north and south parts by the Rhine, the Waal, its main tributary branch, and the Meuse. In the past, these rivers functioned as a natural barrier between fiefdoms and hence historically created a cultural divide, as is evident in some phonetic traits that are recognizable on either side of what the Dutch call their "Great Rivers" (de Grote Rivieren). Another significant branch of the Rhine, the IJssel river, discharges into Lake IJssel, the former Zuiderzee ('southern sea'). Just like the previous, this river forms a linguistic divide: people to the northeast of this river speak Dutch Low Saxon dialects (except for the province of Friesland, which has its language).
Government and politics
The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815, and due to the efforts of Johan Rudolph Thorbecke became a parliamentary democracy in 1848. The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterized by an effort to achieve broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole. In 2017, The Economist ranked the Netherlands as the 11th most democratic country in the world.
The monarch is the head of state, at present King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Constitutionally, the position is equipped with limited powers. By law, the King has the right to be periodically briefed and consulted on government affairs. Depending on the personalities and relationships of the King and the ministers, the monarch might influence the power granted by the Constitution of the Netherlands.
The executive power is formed by the Council of Ministers, the deliberative organ of the Dutch cabinet. The cabinet usually consists of 13 to 16 ministers and a varying number of state secretaries. One to three ministers are ministers without a portfolio. The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who often is the leader of the largest party of the coalition. The Prime Minister is a primus inter pares, with no explicit powers beyond those of the other ministers. Mark Rutte has been Prime Minister since October 2010; the Prime Minister had been the leader of the largest party of the governing coalition continuously since 1973.
The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the States-General, which also has legislative powers. The 150 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, are elected in direct elections based on party-list proportional representation. These are held every four years, or sooner in case, the cabinet falls (for example: when one of the chambers carries a motion of no confidence, the cabinet offers its resignation to the monarch). The States-Provincial are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the Senate, the upper house, which has the power to reject laws, but not proposes or amend them. Both houses send members to the Benelux Parliament, a consultative council.
The Netherlands has a developed economy and has been playing a special role in the European economy for many centuries. Since the 16th century, shipping, fishing, agriculture, trade, and banking have been leading sectors of the Dutch economy. The Netherlands has a high level of economic freedom. The Netherlands is one of the top countries in the Global Enabling Trade Report (2nd in 2016) and was ranked the fifth most competitive economy in the world by the Swiss International Institute for Management Development in 2017. In addition, the country was ranked the second most innovative nation in the world in the 2018 Global Innovation Index.
As of 2020, the key trading partners of the Netherlands were Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, China, and Russia. The Netherlands is one of the world's 10 leading exporting countries. Foodstuffs form the largest industrial sector. Other major industries include chemicals, metallurgy, machinery, electrical goods, trade, services, and tourism. Examples of international Dutch companies operating in the Netherlands include Randstad, Unilever, Heineken, KLM, financial services (ING, ABN AMRO, Rabobank), chemicals (DSM, AKZO), petroleum refining (Royal Dutch Shell), electrical machinery (Philips, ASML), and satellite navigation (TomTom).
The Netherlands has the 17th-largest economy in the world and ranks 11th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Between 1997 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably from 2001 to 2005 with the global economic slowdown, but accelerated to 4.1% in the third quarter of 2007. In May 2013, inflation was at 2.8% per year. In April 2013, unemployment was at 8.2% (or 6.7% following the ILO definition) of the labor force. In February 2019, this was reduced to 3.4%.
In Q3 and Q4 2011, the Dutch economy contracted by 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively, because of European Debt Crisis, while in Q4 the Eurozone economy shrunk by 0.3%. The Netherlands also has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326. Despite ranking 11th in GDP per capita, UNICEF ranked the Netherlands 1st in child well-being in rich countries, both in 2007 and in 2013 On the Index of Economic Freedom the Netherlands is the 14th most free-market capitalist economy out of 180 surveyed countries.
Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX), part of Euronext, is the world's oldest stock exchange and is one of Europe's largest bourses. It is situated near Dam Square in the city's center. As a founding member of the euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the "gulden" (guilder), on 1 January 1999, along with 15 other adopters of the euro. Actual euro coins and banknotes followed on 1 January 2002. One euro was equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch guilders. In the Caribbean, the Netherlands, the United States dollar is used instead of the euro.
The Dutch location gives it prime access to markets in the UK and Germany, with the Port of Rotterdam being the largest in Europe. Other important parts of the economy are international trade (Dutch colonialism started with cooperative private enterprises such as the Dutch East India Company), banking, and transport. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners. Amsterdam is the 5th-busiest tourist destination in Europe with more than 4.2 million international visitors. Since the enlargement of the EU large numbers of migrant workers have arrived in the Netherlands from Central and Eastern Europe.
The Netherlands continues to be one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment and is one of the five largest investors in the United States. The economy experienced a slowdown in 2005, but in 2006 recovered to the fastest pace in six years on the back of increased exports and strong investment. The pace of job growth reached 10-year highs in 2007. The Netherlands is the fourth-most competitive economy in the world, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.
The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. In the Middle Ages Hieronymus Bosch, Petrus Christus, Lucas Gassel and Pieter Bruegel the Elder were leading Dutch pioneers.
During the Dutch Golden Age, spanning much of the 17th century, the Dutch Republic was prosperous and witnessed a flourishing artistic movement. This was the age of the "Dutch Masters", such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Gerard van Honthorst, Theodoor van Thulden and many others.
Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent Van Gogh and the luminists Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel, and Piet Mondrian. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphic artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist.
Literature flourished as well during the Dutch Golden Age, with Joost van den Vondel and P. C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the poor treatment of the natives in the Dutch colony, current Indonesia. Important 20th century authors include Godfried Bomans, Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Hella S. House, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she was murdered in the Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.
Various architectural styles can be distinguished in the Netherlands. Over the years, various styles have been built and preserved.
Romanesque architecture was built between the years 950 and 1250. This architectural style is most concentrated in the provinces of Gelderland and Limburg. Limburg, in particular, differs greatly in architectural style from the rest of the Netherlands.
Gothic architecture came to the Netherlands in about 1230. Gothic buildings often had large windows, pointed arches and were richly decorated. Brabantine Gothic originated with the rise of the Duchy of Brabant and spread throughout the Burgundian provinces. This architectural style is most concentrated in the province of North Brabant, such as St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, The Church of Our Lady in Breda, and the Margraves Palace in Bergen op Zoom.
What many know as traditional Dutch architecture is the Dutch Baroque architecture (1525 – 1630) and classicism (1630–1700). This style of architecture is especially in evidence in the cities of North Holland, South Holland, and Zeeland.
Other architectural styles that are common in the Netherlands are Style Louis XIV, Art Nouveau, Rationalism, Neoclassicism, Expressionism, De Stijl, Traditionalism, and Brutalism.
The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus, Rudolf Agricola, and Spinoza. Much of Descartes' major work was done in the Netherlands, where he studied at Leiden University — as did geologist James Hutton, British Prime Minister John Stuart, U.S. President John Quincy Adams, Physics Nobel Prize laureate Hendrik Lorentz and Enrico Fermi. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan, argued that light traveled as waves, invented the pendulum clock, and was the first physicist to use mathematical formulae. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope.
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, cheese, Delftware pottery, and cannabis are among the items associated with the Netherlands by tourists.