Learn more about Netherlands
| Nederland |
| Motto: Je Maintiendrai|
(Dutch: Ik zal handhaven, English: I shall persist)
| Anthem: Wilhelmus van Nassouwe|
National animal: Lion
(and largest city)
| Amsterdam |
|Government|| Parliamentary democracy|
|- Prime Minister||Jan Peter Balkenende|
|Independence||Eighty Years' War|
|- Declared||July 26 1581|
|- Recognised||January 30 1648 (by Spain)|
|Accession to EU||March 25 1957|
|- Total|| 41,526 km² (134th)|
16,033 sq mi
|- Water (%)||18.41|
|- July 2006 estimate||16,336,346 (59th)|
|- 2001 census||16,105,285|
|- Density|| 395/km² (23rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2006 estimate|
|- Total||$503.394 billion (23rd)|
|- Per capita||$30,876 (15th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2005 estimate|
|- Total||$625,271 billion (16th)|
|- Per capita||$38,618 (10th)|
|HDI (2004)||0.947 (high) (10th)|
|Currency|| Euro (€)3 (|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|- Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
| 1 The Hague is the seat of the government.|
2 In the Netherlands the Frisian language is also an official language (although only spoken in Friesland); Low Saxon and Limburgish are officially recognised as regional languages.
3 Prior to 2001: Dutch guilder.
4 The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland (IPA: [ˈne:dərlɑnt]) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, located in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. The current borders were established in 1839.
The Netherlands is often referred to by the name Holland. This is not terminologically precise, as the provinces of North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country's twelve provinces (for more on this and other naming issues see Netherlands (terminology)).
The Netherlands is a densely populated and geographically low-lying country and is popularly known for its windmills, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), dikes, tulips, bicycles and social tolerance. Its policies are liberal toward drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia. The country is host to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Amsterdam is the capital city (hoofdstad), and The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag or 's-Gravenhage) is the Netherlands' seat of government (regeringszetel), the home of the monarch (residentie), and the location of most foreign embassies.
Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the Eighty Years' War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces declared itself independent from Spain, and they formed the Union of Utrecht, which is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. Philip II, the son of Charles V, was not prepared to let them go that easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain finally recognised Dutch independence.
After gaining formal independence from the Spanish Empire under King Philip IV of Spain, the Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe. (See Dutch colonial empire)
Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders led to insurance and retirement funds as well as such less benign phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world's first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636–1637, and according to Murray Sayle, the world's first bear raider - Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount.<ref>"Japan Goes Dutch", London Review of Books [April 5, 2001]: 3-7).</ref>
After briefly being incorporated in the First French Empire under Napoleon, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815, consisting of the present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition, the king of the Netherlands became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890 as a result of ascendancy laws which prevented Queen Wilhelmina from becoming Grand Duke.
The Netherlands possessed several colonies, most notably the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New Amsterdam, now known as New York). These 'colonies' were first administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they become official colonies.
During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialise compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to its unique infrastructure of waterways and reliance on wind power. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the Second World War. Subsequently the Netherlands joined the Anglo-French alliance. The country was quickly overrun and surrendered after the bombing of Rotterdam, although a French force held Zeeland for a short time.
During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust along with significant numbers of Dutch Roma (gypsies). Some Dutch e.g. members of Henneicke Column collaborated with Nazi occupiers in hunting down and arresting hiding Jews. Between 8,000 and 9,000 of Dutch Jews were rounded up in this manner and consequently deported to German extermination camps and murdered.
Dutch civilians were often treated brutally. Dutch workers were conscripted for labour in German factories, civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. The Allied 21st Army Group was given the task to conduct military operations to liberate The Netherlands after the breakout from Normandy. British, Canadian, Polish and American soldiers fought on Dutch soil beginning in September 1944. A first thrust, Market Garden north from France to Arnhem, failed. Canadian units fighting to liberate the Sheldt estuary fought their way into Holland and liberated most of the countryside, but not the urban areas of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. German forces held out until the German surrender of May 8, 1945. German forces killed Dutch civilians in Amsterdam on the last day of the war. The disrupted transportation system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock made the winter of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife among the Dutch population. The country suffered a similar "severe winter" in 1945-46 because of abnormal cold and the slowness of reconstruction.
 From Benelux to EU
After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states. The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) cooperation. Furthermore, the Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve into the European Union.
 Naming conventions
Various terms have been used in English to refer to the Netherlands and its inhabitants.
