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The Netherlands

The early history of the Netherlands was fraught with conflict. In the 1st century, the original inhabitants of this area, who were primarily Celts and Frisians, came under the control of the Roman Empire. By the 5th century, the Franks had forced the Romans to withdraw, and they dominated this region until the end of the 8th century. In the 11th century, the area that is now the Netherlands, came under the power of the Holy Roman Empire. It was divided up into fiefs, and parceled out to various dukes. In 1477, these fiefs came into the possession of the Hapsburgs.

In 1555, this territory became part of the domain of Phillip II of Spain. The Spanish control of the Netherlands inaugurated an eighty year period of conflict. In 1581, William the Silent successfully led the northern provinces to independence. The independence of the rest of the country was not officially recognized until the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648.

It was in this period of relative peace that the Dutch first gained prominence in trade and commerce. Their economic growth, in this period, was staggering. In addition to this economic development, the Dutch enjoyed developments in the areas of culture and scholarship as well. Unfortunately, this period of peace was not to last.

Beginning in the early 18th century, the Netherlands again became a battleground. They were weakened first by the Dutch Wars, the War of the Grand Alliance, and then the War of Spanish succession. Clearly, their problems with the Spanish had not ended. Finally, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Netherlands was invaded by the French, under Napoleon. Napoleon established the Batavian Republic(1795-1806), and the Kingdom of Holland(1806-1810), during which time the Dutch remained under French occupation. In 1814, under the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, the Netherlands and Belgium were united. This union, however, collapsed in 1830.

Finally, in 1848, a liberal constitution was introduced, (undoubtedly a product of the many revolutions of that year), which created the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


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