History of Holland (Netherlands)

Brief history of Holland (Netherlands) summarized

A brief review of the history of the Netherlands, commonly known as Holland, in a summarized way.

Holland in antiquity and in the Middle Ages

Agriculture was introduced to Holland around 4,500 BC At first, farmers made stone tools and weapons. However, after 1900 BC they used bronze. Around the year 750 BC the inhabitants of the Netherlands learned to use iron.

In the 1st century BC the Romans conquered Belgium and the southern Netherlands. They built roads and towns. However, they did not colonize the northern part of Holland. Then, at the end of the 4th century, the Romans withdrew from the Low Countries as their Empire fell apart.

Afterwards, the Low Countries were left to the Germanic, Frankish, Saxon and Frisian peoples. However, in the 8th century AD the Franks conquered the others and became masters of the region. In the meantime, the area converted to Christianity, although a missionary, Saint Boniface, was martyred by the Frisians in 754.

In 768 Charlemagne became ruler of the Franks and created a great empire in Europe. Under him, the Low Countries were divided into cantons, each ruled by a count.

However, when Charlemagne died in 814, his empire was divided into three parts: more or less modern France, Germany, and the region between Holland and the Middle Kingdom. However, in 925 it was absorbed into the German Empire.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, the Low Countries suffered from Viking raids. However, during the Middle Ages, urban life and commerce flourished in Holland. In the 14th century, Dutch cities enjoyed considerable freedom. However, in the 15th century, the dukes of Burgundy gradually took control of the region.


Over time, the Netherlands became the possessions of the powerful Habsburg family. In 1555 Philip II of Spain became the ruler of the region. Meanwhile, the Reformation was sweeping across Holland despite rigorous persecution. Calvinism, the teachings of John Calvin became popular in Dutch cities.

In 1566 Calvinists destroyed religious art in many churches in a movement called the Iconoclastic Fury. In 1567 King Philip sent his servant the Duke of Alva with an army to suppress the Calvinists and impose his will on the Netherlands. Alva created the Council of Blood, which tried and sentenced 12,000 people to death for participating in the riots of 1566.

Then Prince William of Orange, known as William the Silent, became the champion of Dutch freedom. In 1572 Guillermo led the pirates called the Beggars of the Sea against the Spanish. From the sea they sailed down rivers and captured Dutch cities. The Dutch joined the rebellion.

However, the Spanish fought back and a terrible war ensued. In 1579 seven provinces of the Netherlands signed the Union of Utrecht.

In 1581 they declared their independence from Spain. In 1588 they formed the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. However, the Spanish struggled to hold on to the region and in 1584 William the Silent was assassinated. For their part, the English sent help, and Spain was weakened by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Phillip finally died in 1598.

During the 17th century the Netherlands became a prosperous trading nation helped by a 12-year truce with Spain from 1609 to 1621. The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602.

The Dutch West India Company was formed in 1621, and in 1625 the Dutch founded New Amsterdam (modern New York). In 1652 they founded a colony in South Africa. Meanwhile, Dutch sailors made long voyages. In 1606 Willem Jansz discovered Australia and in 1642 Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania.

Meanwhile, the Spanish finally recognized the independence of the Netherlands in 1648. However, the commercial rivalry with England led to three wars in 1652-54, 1665-67 and 1672-74. However, William of Orange, Stadtholder (ruler) of the Netherlands made peace with England and married Princess Mary of England. In 1688 William became King of England.

At the end of the 17th century, science, art, and philosophy flourished in the Netherlands. However, as an economic and political power, the Netherlands declined in the 18th century. The Dutch participated in the War of the Spanish Succession against the French. The long war left the Netherlands exhausted. Britain and France increasingly dominated world trade.

XIX century

At the end of the 18th century, the French Revolution plunged Europe into turmoil. In 1795 the French invaded the Netherlands and founded the Republic of Batavia. In 1806 Napoleon made his brother Louis king of the Netherlands. However, the brothers fell out and Louis was forced to abdicate in 1810. The Low Countries were absorbed into the French Empire.

However, by 1813 Napoleon was facing defeat and in that year William of Orange returned to Holland. In 1814 he was made King William I. In 1815, Belgium and the Netherlands were united as one country under King William I.

However, the two countries were too different to be united. In 1830 the Belgians revolted and in 1839 the great powers forced William I to give Belgium its independence.

William I died in 1840 and in 1848 his son introduced a new liberal constitution. For the rest of the 19th century, the Netherlands was a prosperous and stable country. However, not everyone shared in the prosperity. There was some industrial growth. (A railway from Haarlem to Amsterdam was opened in 1839.) However, conditions in 19th century factories in the Netherlands were dire.

Twentieth century

During World War I, the Netherlands remained neutral, but the German Kaiser fled to the Netherlands in 1918 and was granted asylum there. During the 1930s, as in the rest of the world, the Netherlands suffered from the Depression and there was massive unemployment. However, despite the depression, the standard of living increased during the 1920s and 1930s.

When World War II began, the Dutch remained neutral, but on May 10 the Germans invaded the country. On May 14, the Germans bombed Rotterdam. The Netherlands were forced to surrender.

However, Queen Wilhelmina escaped. During World War II the Netherlands suffered terribly. Thousands of Dutch were deported to work in Germany and 23,000 people who resisted the Germans were shot.

The worst suffering was during the winter of famine in 1944-45, when the Germans plundered the Netherlands for food, reducing the people to near starvation. In addition, the Nazis murdered a large number of Jews. In 1940 some 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands, but fewer than 25,000 survived.

The Germans let the Netherlands recover from the war and a new welfare state was created. In 1949 the Dutch colony of Indonesia became independent. Suriname followed in 1975. Meanwhile, the Netherlands became a founding member of the EU in 1957. In 1999, the Netherlands joined the euro.

XXI century

Like the rest of the world, the Netherlands suffered in the 2009 recession but soon recovered. Today the Netherlands is a prosperous country. Flower farming remains a major industry. Today the population of the Netherlands is 17 million.

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