'(The) Netherlands' is the official name of the European part of the 'Kingdom of the Netherlands' (as opposed to overseas areas). The term 'Holland' is commonly used as a synonym for the Netherlands, but the word Holland is a region in the west of the country , which has long been the most economically powerful part of the country. The prominence of this region meant that the whole country is often referred to as 'Holland' all over the world. The country's people and language are called Dutch, but this word could refer to Holland alone.
To add yet another layer of confusion, the word Dutch formerly meant the same as German in English usage, since in the early Middle Ages there was no real distinction between the Dutch and the Germans. This should be borne in mind when reading very old literature, and also accounts for the name Pennsylvania Dutch, whose ancestral origins are in Southern Germany and not the Netherlands. The term 'Low Countries' is sometimes used to refer to the Netherlands, but historically it refers (as does the word Netherlands) to a bigger region in western Europe, including Belgium, Luxembourg, and a part of France. It is simply the English usage for the old Dutch name Nederlanden (now Nederland). In the early middle ages it was considered part of the German geographical area (this is why the German Deutsch was used by the English to describe the Netherlands, becoming the English word Dutch), known as Low Germany because of its low topography, and this became simply Low Countries as the identity of the Netherlands as a separate national entity developed.
In order to avoid the word Dutch, which is often used for only Holland and which is inappropriate for originally meaning German, the word Netherlands can be used as an adjective (e.g. the Netherlands government). Alternatively, the terms Netherlandish and Netherlandic are both sometimes used.
- Main articles on politics and government of the Netherlands can be found at the Politics and government of the Netherlands series.
The Netherlands has been a parliamentary democracy since 1848 and a constitutional monarchy since 1815; before that it had been a republic from 1581 to 1806 and a kingdom between 1806 and 1810 (it was part of France between 1810 and 1813). The head of state is the monarch (at present Queen Beatrix). The monarch has today in practice a mainly ceremonial function but the constitution allows for the exertion of real power, should the responsible ministers subordinate themselves; an open conflict between them and the monarch — whose signature is needed for any law or warrant to come into effect — would lead to a constitutional crisis (see main article).
 Coalition governments
Since the 19th century Dutch governments have always been coalition governments as no single political party has been able to win a majority vote. Formally, the monarch appoints the members of the government. In practice, once the results of parliamentary elections are known, a coalition government is formed (in a process of negotiations that has taken up to seven months), after which the negotiated government is officially appointed by the monarch. The head of the government is the Prime Minister, in Dutch Minister-President or Premier, a primus inter pares (first among equals) who is also usually the leader of the largest party in the coalition. The degree of influence the monarch has on actual government formation is a topic of ongoing speculation.
The parliament consists of two houses. The 150 members of the Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) are elected every four years in direct elections. The provincial assemblies are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the less important Senate (the Eerste Kamer, or First Chamber). The Eerste Kamer can merely reject laws, not propose or amend them. Together, the First and Second Chamber are known as the Staten-Generaal, the States General.
 'Polder Model'
Political scientists consider the Netherlands to be a classic example of a consociational state, traditionally explained by the necessity since the early Middle Ages for different social groups to cooperate in order to fight the water; illustrated by the authority of the Dijkgraven (regional dyke inspector general) over the local nobility. Better founded hypotheses include a partial failing of feudalisation and the successful resistance against absolutism. This system of reaching an agreement despite differences is called the polder model; and has more recently been used to describe the combined discussions and advice regarding labour laws by a regular council of (the traditional adversaries) the trade unions, the employers and the government.
Also, the Netherlands has long been a nation of traders, dominated by a freethinking bourgeoisie and for international trade one has to be tolerant of others' (cultures). At home, despite calvinism being the state religion until the 19th century, there was in practice religious tolerance shown towards Catholics, Jews and liberal Protestant movements. However, prior to the 19th century, Catholics were practically not allowed to hold government functions, and Protestant restrictions were enforced on Jewish but especially on Catholic and liberal Protestant houses of prayer<ref>Not calvinist christians were obliged to pray in called schuilkerken (hidden churches) that were not allowed to be recognised as a church from the public road</ref>. In spite of this coexistence the difference religious (and later labour groups) did not mingle and founded their own newspapers, societies, schools, and later broadcasting corporations (pillarisation).
After the Dutch role as a world power was finished, from about 1839 onwards the Netherlands tried to be a neutral country and thus managed to keep out of World War I. The period of neutrality ended with the 1940-1945 German occupation in World War II, after which the Netherlands became member of the NATO.
