Antiquity to the Middle Ages
At the beginning of the Christian era, the area of today’s Netherlands, as well as neighboring Belgium and Luxembourg, was conquered by the Romans, who had subjugated the Batavian and Friesian tribes.
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From the 4th century AD the Merovingian dynasty ruled, under which the Christianization of the country began. Under Frisian Charlemagne (768-814) the Frisians were finally subjugated. In the 9th century the area fell to the East Franconian Empire, the forerunner of the German Empire (Holy Roman Empire) through the treaties of Meerssen (870) and Ribemont (880). Numerous wealthy counties (Holland, Seeland, Namur, Geldern), duchies (Brabant, Limburg) and clergy (Li¨¨ge, Utrecht, Cambrai) developed under the rule of the German emperors. The term “terra inferior”, Netherlands, has existed for these areas since around the 11th century. After almost a century under the rule of Burgundy (until 1477), the area came to the Imperial House of the Habsburgs.
According to AbbreviationFinder, Calvinism spread in the Netherlands in the 16th century. In 1556 the Habsburg Empire was divided, Emperor Charles V transferred the areas of the Netherlands to his son Philipp from the Spanish line of the ruling family. The Catholic regent Philip II tried with all his might to push back the Protestant faith, but the nobility and the wealthy cities rebelled against it (iconoclastic uprising). In 1567 the uprising was suppressed by the loyal army under the Duke of Alba. In 1572 Prince William of Orange was chosen as the leader of the insurgents, whose goal was a Greater Netherlands empire, including the more Catholic southern regions from which Belgium and Luxembourg emerged in the 19th century. After the formation of the so-called “Utrecht Union” In July 1581, the northern, Protestant provinces (general states) of Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Geldern, Groningen, Overijssel and Friesland declared themselves “Republic of the Netherlands” and renounced Spain and Habsburg. The southern provinces merged to form the loyal Union of Arras and Utrecht.
In 1648, in the Peace of Westphalia (Peace of M¨¹nster), the United Netherlands was recognized as independent by Spain and was finally no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire. The seven northern provinces or general states formed a confederation of states with a parliament made up of the respective representatives. The executive lay with the so-called general or provincial governor, who also held command of the armed forces. The political leadership lay with the chair of the representatives, the so-called regent.
By the end of the 16th century, Dutch seafarers had established branches on the coast of South America (Guyana) and Indonesia. In 1626, New Amsterdam (today’s New York) was founded on the coast of the North American continent. In 1652 bases were added on the southern tip of the African continent. Here the Dutch Cape Colony with the immigrated farmers (Dutch: Boers) developed. In the course of the 17th century, the Netherlands became the leading trading and naval power in Europe, which inevitably brought the country into conflict with England. Three Dutch-English naval wars between 1652 and 1674 led to the Netherlands losing their possessions in North America to England. A marriage between Wilhelm III. of Orange and the English Princess Maria Stuart finally settled the conflict.
In the 18th century, the Netherlands tried to prevent the pre-dominance sought by France and Prussia. After the conquest by Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops, the Netherlands was first named the “Batavian Republic” (1795), then the “Kingdom of Holland”. Napoleon’s brother Louis became the first regent.
At the Vienna Congress in 1815 (after Napoleon’s devastating defeat in the Battle of Waterloo), the establishment of a Dutch kingdom with the involvement of the southern provinces (today’s Belgium and Luxembourg) was decided. The general governor Wilhelm V became king of the new empire as Wilhelm I, which only existed until 1830. After increasing conflicts between the Protestant north and the catholic south, the Belgian provinces declared their independence (“Brussels uprising”). Much of the area that would later become Luxembourg (1890) was allocated to Belgium. The Netherlands subsequently tried to maintain strict neutrality in European conflicts.
Domestically, there was a conflict between supporters of the monarchy and liberal forces. At the end of 1848, Johan Thorbecke, commissioned by the new Dutch regent Wilhelm II., Drafted a constitution for a parliamentary monarchy, which still forms the basis of the state. The constitution led to great domestic political stability. A moderate Social Democratic party emerged at the end of the 19th century. General and equal voting rights were introduced in 1917.
At about the same time, uprisings in “Dutch India” (Indonesia) led to a turn in Dutch colonial policy towards more political self-government and personal responsibility in the occupied countries.
Unlike in the First World War, when the Netherlands was able to maintain neutrality, the country was occupied by German troops in the Second World War. The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and the government went into exile in London, from where they returned in March 1945 after Allied forces liberated the country. Under the German occupation, the country was economically exploited, and politically dissenting and Jewish citizens were murdered and deported.
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In 1945 the Netherlands, along with 49 other countries, was a founding member of the UN, and the city of The Hague became the seat of the International Court of Justice. (Large peace congresses had already taken place here in 1899 and 1907, at which the Hague Land Warfare Order was passed.) The Netherlands gave up its strict neutrality and in 1949 was one of the founding members of NATO (Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization). The country formed a customs union with Belgium and Luxembourg (1948), which was expanded into an economic union after 10 years. The Netherlands co-founded the European Economic Community in 1958 and supported the development of the European association in the following decades. In foreign policy, with the exception of the Caribbean island of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, all colonies were released until 1975.
Since the 1970s, the party spectrum has been increasingly fragmented, which has often resulted in unstable majority governments. In addition to the Social Democrats (PvDA) and the Christian Democrats (CDA), the right-wing liberal People’s Party (VVD) plays a role. Social and Christian Democrats took turns in leading the governments of the next 20 years. Under the leadership of the social democrat Wim Kok (Prime Minister from 1994), who led a social-liberal coalition, the government debt of the wealthy country was to be reduced. However, the Kok government resigned in April 2002 as a result of an investigation report blaming it for the failure of Dutch UN blue helmets in the 1995 massacre in Srebenica, Bosnia. In the parliamentary elections in the following month, under the impression of the murder of right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn, which took place only a few days before the elections, there was a clear shift to the right: the Christian Democrats became the strongest party, the right-wing populist party of the murdered took second place, List Pim Fortuyn (LPF). In July 2002 the new center-right government consisting of Christian Democrats, List Pim Fortuyn and right-wing liberals under Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was sworn in. Early parliamentary elections were held in January 2003 after the government resigned. The CDA emerged here as the strongest party, which also represented the Prime Minister Balkenende. In November 2004, the Islam-critical filmmaker Theo van Gogh was also murdered, the subsequent attacks on mosques, but also on churches, among other things, sparked heated discussions on immigration laws.
In a referendum in 2005, the population spoke out against the EU constitutional treaty. In the early 2006 elections, populist parties saw large gains from the right and left sides of the political spectrum, but the CDA remained the strongest party. Prime Minister Balkenende’s governments implemented far-reaching savings and reforms to ensure the stabilization of social systems. Due to the dramatic effects of the global financial and economic crisis, the government took additional measures in the 2009 budget.
Since the government coalition from CDA, PvdA and CU was unable to reach agreement on the question of extending the Afghanistan mission until mid-2011, the coalition broke up in February 2010. In the new elections in June 2010, the right-wing liberal VVD under the leadership of Mark Rutte became the strongest party, also in the early parliamentary elections in September 2012.