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Netherlands rel87.jpg
Netherlands location.PNG
Capital Amsterdam
Government Constitutional monarchy
Language Dutch (official)
Monarch King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands
Prime minister Dick Schoof
Area 41,526 km² (18,41% water)
Population 17,150,000 (2020)
GDP $900,000,000,000 (2020)
GDP per capita $52,478 (2020)
Currency Euro (€) (EUR)
International dialing code 31
Internet top-level domain .nl
For the impact on left-wing policies on the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, see European migrant crisis

The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland), also known informally as Holland or The Low Countries, is a country in northwestern Europe. It is the primary component of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also includes the Caribbean countries of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. It is bordered by Belgium to the south and Germany to the east, while facing the North Sea to the north and west. Amsterdam is the official capital, while The Hague is the actual seat of government.

The Netherlands is famous for being a small, low-lying, and densely populated country. Its total area is 16,160 square miles: only 12,900 (82%) of that land, the rest water, and its total population in 2020 was 17.3 million. With aquatic areas excluded, the country has a population density of 1,341/mi², the fifth-highest in the world and the second-highest in the European Union, of which it is a leading member. The land area of the Netherlands would be much smaller if not for a complex process of land reclamation that dates back to the Middle Ages; more than a fourth of the land today is in fact below sea level, protected by a complex of dikes and drainage systems. The very name "Netherlands" almost directly translates as "Low Countries," in reference to its elevation.

Since 1848, the country has been a constitutional monarchy with a unitary system of government. Of its twelve provinces, the most important historically are North-Holland and South-Holland, which contain the cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Because of their disproportionate influence, the country is often referred to as "Holland". The official language is Dutch and the people are referred to in English as Dutchmen or collectively as the Dutch.

The major ethnic groups in the Netherlands are Dutch 79%, Turks 2%, Surinamese 2%, Moroccans 2%.

The Netherlands has long been notorious for its left-leaning social policies, having in the recent past legalized prostitution, euthanasia, gay "marriage", and the recreational use of many harmful drugs. Although a traditional adherence to pro-free-market policies has given the country one of the world's highest per-capita incomes, this has been endangered by a leftward drift in economic matters as well, as the ongoing persecution of Dutch farmers demonstrates. In certain respects, the country should be thought of as a technocracy rather than a parliamentary democracy.


See History of the Netherlands

Dike system

The term "Netherlands" means "low country": about a quarter of the land area, containing more than half of the population, is actually below sea level, and would flood if the sea were not held back by a system of dikes. The Dutch have a saying that "God created the earth, but the Dutch made Holland".

A major breach of the dikes occurred in 1953, killing 1800 people. To avoid a repeat of the disaster the Dutch began construction of the "Delta Project" to protect the country from future inundations. Begun in 1953 and completed in 2002 the Delta Project is considered a modern wonder of civil engineering. After Hurricane Katrina, a delegation of American engineers was invited by the Dutch government to see how the project works and how its technology can be applied in the United States for low-lying cities like New Orleans. Intentional flooding of the countryside has also been used to halt invading armies, dating back to the 80 years war.

Major cities

Amsterdam, named for the Amstel river, is the largest city, and the capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is ringed by an extensive system of concentric canals. The seat of government, however, is located for historical reasons in The Hague (Den Haag).

Eindhoven, a city of the southern province of Brabant, is the location of the giant electronics corporation, Philips (full name: Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.), with annual revenue equivalent to about $40 billion. (The U.S. corporation General Electric has revenues of about $150 billion, but much of it is from non-electronics businesses). The Eindhoven area is known for its high concentration of high-tech industires, which include ASML, the world primary producer of lithography system for the production of semiconductors, and Océ, a leading producer of printers and copiers.

Groningen is home to many branches of KPN, the former state company of Post, Telegraphy and Telephony. It had its headquarters in Groningen when it was still state run, and move to The Hague since. KPN stands for Koninklijke PTT Nederland, or Royal PTT Netherlands. Groningen is also home to Gasunie (Gasunion), a public-private partnership that exploits the natural gas reseves in the province of Groningen and the adjoint North Sea.

Johan Barthold Jongkind, A Windmill near Delft, 1857.

Delft is a small town in South Holland, situated between Rotterdam and The Hague. It is noted for the blue-and-white Delft pottery, and as the home of the great artist Jan Vermeer.