The early years of the 21st century have seen political upheaval, most clearly illustrated by the quick rise and fall of the LPF. Pim Fortuyn, its founder, gained massive support for his populist views that previous cabinets were responsible for many problems, noticeably the presumed failing integration of immigrants. Just before the election of 2002 he was murdered by an animal rights activist, the most high profile political murder in roughly 400 years (since the lynching of Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis in 1672). The elections, which sent the Netherlands into a period of political chaos, were concluded in the emotional aftermath.
Balkenende II's economic reforms and immigration policies had resulted in a shift in public opinion to the left, showing from political polls and the 2006 municipal elections, in which the government coalition parties faced great losses in favour of the opposition parties, mainly the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Socialist Party (SP). Following the controversial decisions of Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk regarding the legal status of immigrant politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch cabinet went into crisis on June 29 2006. Jan-Peter Balkenende presented his temporary minority cabinet to the Queen on July 7.
The 2006 Dutch general elections were held on November 22, 2006. The turnout was 80.1%. The results are:
|seats 2006||seats 2003|
|CDA (Christian Democrats)||41||44|
|PvdA (Labour Party)||33||42|
|SP (Socialist Party, far left)||25||9|
|Groep Wilders / Partij voor de Vrijheid (far right)||9||-|
|Groenlinks (Green Left)||7||8|
|D66 (liberal/progressive, slightly left from center)||3||6|
|Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Rights Party)||2||-|
|Lijst Pim Fortuyn (right)||-||8|
Led by prime minister Balkenende, CDA lost only a few seats, remaining the biggest party by far. Both Labour Party and VVD lost almost a quarter of their seats, even though the Labour Party was the clear winner of the municipal elections in March 2006. The Socialist Party is the big winner. But since all other (center)left parties lost, there is no decisive shift to the left, resulting in a political deadlock. The formation of the new cabinet will be difficult since none of the obvious coalitions is possible. Negotiations for the new cabinet have started shortly after the elections.
 Administrative divisions
The Netherlands is divided into twelve administrative regions, called provinces, each under a Governor, who is called Commissaris van de Koningin (Commissioner of the Queen), except for the province Limburg where the commissioner is called Gouverneur (Governor) which underlines the more "non-Dutch" mentality.
- Fryslân<ref>Since 2004 the official name of this province is 'Fryslân'; the name in the regional language (Frisian). The Dutch name, 'Friesland' is also frequently used.</ref> - north west; capital and largest city Leeuwarden
- Groningen - north east; capital and largest city Groningen
- Drenthe - south of Groningen; capital and largest city Assen
- Overijssel - east central, south of Drenthe; capital Zwolle, largest city Enschede
- Flevoland - central, north of Utrecht; capital Lelystad, largest city Almere
- Gelderland - east central, south of Overijssel; capital Arnhem, largest city Nijmegen
- Utrecht - central; capital and largest city Utrecht
- North Holland - (Noord-Holland) north west; capital Haarlem, largest city (of the province and the country) Amsterdam
- South Holland - (Zuid-Holland) west central, south of North Holland; capital The Hague ('s-Gravenhage or Den Haag), largest city Rotterdam
- Zeeland - south west; capital and largest city Middelburg
- North Brabant - (Noord-Brabant) south central; capital 's-Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch), largest city Eindhoven
- Limburg - south east; capital and largest city Maastricht.
The country is also subdivided in water districts, governed by a water board (waterschap or hoogheemraadschap), each having authority in matters concerning water management. As of 1 January 2005 there are 27. The creation of water boards actually pre-dates that of the nation itself, the first appearing in 1196. In fact, the Dutch water boards are one of the oldest democratic entities in the world still in existence.
- See also: Ranked list of Dutch provinces, Municipalities in the Netherlands, and List of cities in the Netherlands by province
A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is the flatness of the country. Hilly landscapes can be found only in the central part, the south-eastern tip of the country and where the glaciers pushed up several hilly ridges such as the Hondsrug in Drenthe, the stuwwallen near Nijmegen, Salland, Twente and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.
 Below sea level
About half of its surface area is less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above sea level, and much of it is actually below sea level. An extensive range of dykes and dunes protects these areas from flooding. Numerous massive pumping stations keep the ground water level in check. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the south-eastern most point of the country, is 321 metres (1,053 ft) above sea level. The Vaalserberg is a foothill of the Ardennes mountains. A substantial part of the Netherlands, for example, all of the province of Flevoland (contains the largest man-made island in the world) and large parts of Holland, has been reclaimed from the sea. These areas are known as polders. This has led to the saying "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands."
