Although the state was small and contained only around 1.5 million inhabitants, it controlled a worldwide network of seafaring trade routes
. Through its trading companies, the Dutch East India Company (VOC)
and the Dutch West India Company (GWC)
, it established a Dutch colonial empire
. The income from this trade allowed the Dutch Republic to compete militarily against much larger countries. It amassed a huge fleet of 2,000 ships, larger than the fleets of England and France combined. Major conflicts were fought in the Eighty Years' War
against Spain (from the foundation of the Dutch Republic until 1648), the Dutch–Portuguese War
(1602–1663), four Anglo-Dutch Wars
against the Kingdom of England
(1652–1654, 1665–1667, 1672–1674 and 1780–1784), the Franco-Dutch War
(1672–1678), and War of the Grand Alliance
(1688–1697) against the Kingdom of France
The republic was a confederation
of provinces each with a high degree of independence from the federal assembly, known as the States General
. In the Peace of Westphalia
(1648) the republic gained approximately 20% more territory, located outside the member provinces, which was ruled directly by the States General as Generality Lands
. Each province was led by an official known as the stadtholder
for 'steward'); this office was nominally open to anyone, but most provinces appointed a member of the House of Orange
. The position gradually became hereditary, with the Prince of Orange
simultaneously holding most or all of the stadtholderships, making them effectively the head of state
. This created tension between political factions: the Orangists
favoured a powerful stadtholder, while the Republicans favoured a strong States General. The Republicans forced two Stadtholderless Periods
, 1650–1672 and 1702–1747, with the latter causing national instability and the end of Great Power
Most of the Low Countries had come under the rule of the House of Burgundy
and subsequently the House of Habsburg
. In 1549 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
issued the Pragmatic Sanction
, which further unified the Seven Provinces under his rule. Charles was succeeded by his son, King Philip II of Spain
. In 1568, the Netherlands, led by William I of Orange
, revolted against Philip II because of high taxes, persecution of Protestants by the government, and Philip's efforts to modernize and centralize the devolved-medieval government structures of the provinces.
This was the start of the Eighty Years' War
. During the initial phase of the war, the revolt was largely unsuccessful. Spain regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. This period is known as the "Spanish Fury
" due to the high number of massacres, instances of mass looting, and total destruction of multiple cities between 1572 and 1579.
In 1579, a number of the northern provinces of the Low Countries signed the Union of Utrecht
, in which they promised to support each other in their defence against the Army of Flanders
. This was followed in 1581 by the Act of Abjuration
, the declaration of independence of the provinces from Philip II. Dutch colonialism began at this point, as the Netherlands was able to swipe a number of Portuguese
and Spanish colonies, particularly in the Asia-Pacific
region. After the assassination of William of Orange
on 10 July 1584, both Henry III of France
and Elizabeth I of England
declined offers of sovereignty. However, the latter agreed to turn the United Provinces into a protectorate
of England (Treaty of Nonsuch
, 1585), and sent the Earl of Leicester
as governor-general. This was unsuccessful and in 1588 the provinces became a confederacy
. The Union of Utrecht is regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which was not recognized by Spain until the Peace of Westphalia
During the Anglo-French War (1778)
, the internal territory was divided into two groups: the Patriots, who were pro-French and pro-American, and the Orangists, who were pro-British.
The Republic of the United Provinces faced a series of republican revolutions in 1783–1787. During this period, republican forces
occupied several major Dutch cities. Initially on the defence, the Orangist forces received aid from Prussian
troops and retook the Netherlands
in 1787. The republican forces fled to France, but then successfully re-invaded
alongside the army of the French Republic (1793–1795), ousting stadtholder William V
, abolishing the Dutch Republic, and replacing it with the Batavian Republic
(1795–1806). After the French Republic became the French Empire under Napoleon
, the Batavian Republic was replaced by the Napoleonic Kingdom of Holland
During the Dutch Golden Age
in the late-16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch Republic dominated world trade
, conquering a vast colonial empire
and operating the largest fleet of merchantmen
of any nation. The County of Holland
was the wealthiest and most urbanized region in the world. In 1650 the urban population
of the Dutch Republic as a percentage of total population was 31.7 percent, while that of the Spanish Netherlands was 20.8 percent, of Portugal 16.6 percent, and of Italy 14 percent.
In 1675 the urban population density of Holland alone was 61 percent, that of the rest of the Dutch Republic 27 percent.[clarification needed]
The free trade spirit of the time was augmented by the development of a modern, effective stock market
in the Low Countries.
The Netherlands has the oldest stock exchange
in the world, founded in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company
, while Rotterdam
has the oldest bourse
in the Netherlands. The Dutch East-India Company exchange went public in six different cities. Later, a court ruled that the company had to reside legally in a single city, so Amsterdam
is recognized as the oldest such institution based on modern trading principles. While the banking system evolved in the Low Countries, it was quickly incorporated by the well-connected English, stimulating English economic output.