Arnhem is a city in Gelderland, lying on the north bank of the Lower Rhine river. It was the scene of a major battle during Operation Market Garden in September 1944, when British and allied paratroop forces captured its strategic road bridge before being overwhelmed by German forces in the area.

Leeuwarden (Frisian: Ljouwert) is the capital of the northern province of Friesland; it was also the home town of the spy Mata Hari and the artist M.C. Escher. It has a population of 92,000.

Utrecht is a city of the central province of Utrecht. It is the seat of a bishopric and is a major communications hub and rail center. With a population of 290,000, it is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. The city is best known as the site of lengthy peace negotiations to end the Wars of Spanish Succession in the 18th century. The resulting peace, called the Treaty of Utrecht, was signed in April 1713.

Hoek van Holland ("Hook of Holland", literally 'corner of Holland') is a port in South Holland, and is administratively part of the city of Rotterdam. It lies at the outflow of the Nieuwe Waterweg canal and the North Sea, and is the base for ferry services to Harwich in eastern England.


The Dutch economy is almost $1 trillion, which is expected to be reached in less than 5 years. It is the 17th largest in the world. It was 10th in 1985, ahead of China at that time. The Netherlands is a major center of trade among European countries.

  • GDP: $900 billion (2020)
  • GDP per capita: $52,478 (2020)
  • Natural resources: Land, farms, forests, oil.

On July 6, 2022 Dutch police fired on Dutch farmers protesting environmental regulations attempting to shut down family farms.[1]


South Holland contains the cities of The Hague and Rotterdam.

Flevoland is the youngest of the twelve provinces, having the least population (ca. 360,000). It was created in 1986 on two polders: just 80 years ago, there was no dry land but the Zuiderzee. Its capital is Lelystad.

Friesland is a coastal province in the north, home to the Frisian language and people.

Gelderland borders Germany to the east, and extends north to the Ijsselmeer. Gelderland includes the major cities of Nijmegen and Arnhem, as well as the extensive heathland known as the Veluwe, now a national park.

North Brabant is often referred to as Brabant, as there is no south Brabant in the Netherlands. The southern part of the former duchy of Brabant (including the important cities of Antwerp and Leuven) now belongs to Belgium. While Eindhoven is the biggest city in North Brabant, its capital is 's-Hertogenbosch.


The Netherlands is the home of the Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell . Other well known Dutch or partly Dutch multinationals are Unilever, a company owning many household brands, ING Group, a banking group, Ahold, an international chain of supermarkets, Reed Elsevier, a publishing house, Nielsen Company, owner of the Yellow Pages, and Randstad Holding, a company providing human resource services. The famous Dutch East India Company, which dominated trade in with South-East Asia in the 17th century, is regarded as the first multinational in history. The Netherlands has long been famous for its production of flowers, and also for a related economic event, the "tulip mania" of 1636-1637. Tulips were traded on stock exchanges, and bid up to fantastic prices by people who understood that the prices were crazy but hoped to sell at a profit to even crazier investors. Many people mortgaged their homes for a single tulip bulb and in one case an entire brewery was exchanged for a few bulbs. As with all economic bubbles, when bidding began to lag people tried to sell and the bubble burst with disastrous consequences. Since then the Dutch have been renowned for their carefulness with money and have established a significant presence in the banking and financial sectors.

King's Day

April 27 is King's Day - the national holiday to mark the official birthday of the monarch. King's Day is the one day of the year when ordinary Netherlanders are permitted to sell goods on the streets without a license. Consequently, the whole country is turned into a gigantic flea market (garage sale). The primary effect of this is that people buy goods they do not want or need, solely in order to sell them the following year. In an act of patriotism, most of the populace wear orange colored clothing (the national color) to identify with the Royal House Of Orange-Nassau.

Those not involved with selling their surplus belongings celebrate the national holiday at outdoors parties in the cities or with fine weather, spend the free day on a terrace of a pub, or cycle in the national Fietsen op Dijken tour around the nation's dikes.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a famous Jewish girl who hid from Nazis in the house of friends in Amsterdam. She wrote a diary which was later published and became a best seller. Her family left Germany in 1933 because of the Nazis, but the Nazis caught up with her and sent her to Belsen death camp where she died before end of war in 1945. Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam is now a popular tourist attraction.