In years past, the Dutch coastline has changed considerably due to human intervention and natural disasters. Most notable in terms of land loss are the 1134 storm, which created the archipelago of Zeeland in the south west, and the 1287 storm, which killed 50,000 people and created the Zuiderzee (now dammed in and renamed the IJsselmeer — see below) in the northwest, giving Amsterdam direct access to the sea. The St. Elizabeth flood of 1421 and the mismanagement in its aftermath destroyed a newly reclaimed polder, replacing it with the 72 square kilometres (28 sq mi) Biesbosch tidal floodplains in the south-centre. The most recent parts of Zeeland were flooded during the North Sea Flood of 1953 and 1,836 people were killed, after which the Delta Plan was executed.
The disasters were partially man-made; the people drained relatively high lying swampland for use as farmland. This drainage caused the fertile peat to compress and the ground level to drop, locking the land users in a vicious circle whereby they would lower the water level to compensate for the drop in ground level, causing the underlying peat to compress even more. The vicious circle is unsolvable and remains to this day. Up until the 19th century peat was dug up, dried, and used for fuel, further adding to the problem.
To guard against floods, a series of defences against the water were contrived. In the first millennium, villages and farmhouses were built on man-made hills called terps. Later, these terps were connected by dikes. In the 12th century, local government agencies called "waterschappen" (English "water bodies") or "hoogheemraadschappen" ("high home councils") started to appear, whose job it was to maintain the water level and to protect a region from floods. (The water bodies are still around today performing the same function.) As the ground level dropped, the dikes by necessity grew and merged into an integrated system. In the 13th century, windmills came into use to pump water out of the areas by now below sea level. The windmills were later used to drain lakes, creating the famous polders. In 1932, the Afsluitdijk (English "Closure Dike") was completed, blocking the former Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) off from the North Sea and thus creating the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake). It became part of the larger Zuiderzee Works in which four polders totalling 1,650 square kilometres (637 sq mi) were reclaimed from the sea.
 Delta Works
After the 1953 disaster, the Delta project, a vast construction effort designed to end the threat from the sea once and for all, was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002. The official goal of the Delta project was to reduce the risk of flooding in the Zeeland to once per 10,000 years. (For the rest of the country, the protection-level is once per 4,000 years.) This was achieved by raising 3,000 kilometres (1,864 mi) of outer sea-dikes and 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) of inner, canal, and river dikes to "delta" height, and by closing off the sea estuaries of the Zeeland province. New risk assessments occasionally show problems requiring additional Delta project dike reinforcements. The Delta project is one of the largest construction efforts in human history and is considered by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Because of the high cost of maintaining the polders some have argued that maybe some of the deepest polders should be given up. Additionally, the Netherlands is one of the countries that may suffer most from climatic change. Not only is the rising sea a problem, but also erratic weather patterns may cause the rivers to overflow.
The country is divided into two main parts by three rivers Rhine (Rijn), Waal, and Meuse (Maas). The south-western part of the Netherlands is actually one big river delta of these rivers. These rivers not only function as a natural barrier, but also as a cultural divide, as is evident in the different dialects spoken north and south of these great rivers and the (previous) religious dominance of Catholics in the south and Calvinists in the north.
The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is south-west, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.
The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which the government has reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial activity is predominantly in food-processing (for example Unilever and Heineken), chemicals (for example DSM), petroleum refining (for example Royal Dutch Shell), and electrical machinery (for example Philips). Slochteren has the largest natural gas field in the world, which has so far (2006) resulted in a total revenue of €159 billion since the mid 1970s. With just over half of the reserves used up and an expected continued rise in oil prices, the revenues over the next few decades are expected to be at least that much.<ref>web reference</ref>
 Third in worldwide agricultural exports
A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than 4% of the labour force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Dutch rank third worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the United States and France, with exports earning $46 billion annually. A significant portion of Dutch agricultural exports are derived from fresh-cut plants, flowers, and bulbs, with the Netherlands exporting two-thirds of the world's total. The Netherlands also exports a quarter of all world tomatoes, and one-third of the world's exports of peppers and cucumbers. <ref> http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200501/146118432.pdf#search=%22netherlands%20main%20agriculture%20export%20flowers%22 </ref> The Netherlands' location gives it prime access to markets in the UK and Germany, with the port of Rotterdam being the largest port in Europe. Other important parts of the economy are international trade (Dutch colonialism started with cooperative private enterprises such as the VOC), banking and transport. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners.
