Explore the fascinating history of Holland
Though the area now known as the Netherlands has been inhabited for thousands of years, it was not until the arrival of the Romans that villages and events were first chronicled. By the time the region came under the control of Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and king of Spain, it was part of the Seventeen Province district known collectively as the Netherlands. This initially included much of Belgium, Luxembourg, and some of France and Germany. In 1579, the northern half of these provinces declared themselves independent and formed the Union of Utrecht. However Philip II fought the separation and it was only in 1648 that the Spanish recognized Dutch independence.
After finally gaining independence, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands became a major seafaring and economic power. This era is termed the Dutch Golden Age and it lead to the establishment of trading posts and colonies all over the world. Because of this boom in the economy in the 17th century, the Netherlands is credited with a few economic firsts. It is considered to be the first true capitalist country in the world and it had the first full-time stock exchange. It was the wealthiest trading city at the time and was the first to implement insurance and retirement funds. The Netherlands was also the first to see an asset-inflation bubble commonly known as tulipomania.
The Netherlands were again forcibly annexed under Napoleon during the First French Empire but after gaining freedom from this rule the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed. This included the present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Belguim later rebelled and gained independence while ties with Luxembourg were severed due to ascendancy laws, which left the Netherlands as an independent country.
The Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and Suriname (later traded for New York) were both under the possession of the Netherlands at one stage. Administration was done by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company which were private enterprises. When these companies began to struggle financially, their territories were taken by the government which made them into official colonies.
The Netherlands was slow to follow the rest of the industrialized world in the 19th century. They remained neutral in World War I but saw many unjust murders of Jews and Gypsies in World War II. Slowly, the Dutch economy started to prosper again. They became members of Benelux, the European Economic Community and NATO. They were also one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community which later became the European Union.