Painting of a windmill in Holland

Same-sex marriage has been recognized by the Dutch government since 2001.[2] Furthermore, legal prostitution, euthanasia, abortion and its drug policy (see above) make The Netherlands the most liberal country in the world by most standards. Christianity was once the dominant factor in Dutch society and politics, but since the 1970s plays a secondary role in society, with only 15% of the population being Protestant (2015) and just under 24% are Roman Catholics. There is a rising Muslim population (5%) which has caused social strains. An overall decline in religion can be seen as of 2004. These days The Netherlands are considered one of the least churchgoing countries in Europe. However the Dutch does have its own bible belt which is still very conservative.

Drug policies

The Netherlands is noted for its low-crime rate (although comparable to other western European nations) and libertarian legislation. Examples are licensed prostitution in designated areas of major cities, such as Amsterdam's Red Light District, the legal soft drugs sold in the country's many coffee shops, abortion rights, same-sex marriages and euthanasia.

Consuming and carrying (for personal use only) the "soft drugs" (marijuana, hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms) were made legal in the Netherlands in 1976 in a final attempt to stop drug-related crime in the 1970s. Soft drugs can be legally purchased by individuals over 18 in the famed (licensed) coffee shops, that do sell coffee as well, but are prohibited from serving alcohol. The Dutch policy regarding soft drugs (and previously prostitution) is called "gedoogbeleid" (condonement policy). This means that although certain behavior is officially prohibited by law, a condonement clause prevents law enforcement agencies from prosecuting this behavior. This clause is, legally speaking, not a law and can be reverted much easier than a regular law.

The main reason for this policy is to try to split the market for "soft drugs" from the one for "hard drugs", this to avoid that users "upgrade" from soft to "hard drugs" (the latter are still illegal). So in short, the law tries to prevent citizen's exposure to hard drugs by providing a legal context in which to purchase cannabis. The policy also allows the police to focus on the war on hard drugs and criminal trade, and avoid the exhaustive bureaucratic costs associated with low-profile possession busts. In fact, most major cities in the world have similar non-prosecution policies, but the Dutch one is the only nationwide one.

Growing marijuana and hashish for commercial purposes is still officially illegal (it is legal to own up to four plants per household), causing coffee shop owners to rely on illegal homegrown products. Only two state run companies are exempted from this rule in order to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. Leftist movements have stated that the government should make its mind up: "either make growing marijuana and hashish legal, or ban soft drugs altogether".

Some argue that the legal status of soft drugs has had no significant adverse effects on Dutch society.[Who says?] This is probably due to the fact that it has become a more or less socially accepted drug like alcohol and tobacco, removing the need for dealers and effectively terminating cannabis' status as an anti-establishment symbol, and in effect diminishing its' popularity somewhat amongst youth. Some disagree:

  • The head of Holland’s best-known drug abuse rehabilitation center has described what the new drug culture has created: The strong form of marijuana that most of the young people smoke, he says, produces "a chronically passive individual—someone who is lazy, who doesn’t want to take initiatives, doesn’t want to be active—the kid who’d prefer to lie in bed with a joint in the morning rather than getting up and doing something." [1]

See also



Current conditions

  • Delsen, Lei. Exit Polder Model? Socioeconomic Changes in the Netherlands (2002) online edition
  • Mathijs, Ernest, ed. The Cinema of the Low Countries. (2004). 268 pp.
  • Vuijsje, Herman. The Politically Correct Netherlands: Since the 1960s. (2000). 244 pp.
  • White, Colin, et al. The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture And Its Inhabitants (2005)

History surveys

  • Arblaster, Paul. A History of the Low Countries. (2006). 298 pp.
  • Blom, J. C. H. and E. Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries (2006) 504pp excerpt and text search; also complete edition online
  • Hooker, Mark T. The History of Holland (1999) 264pp excerpt and text search
  • Israel, Jonathan. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 (1995) a major synthesis; complete online edition; also excerpt and text search
  • Kossmann, E. H. The Low Countries 1780-1940 (1978)
  • van Oostrom, Frits, and Hubert Slings. A Key to Dutch History (2007)
  • Pirenne, Henri. Belgian Democracy, Its Early History (1910, 1915) 250 pp. history of towns in the Low Countries online free
  • Rietbergen, P.J.A.N. A Short History of the Netherlands. From Prehistory to the Present Day. 5th ed. Amersfoort: Bekking, 2002. ISBN 9061094402
  • Vlekke, Bernard H. M. Evolution of the Dutch Nation (1945) 382 pp. online edition

Online resources