As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the Guilder, on January 1, 1999, along with the other adopters of the single European currency. Actual Euro coins and banknotes followed on January 1, 2002. In the first years of the third millennium, economic and employment growth came to a standstill, which the government tried to resolve by reducing expenses.
 16th largest economy
At this moment the Netherlands is the 16th largest economy of the world. (see: List of countries by GDP (nominal)) Between 1998 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably in 2001-05 as part of the global economic slowdown, but the first quarter of 2006 showed a promising 2.6%. Inflation is 1.3% and is expected to stay low at around 1.5% in the coming years. The CBS however has claimed the inflation is at 0.9%, the lowest since 1989. According to the definition used by the Dutch Statistics Agency CBS, unemployment is at 5.5% of the labour force<ref>Note that people who are medically unfit for labour receive benefits and are not listed as unemployed.</ref> By Eurostat standards however, unemployment in the Netherlands is at only 3.8% - the lowest rate of all European Union member states (figures: June 2006). The Netherlands also has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326.
- See also: List of Dutch companies
- Dutch 80.8%
- German 2.4%
- Indonesian (Indo-European, Indo-Dutch, Moluccan) 2.4%
- Turks 2.2%
- Surinamese 2.0%
- Moroccan 1.9%
- Indian 1.5%
- Antillean and Aruban 0.8%
- other 6.0%
The population of the Netherlands is physically the tallest in the world, with an average height of 1.83 m (6 ft ) for adult males and 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) for adult females. The reasons for the increase in height are uncertain (CBS 2006).
 Most densely populated
The Netherlands is the 23rd most densely populated country in the world, with 395 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,023 sq mi)—or 484 people per square kilometre (1,254/sq mi) if only the land area is counted, since 18.4% is water. Partly because of this it is also one of the most densely cabled countries in the world. Internet penetration is at 65.9% the 19th highest in the world.<ref>internetworldstats.com </ref>
According to CBS Statline, the official statistics bureau of the Netherlands, the ethnic origins of the citizens are very diverse. The vast majority of the population however still remains Dutch. They were: 80.8% Dutch, 2.4% German, 2.4% Indonesian (Indo-European, Indo-Dutch, Moluccan), 2.2% Turks, 2.0% Surinamese, 1.9% Moroccan, 1.5% Indian, 0.8% Antillean and Aruban, and 6.0% other.<ref>http://www.cbs.nl/NR/rdonlyres/CCD504EA-9D41-40C2-AE28-BFB0A51C2045/0/2005k3b15p096art.pdf </ref> However, this does not include the whole Kingdom of the Netherlands (such as the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, which have a non-European majority community), and only includes the population in the Netherlands itself. The Netherlands also has a resident population of some 200,000 people of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent (Indonesia being a former colony of the Netherlands).
 Major cities
There are no cities with a population over 1 million in the Netherlands, but the 'four big cities' as they are called (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) can in many ways be regarded as a single 'big city' conurbation, the Randstad ('rim or edge city') with about 7 million inhabitants and an agricultural 'green heart' (het Groene Hart). The unity of this conurbation can be illustrated by the current idea effort to create a circular train system connecting the four cities.
The 5 'largest' cities are, in order of descending population:
The official language is Dutch, which is spoken by practically all inhabitants.
Another official language is Frisian, which is spoken in the northern province of Fryslân. Frisian is co-official only in the province of Fryslân, although with a few restrictions. Several dialects of Low Saxon (Nedersaksisch in Dutch) are spoken in much of the north and east and are recognised by the Netherlands as regional languages according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Another Dutch dialect granted the status of regional language is Limburgish, which is spoken in the south-eastern province of Limburg.
The Netherlands has had many well-known painters. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, was the age of the "Dutch Masters" such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. Willem de Kooning was born and trained in Rotterdam, although he is considered to have reached acclaim as an American artist. Han van Meegeren was an infamous Dutch art forger.
The Netherlands is the country of philosophers Erasmus of Rotterdam and Spinoza, and all of Descartes' major work was done there. The Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) discovered Saturn's moon Titan and invented the pendulum clock.
