Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe.

Despite government-encouraged emigration after World War II, which prompted some 500,000 persons to leave the country, the Netherlands is today one of the world's most densely populated countries. Although the population as a whole is "graying" rapidly, with a high percentage over age 65, Amsterdam has remained one of the liveliest centres of international youth culture. There, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, the Dutch tradition of social tolerance is readily encountered. Prostitution, "soft-drug" (marijuana and hashish) use, and euthanasia are all legal but carefully regulated in the Netherlands, which was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.


The History of the Netherlands is the history of seafaring people thriving on a lowland river delta on the North Sea in northwestern Europe. Records begin with the four centuries during which the region formed a militarized border zone of the Roman Empire. This came under increasing pressure from Germanic peoples moving westwards. As Roman power collapsed and the Middle Ages began, three dominant Germanic peoples coalesced in the area, Frisians in the north and coastal areas, Low Saxons in the northeast, and the Franks in the south.

Middle ages

During the Middle Ages, the descendants of the Carolingian dynasty came to dominate the area and then extended their rule to a large part of Western Europe. The region of the Netherlands therefore became part of Lower Lotharingia within the Frankish Holy Roman Empire. For several centuries, lordships such as Brabant, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Guelders and others held a changing patchwork of territories. There was no unified equivalent of the modern Netherlands.

By 1433, the Duke of Burgundy had assumed control over most of the lowlands territories in Lower Lotharingia; he created the Burgundian Netherlands which included modern Belgium, Luxembourg, and a part of France. The Catholic kings of Spain took strong measures against Protestantism, which polarized the peoples of present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The subsequent Dutch revolt led to splitting the Burgundian Netherlands into a Catholic French and Dutch-speaking "Spanish Netherlands" (approximately corresponding to modern Belgium and Luxembourg), and a northern "United Provinces", which spoke Dutch and were predominantly Protestant with a Catholic minority. It became the modern Netherlands. In the Dutch Golden Age, which had its zenith around 1667, there was a flowering of trade, industry, the arts and the sciences. A rich worldwide Dutch empire developed and the Dutch East India Company became one of the earliest and most important of national mercantile companies based on entrepreneurship and trade.

Eighteenth Century

During the eighteenth century, the power, wealth and influence of the Netherlands declined. A series of wars with the more powerful British and French neighbours weakened it. The UK seized the North American colony of New Amsterdam, and renamed it "New York". There was growing unrest and conflict between the Orangists and the Patriots. The French Revolution spilled over after 1789, and a pro-French Batavian Republic was established in 1795-1806. Napoleon made it a satellite state, the Kingdom of Holland (1806-1810), and later simply a French imperial province. After the collapse of Napoleon in 1813-15, an expanded "United Kingdom of the Netherlands" was created with the House of Orange as monarchs, also ruling Belgium and Luxembourg. The King imposed unpopular Protestant reforms on Belgium, which revolted in 1830 and became independent in 1839.

After an initially conservative period, following the introduction of the 1848 constitution; the country became a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Modern -day Luxembourg became officially independent from the Netherlands in 1839, but a personal union remained until 1890. Since 1890, it is ruled by another branch of the House of Nassau. The Netherlands was neutral during the First World War, but during the Second World War, it was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany.

World War Two

The Nazis, including many collaborators, rounded up and killed almost all of the country's Jewish population. When the Dutch resistance increased, the Nazis cut off food supplies to much of the country, causing severe starvation in 1944-45. In 1942, the Dutch East Indies were conquered by Japan, but prior to this; the Dutch destroyed the oil wells for which Japan was desperate. Indonesia proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands in 1945, followed by Suriname in 1975.

Post-World War Two

The post-war years saw rapid economic recovery (helped by the American Marshall Plan), followed by the introduction of a welfare state during an era of peace and prosperity. The Netherlands formed a new economic alliance with Belgium and Luxembourg, the Benelux, and all three became founding members of the European Union and NATO. In recent decades, the Dutch economy has been closely linked to that of Germany, and is highly prosperous. The four countries adopted the Euro on 1 January 2002, along with eight other EU member states.


Starbucks paid €25.7 million to the Netherlands in 2015, and an investigation into Ikea is underway.



Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts





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But Fieldlab has come under fire as events have grown bigger and COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands surged. A music festival for 10,000 people on 24 April was banned by the host city, Breda, after more than 300,000 people signed a petition opposing it. And last week, more than 350 researchers criticized the studies in a letter that complained of a lack of peer review, an intransparent setup, and ethical failings. "Basic conditions and standards for scientific research do not appear to have been met," the authors wrote. "A festival with 10,000 visitors ... is not risk free, even with entrance testing," says Caspar van Lissa, a methodologist at Utrecht University, who wrote the open letter. "If it were, there would be no need to do the study." Fieldlab's goal is "to determine what's an acceptable risk for visitors, event organizers, and administrators," says Bas Kolen, a security researcher at the Delft University of Technology involved in the study. The first two events--a theater show and a business conference, each with 500 attendees--took place in February. The researchers found that, with the virus prevalence at that time, pre-event testing and additional measures such as ventilation could keep attendees' risk at about one infection per 100,000 people per hour--the same risk they would run by staying home. Bigger events followed, including a soccer match between the Dutch and Latvian national teams with 5000 fans. The studies didn't need approval from a medical ethics committee because they didn't meet the legal definition of medical research, a panel at Radboud University Medical Center ruled. But the authors of the open letter say Fieldlab should have followed ethical guidelines for research in the social and behavioral sciences, which stipulate that participants give their informed consent and researchers assess the potential drawbacks for individuals and society. "Not a single behavioral scientist is involved. If they were, this would have never happened," says psychologist Denny Borsboom of the University of Amsterdam. Andreas Voss, an infectious disease specialist at Radboud University who leads the project, notes that the social science guidelines are not mandatory and that tickets came with conditions saying Fieldlab could not be held liable for infections. The critics also question Fieldlab's statement that the events are, on the whole, safe. Participants are requested to take a second COVID-19 test 5 days after the event, and at least 25 people have tested positive, although for most of them it's hard to determine whether they were infected at the event. Fieldlab's main gauge of risk isn't the number of infections detected, however, but the number predicted by a model that incorporates data on ventilation and people's behavior, including mask wearing and how many superficial or close, extended contacts they have at the event, measured using trackers and video analyses. Kolen, whose team specializes in calculating the risk of floods, concedes the model has many assumptions and limitations. It assumes testing before each event will identify 95% of infectious individuals, for example, and it does not take into account the possibility that an infectious person happens to be a social butterfly, or sheds very large amounts of virus. "Those are characteristics we would like to explore in a later stage," Kolen says. "It's what everyone does who is modeling infectious diseases," Voss adds. But to Van Lissa, "These are exactly the factors that you should empirically investigate to know how safe an event is." In response to the criticism, the Fieldlab team has published most of its protocols and a description of the risk model. Kolen says he supports "a healthy debate about its value." Some scientists see value in the project. 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