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The Netherlands, a small country in northwestern Europe that faces the North Sea. It is the largest of the Low Countries, which also include Belgium and Luxembourg. The Netherlands is often called Holland, but Holland is really the name of only the northwestern part of the country.

The Dutch have a saying that “God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland.” About half the land in The Netherlands lies at or below sea level. Much of this land has been reclaimed from the sea. The Dutch built dikes around swampy or flooded land and then pumped the water out. The pumping was originally done with windmills, but today electric pumps are used.

The Netherlands has few natural resources, and its lands are poor for agriculture. However, the Dutch people have struggled against these obstacles and have made The Netherlands one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Foreign trade is the mainstay of the Dutch economy. Several major rivers of Europe flow through The Netherlands into the sea. These rivers and the country’s location on the North Sea have helped make it a great trading nation.

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About 90 percent of its people live in cities. Amsterdam is the capital and largest city. The seat of government is in The Hague. Rotterdam is the major Dutch port and the country’s second largest city.

This small country has made major contributions to art, literature, and science. The 17th century is considered the Golden Age in Dutch history. During this time Dutch artists Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, and Frans Hals painted masterpieces, and Dutch scientists made startling discoveries with the powerful microscopes and telescopes they built.

The Kingdom of The Netherlands was established in 1815. At first, it included the whole of the Low Countries. Belgium revolted in 1830 and became independent, and Luxembourg became fully separate from The Netherlands in 1890. The Kingdom of The Netherlands today includes, besides The Netherlands proper, the Netherlands Antilles and the island of Aruba.


For younger readers

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. The Netherlands. Children's Press, 1983. Geography, history, and culture, for middle-school readers and up.

Netherlands … in Pictures. Lerner, 1991. For readers in grades 5 to 7.

van Stegeren, Theo. The Land and People of the Netherlands. HarperCollins, 1991. For middle school readers.


Blom, J.C.H., and E. Lambert. History of the Low Countries. Trans. James C. Kennedy. Berghahn Books, 1999. A solid one-volume history, from Roman times to the present.

Dash, Mike. Tulipomania: The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused. Crown, 2000. Popular history of the speculation in tulip bulbs in 17th-century Holland.

North, Michael. Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age. Trans. Catherine Hill. Yale University Press, 1997, 1997. An examination of Dutch society and culture in the 17th century.

Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. Knopf, 1987. Reprint, Vintage, 1997. Lively, illustrated social history.

Schama, Simon. Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780-1813. Knopf, 1977. Reprint, Vintage, 1992. Documents the calamities that befell the Dutch.

Westermann, Mariet. A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic, 1585-1718. Abrams, 1996. Dutch life as shown through its art.

Dutch War of Independence

Hainsworth, Roger. The Anglo-Saxon Dutch Naval Wars: 1652-1674. Sutton, 1998. Recounts the background, causes, and consequences.

Israel, Jonathan Irvine. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477-1806. Oxford University Press, 1995. Maps, illustrations, and a strong chronological narrative highlight this one-volume history of the Dutch Republic.

Jones, J. R. The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century. Longman, 1996. A balanced view providing both Dutch and English perspectives on the three Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century.

Sonnino, Paul. Louis XIV and the Origins of the Dutch War. Cambridge University Press, 1989, 2002. Captures the complicated diplomacy between the French and the Dutch.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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