The Netherlands derives its name from 'the United Provinces of the Netherlands', which were established in the 16th Century. Over the centuries, the economic heartland has been in the provinces of North and South Holland for this reason 'Holland' is often used as a synonym for 'Netherlands'. The word 'Dutch', which is related to the German word 'Deutsch', comes from the old word 'diet' which means 'people' or 'nation'.
The Netherlands always has been subject to foreign rulers: Romans, Franks, Burgundians and Spanish. In the 16th Century, William of Orange led the United Provinces in a revolt against their Spanish rulers. After the so-called '80 Year War', the country became independent in 1648. In the 17th Century the Netherlands was the leading maritime nation in the world. This 'Golden Century', as it is known in Dutch history, was a period not only of great prosperity, but also of great artistic and intellectual achievement, especially in the areas of painting, philosophy, architecture and natural sciences. With the power of France and England growing, the Netherlands experienced a period of stagnation in the 18th Century, at the end of which France's Napoleon Bonaparte took over the rule of the United Provinces. After Napoleon was defeated, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established and the House of Orange was instated to the monarchy.
Through out the 19th Century, the industrial revolution led to a rapidly expanding economy, which continued into the 20th Century. Originally the leading sectors were trade and shipping, agricultural industry, coal and chemicals later, the electronics industry was added to this. After World Wars I and II, economic development became more several and quick. In addition to the sectors mentioned, activities in areas of construction, oil refineries and metal processing grew strongly.
Situated in North West Europe, in the delta of the rivers Rhine, Maas and Schelde, the Netherlands consists mainly of coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders). About a quarter of the total land area is below sea level (at its lowest point -6 meters),well protected from the North Sea and the rivers by dunes and dikes. In the east, the country is bordered by Germany and in the south by Belgium. The distance from north to south is approximately 300 kilometres; from east to west around 180 kilometres.
Natural resources include oil and gas. The Netherlands is the largest producer of natural gas in Western Europe. Apart from this, the fertile soil is the reason why almost every inch of the country can be used for highly productive agriculture.
The Political System
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. In 1980 HM Queen Beatrix took over from her mother, HM Queen Juliana. The Monarch also chairs theCouncil of State, which advises the Government and offers its opinion on all draft Bills.
Although Amsterdam is the Capital, the seat of the Government is The Hague (Den Haag or 's-Gravenhage)....