A 15th Century church tower featuring the crown of Kaiser Karel at the top.

      

     

    


      Dutch

Rembrant van Rijn is perhaps Holland's most famous Enlightenment-era painter.

 

        

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who hid in an Amsterdam apartment before the Nazis eventually found and killed her. That area of Amsterdam is now a tourist attraction / memorial. The Dutch government has made it illegal to openly advertise that a cafe sells marijuana. However, it's usually not too hard to tell. The Dutch government has made it illegal to openly advertise that a cafe sells marijuana. However, it's usually not too hard to tell. The Dutch government has made it illegal to openly advertise that a cafe sells marijuana. However, it's usually not too hard to tell. The Dutch government has made it illegal to openly advertise that a cafe sells marijuana. However, it's usually not too hard to tell. The Dutch government has made it illegal to openly advertise that a cafe sells marijuana. However, it's usually not too hard to tell.

 

 

  The "Provos" were a gang of left-wing hippy protestor type people in the 60's. They were an important symbol for modern Dutch progressives. A massive Allied war cemetary in Arnhem. A massive Allied war cemetary in Arnhem. I've never visited Holland when tulips were in season, so unfortunately you'll have to make do with this postcard. I've never visited Holland when tulips were in season, so unfortunately you'll have to make do with this postcard. I've never visited Holland when tulips were in season, so unfortunately you'll have to make do with this postcard.

 

Like most European countries, Holland has a long and sordid history. Unlike many European countries, however, Dutch history is also fairly clear-cut and continuous. While trying to understand the history of a country like Germany can be a colossal headache, as the modern nation of "Germany" is such a recent creation, Dutch history is much easier to follow as there has been a clearly defined "Dutch" country for quite some time.

EARLY HISTORY
During feudal times the territory that would become "Holland" was just a collection of independent, self-governing provinces. In the 15th Century Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (or "Kaiser Karel"as he is known in Dutch) conquered the provinces and then gave them to his son, the King of Spain. The Dutch provinces thus became part of the Spanish Empire, and it is around this time that Dutch history often "begins" in contemporary retellings.

FOUNDING OF THE NATION

The Dutch didn't like being ruled by Spain for a variety of reasons, a notable one being the fact that they were Protestant, and the Spanish government was on an anti-Protestant Catholic jihad known as the "Inquisition" at the time. In the late 16th Century there was a lengthy Dutch uprising against the Spanish, and this revolutionary period is today glamorized as Holland's war of national liberation.

The 80-year War of Independence was led by the charismatic Prince William of Orange, who today is highly respected as a sort of Dutch George Washington. So popular is he, in fact, that the Dutch national anthem is basically just an ode to his brilliance. During the initial phase of the war the Prince governed the independent, rebel-controlled territories and served as Commander-in-Chief of the rebellion forces. Even after his assassination the war continued, and it officially did not end until 1648, when the Spanish agreed to acknowledge Dutch sovereignty as part of the Treaty of Westphalia (though of course the Dutch themselves point to a much earlier date as when their "independence" occurred).

THE CONFUSING REPUBLICAN PHASE
I personally find Dutch 17th and 18th Century history to be an extremely confusing period. It was marked by a lot of political instability and intrigue, which makes it quite hard to follow.

When Holland became independent from Spain it took the unusual measure of adopting a republican system of government, largely to appease the provinces, who wanted to maintain strong self-rule. The Dutch Republic ended up being governed by a very chaotic federal system, in which a clearly-defined Head of State was often nonexistent, and instead featured heavy squabbling among provincial rulers who all tried to exert authority over each other.

Each province had a ruler called the "Staadholder" who was appointed by an elite provincial council. The Staadholder of the wealthy and large Province of Holland was usually the most influential. All of these men were aristocratic descendants of William of Orange, who had held the office himself during the revolutionary days. In the republic's later years the strongest Staadholders would often rule several provinces at a time, and thus acted as defacto monarchs over most of the entire country.

Oddly enough, it was during this chaotic phase of government that Holland did most of its imperial adventures around the world. Because the Dutch Republic had such a disorderly central government, Dutch colonialism was conducted almost entirely by two large corporations, the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company. The two corporations were nominally subservient to the republic, but they were rich enough to build their own armies and thus generally did whatever they pleased.

The Dutch created settlements and financial presences in many corners of the world, but compared to France, England, and Spain they never established that many permanent colonies. Their biggest colonial possession was Indonesia (aka "the Dutch East Indies") followed by a couple of smaller territories including Suriname in South America ("Dutch Guyana") and Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean. New York was originally founded by the Dutch as well (as "New Amsterdam") but they stupidly traded it to the British for Suriname in 1664.

CREATION OF MODERN HOLLAND
Modern Holland, in the political/geographic sense we know of it today, only really came into existence in the mid-19th Century. The Dutch Republic had been an eager participant in the many inter-European wars of the 18th Century, and at various times fought with France and England over a myriad of matters too complex and boring to discuss here. All the wars left the Republic weak, however, and the ongoing domestic political turmoil did not help this.

In 1806 Napoleon conquered the Netherlands and abolished the Dutch Republic, installing his brother as "King of Holland," in typical Napoleon style. Despite being imposed by foreigners, the united monarchy Napoleon established ended up providing good governance to the fractious country. When the French occupation ended, the monarchy was kept, and in 1815 another one of the Orange princes, Prince William VI, was installed as the first Dutch King of Holland. He took the name William I. Holland quickly thereafter evolved into a democratic, constitutional monarchy, which it remains today.

In the mid-19th Century tensions began to brew in the Catholic, French-speaking, southern part of the Netherlands. In 1830 a bunch of the southern provinces separated, and formed Belgium. In 1869 another tiny piece of Holland left and formed the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

20TH CENTURY TURMOIL
Holland stayed completely out of World War I by claiming to be "neutral." The Dutch government tried the same routine in World War II, but it didn't work, and Hitler conquered the country. Holland's World War II history is controversial, as many Dutch people at the time went along with the German occupation, and were in some cases active collaborators. However the exiled Dutch government itself remained firmly allied with the Allied Powers, and the country was eventually liberated by British, American, and yes, even Canadian forces in 1945.

The rest of the 20th Century saw Holland enter a phase of liberal reform, especially in terms of civil and minority rights. In an ironic contrast, at the same time the Dutch stubbornly tried to cling to their colonies abroad. Indonesia was granted independence in 1950, but only after a long and bitter colonial war. Suriname only got independence in 1975, and Aruba and the Antilles are still not technically independent, though they now operate as self-governing territories under the Dutch crown.

     


This grand painting depicts  a bunch of Dutch guardsmen celebrating Holland's liberation from the Spanish. "Gilles De Geus" is a popular Dutch comic book series that chronicles the early history of Holland. William of Orange is one of the main characters. One of the more ambitious Dutch staadholders married the heir to the British throne and became King of England. The flags of Holland's past and present colonies. See any Dutch influences?