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The Netherlands, also commonly known as Holland, is situated in western Europe. It is the main constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is bordered by Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest. The capital of the country is Amsterdam, and The Hague is the Dutch seat of power. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in all of Europe. The official language is Dutch.

The word "nederlands" means "lower countries," making it an apt name due to the fact that only about 50% of its land is more than 3.28 feel above sea level. Much of the country's land is artificial.

The Netherlands is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy.

In ancient times, German and Celtic tribes inhabited the area that would become the Netherlands. They lived in relative safety and security due to the fact that the terrain was nearly impossible for invaders to traverse.

The land was conquered by Roman forces under Julius Caesar in a series of battles from 57 BC to 53 BC. The Roman rule lasted for about 450 years after which the Franks, under Clovis, conquered the southern Netherlands and united them into one Frankish kingdom. In the mid-seventh century, Holland became part of the Frisian Kingdom. There were numerous skirmishes between the Franks and the Frisians over the years, but in 734, the Franks won the Battle of the Board, and Holland was once again ruled by the Franks. The Franks allowed the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibroard, known as the Apostle to the Frisians, to minister to the Frisian people in hopes of converting them to Christianity. He established the Archdiocese of Utrecht and became the bishop. In 754, his successor, Boniface was murdered by the Frisians.

Throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Holy Roman Empire ruled most of the Netherlands. In 1568, when the Eighty Years' War started, the Spanish took over the Netherlands. The House of Burgundy and their Habsburg relatives ruled until 1581.

The Dutch provinces of Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, and Zeeland declared their independence and formed a confederation.

During the Dutch Golden Age, which was almost all of the seventh century was a time of great growth for the seagoing and economic industries of the Dutch Empire. By the middle of that century, they owned more than 16,000 merchant ships and the Dutch East India Company was establishing colonies as well as trading posts all over the known world. They founded the Dutch colonies of New Amsterdam in southern what would become America in 1614, as well as Surinam in South America and what Dutch East Indies, now called Indonesia, in Asia. It is considered by many historians to have been the first totally capitalist country in the works. The first full-time stock exchange in was located in Amsterdam.

Dutch republicans, enjoying the armed support of revolutionary France, proclaimed the Batavian Republic, which they had fashioned after the French Republic. Netherlands became a unitary state in early 1795, and from 1806 until 1810, raw Kingdom of Holland was a puppet kingdom set up by Napoleon Bonaparte and governed by his brother Louis. Louis attempted to serve the interests of the Dutch rather than the interests of his brother, who forced him to abdicate on July 1, 1810. The French army was sent in, and Holland became part of the French Empire until Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig.

William Frederick, son of William V of Orange, proclaimed himself Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands in 1813. He raised the United Netherlands to kingdom status and now proclaimed himself King William I. The southern part of the Netherlands rebelled, achieving independence in 1830 as Belgium.

The Netherlands remained neutral during World War I, largely due to the fact that Germany needed its goods to go through that country. It was a different story for World War II. Nazi Germany invaded them on May 10, 1940. Germany bombed Rotterdam by air on May 14, killing almost 900 people and rendering 85,000 people homeless. The entire historic district was razed. They threatened to destroy Utrecht if the Dutch government didn't surrender. The Dutch surrendered the next morning.

During the German occupation, more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were transported to concentration camps. Very few survived. Thousands of Dutch hid Jews from the Germans while more than 20,000 Dutch joined Hitler's Waffen SS. The Dutch government-in-exile declared war on Japan, which plundered and occupied the Dutch East Indies.

In 1944 and 1945, the First Canadian Army, made up of Canadian, Polish, and British troops -- liberated much of the Netherlands.

Shortly after VE Day, the Netherlands fought another war, this time, after Indonesia declared independence. It lasted a little more than four years, and in 1949, the Netherlands recognized their independence.


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