The Dutch Republic was a master of banking, often compared to with Florence during the 14th century. When Southern Europe was experiencing poor harvests, surplus of grain from Poland was sold by the Dutch for sky high prices.
The republic was a confederation
of seven provinces, which had their own governments and were very independent, and a number of so-called Generality Lands
. The latter were governed directly by the States General
, the federal government. The States General were seated in The Hague
and consisted of representatives of each of the seven provinces. The provinces of the republic were, in official feudal order:
- Duchy of Guelders
- County of Holland
- County of Zeeland
- Lordship of Utrecht
- Lordship of Overijssel
- Lordship of Frisia
- Lordship of Groningen
There was an eighth province, the County of Drenthe
, but this area was so poor that it was exempt from paying federal taxes, and as a consequence, it was denied representation in the States General. Each province was governed by the Provincial States, the main executive official (though not the official head of state) was a raadspensionaris
. In times of war, the stadtholder
, who commanded the army, would have more power than the raadspensionaris
In theory, the stadtholders were freely appointed by and subordinate to the states of each province. However, in practice the princes of Orange
of the House of Orange-Nassau
, beginning with William the Silent
, were always chosen as stadtholders of most of the provinces. Zeeland and usually Utrecht had the same stadtholder as Holland. There was a constant power struggle between the Orangists, who supported the stadtholders and specifically the princes of Orange, and the Republicans, who supported the States General and hoped to replace the semi-hereditary nature of the stadtholdership with a true republican structure.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution
were influenced by the Constitution of the Republic of the United Provinces, as Federalist No. 20
, by James Madison
Such influence appears, however, to have been of a negative nature, as Madison describes the Dutch confederacy as exhibiting "Imbecility in the government; discord among the provinces; foreign influence and indignities; a precarious existence in peace, and peculiar calamities from war." Apart from this, the American Declaration of Independence
is similar to the Act of Abjuration
, essentially the declaration of independence of the United Provinces,
but concrete evidence that the latter directly influenced the former is absent.
In the Union of Utrecht
of 20 January 1579, Holland and Zeeland were granted the right to accept only one religion (in practice, Calvinism
). Every other province had the freedom to regulate the religious question as it wished, although the Union stated every person should be free in the choice of personal religion and that no person should be prosecuted based on religious choice.
William of Orange had been a strong supporter of public and personal freedom of religion and hoped to unite Protestants and Catholics in the new union, and, for him, the Union was a defeat. In practice, Catholic services in all provinces were quickly forbidden, and the Dutch Reformed Church
became the "public" or "privileged" church in the Republic.
During the Republic, any person who wished to hold public office had to conform to the Reformed Church and take an oath to this effect. The extent to which different religions or denominations were persecuted depended much on the time period and regional or city leaders. In the beginning, this was especially focused on Roman Catholics, being the religion of the enemy. In 17th-century Leiden
, for instance, people opening their homes to services could be fined 200 guilders (a year's wage for a skilled tradesman
) and banned from the city.
Throughout this, however, personal freedom of religion existed and was one factor—along with economic reasons—in causing large immigration of religious refugees from other parts of Europe.
Beginning in the 18th century, the situation changed from more or less active persecution of religious services to a state of restricted toleration of other religions, as long as their services took place secretly in private churches
Long-term rivalry between the two main factions in Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden
(Republicans) and the Prinsgezinden
(Royalists or Orangists
), sapped the strength and unity of the country. Johan de Witt
and the Republicans did reign supreme for a time at the middle of the 17th century (the First Stadtholderless Period
) until his overthrow and murder in 1672. Subsequently, William III of Orange
became stadtholder. After a 22-year stadtholderless era, the Orangists regained power, and his first problem was to survive the Franco-Dutch War
(with the derivative Third Anglo-Dutch war
), when France, England, Münster
, and Cologne
united against this country.
Wars to contain the expansionist policies of France in various coalitions after the Glorious Revolution
, mostly including England and Scotland—after 1707, Great Britain
—burdened the republic with huge debts, although little of the fighting after 1673 took place on its own territory. The necessity to maintain a vast army against France meant that less money could be spent on the navy, weakening the Republic's economy. After William III's death in 1702 the Second Stadtholderless Period
was inaugurated. Despite having contributed much in the War of Spanish Succession
, the Dutch Republic gained little from the peace talks in Utrecht
(1713). The end of the War of Austrian Succession
in 1748, and Austria becoming allies with France against Prussia, marked the end of the republic as a major military power.
Fierce competition for trade and colonies, especially from France and England, furthered the economic downturn of the country. The three Anglo-Dutch Wars and the rise of mercantilism
had a negative effect on Dutch shipping and commerce.
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Last edited on 17 June 2021, at 18:33
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