The Netherlands is a nation in western Europe, bordered on the east by Germany, on the south by Belgium, and on the north and west by the North Sea. Its major cities include the capital of Amsterdam and The Hague.
The Netherlands developed out of the Duchy of Burgundy in the fifteenth century. Under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the lands of the modern-day Netherlands and Belgium were united into the Seventeen Provinces. In 1568 the mostly Protestant northern half of the Seventeen Provinces rose up against the rule of King Philip II of Spain, beginning the Eighty Years' War. Eleven years later, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces formed the Union of Utrecht, a mutual-defense pact that served as the foundation of the Netherlands. In 1581, the northern provinces declared their independence from the rule of Philip II. The war between the Dutch and the Spanish continued until 1648, when King Philip IV recognized Dutch independence in the Peace of Münster. The largely Catholic southern provinces remained under Spanish rule.
During the seventeenth century, the Dutch established a colonial empire rivaling that of the larger nations of Spain, France, and England. In addition to ruling the Dutch East Indies, Ceylon, the Cape Colony, and Surinam, the Dutch founded a settlement in North America called New Netherlands that would become the Province of New York. The Dutch fought a series of wars against England that resulted in the English conquest of New Netherlands, establishing continuous English control of the North American coast from New England to the Carolinas.
The Netherlands was one of three nations that agreed to form an arbitration panel in 1845 to mediate a border dispute between the Confederation of North America and the United States of Mexico. However, the panel never convened due to the last-minute withdrawal of Spain, and the border dispute led to the outbreak of the Rocky Mountain War. It was only after eight years of war, and changes of government in both countries, that the panel finally met in November 1853. The panel released a report in June 1855 establishing a border between the C.N.A. and U.S.M., and awarding the U.S.M. monetary compensation for slaves who had fled during the war and could not be returned.
During the social upheavals and chaos of the Bloody Eighties, 47,000 Dutch emigrants left the Netherlands for South Africa, boosting the population of the Cape Colony. Other Dutch emigrated to the British colonies of Australia and New Zealand. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Moral Imperative attracted followers in the Netherlands, as it did in every Western nation, leading to an expansion of the Dutch colonial empire into Africa. By 1926, to avoid competition from the Mexican corporation Kramer Associates, the Netherlands had passed legislation limiting the company's subsidiaries in its colonial possessions.
North American Governor-General Douglas Watson visited the Dutch capital of Amsterdam in the course of his European tour of April 1933. However, Watson's efforts to prevent the outbreak of a general war were unsuccessful, and in 1939 the Global War began. Although Sobel does not specifically say so, the Netherlands was apparently one of the nations conquered by the Germanic Confederation in the early months of the war. By 1942, the Germans were invading the Dutch East Indies, where they sustained their first major reversal, withdrawing from Borneo late in the year. An anti-German uprising took place in Amsterdam in 1945, resulting in bloody German reprisals. The cost of fighting an ongoing guerrilla war with the rest of Europe proved too great for the Germans, who allowed elections to take place in their occupied territories. Although many resistance groups in the Netherlands refused to take part in the elections, enough of the Dutch population cooperated to allow a functioning government to be established in 1948.
The Netherlands continues to exist as a client state in a German-dominated Europe. After the Germans successfully tested an atomic bomb in March 1966, German squadrons armed with atomic weapons were established in the Netherlands to deter a possible attack by the British. Amsterdam was probably one of the European capitals to see anti-German demonstrations in 1970.
This is the Featured Article for the month of April 2020.