In the Dutch Golden Age, literature flowered as well, with Joost van den Vondel and P. C. Hooft as the two most famous writers. In the 19th century, Multatuli wrote about the bad treatment of the natives in Dutch colonies. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers, Simon Vestdijk, Cees Nooteboom, Gerard van het Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl was published after she died in the Holocaust and translated from Dutch to all major languages.
Efteling is a famous amusement park in the Netherlands.
 Miscellaneous topics
- Abortion in the Netherlands
- Birds of the Netherlands
- Carver (automobile) - A Dutch Built Vehicle
- City rights in the Netherlands
- Communications in the Netherlands
- Drug policy of the Netherlands
- Dutch-Belgian War
- Dutch colonial empire
- Dutch people
- Dutch cuisine
- Education in the Netherlands
- Euthanasia in the Netherlands
- Extinct animals of the Netherlands
- Foreign relations of the Netherlands
- General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD)
- Geology of the Netherlands
- Income tax in the Netherlands
- Law of the Netherlands
- List of football clubs in the Netherlands
- Military of the Netherlands
- Netherlands and weapons of mass destruction
- New Netherland
- Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) of the Netherlands
- Prostitution in the Netherlands
- Public holidays in the Netherlands
- Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index 2004 — first place
- Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands
- Statistics Netherlands
- Spyker Dutch car brand
- Telephone numbers in the Netherlands
- Television networks in the Netherlands
- Tourism in the Netherlands
- Transportation in the Netherlands
- Scouting Nederland
- World Press Photo
 External links</div>
Image:Wiktionary-logo-en.png Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
Image:Wikibooks-logo.svg Textbooks from Wikibooks
Image:Wikiquote-logo.svg Quotations from Wikiquote
Image:Wikisource-logo.svg Source texts from Wikisource
Image:Commons-logo.svg Images and media from Commons
Image:Wikinews-logo.png News stories from Wikinews
Image:Wikiversity-logo-Snorky.svg Learning resources from Wikiversity
 History, geography, and politics
- Netherlands travel guide from Wikitravel
- Overheid.nl - official Dutch government portal (includes official publications from 1995; older ones are only available in some libraries, on paper or microfiche)
- History of the Netherlands: Primary Documents
- Encyclopaedia Britannica's The Netherlands Country Page
- Province maps showing subdivision in municipalities, and linking each municipality to its basic data page
- Maps and data
- Manuscript chart of the Netherlands, VOC, ca.1690 (high resolution zoomable scan)
- Provinces of Netherlands at Statoids
- CBS - Key figures from the Dutch bureau of statistics
- Dutch Portuguese Colonial History Dutch Colonial History in Sri Lanka, Ceylon, Brazil, India, Malacca (Malaysia), Bengal, Formosa(Taiwan), South Africa, New York, Caribbean, Indonesia. Language Heritage. Maps, chronologies, bibliographies.
- Encarta entry on the Netherlands
- Flagspot.net - the Netherlands- site about flags, but also with province maps showing municipalities, and some other info
- Foreign government info about the Netherlands and their relations with it:
Australia | Canada | India | Italy | New Zealand | South Africa | UK | US
- Government.nl - official Dutch government web site
- CIA - The World Factbook -- Netherlands
- Netherlands info - Information about the Netherlands, (Dutch)
- Amsterdam / Netherlands info - Information about the Netherlands, its provinces and Amsterdam
- Dutch economy in the Golden Age
- Changing Migration Strategy of The Netherlands
 Moving to the Netherlands
- Just Landed Netherlands - Useful info for moving to the Netherlands
- Dutch news: Radio Netherlands, Expatica
- NL Planet - English language resources, background information and free forums
- World66's guide to the Netherlands A travel guide written by its users.
- Netherlands Travel Guide
- Picture Gallery of Netherlands
- Distances and driving directions in the Netherlands Calculate the travel distance between places and plan your trip from one city to the other cities in Holland - using Google Map Trip Planning
- Deltaworks Online - Flood protection and water management in the Netherlands
- Keukenhof Flower Gardens Pictures of the flower garden in Netherlands
- The Dutch Royal Family
- Dutch for English speakers (from Wikibooks)
- List of approx. 1500 tall buildings in the Netherlands
- Gezellig Canada for Dutch Canadians
- Gezellig USA (America) for Dutch Americans
- NLBorrels, a global network for Dutch Expatriates
- Webcams in The Netherlands
- Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 2006. Health statistics through 2000 (data table in English). Retrieved June 17, 2006.