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Wednesday 29th June
Netherlands Information - Page 2
Julius Caesar conquered present-day Netherlands in the first century. Roman settlements were built in Utrecht and Maastricht in 48 AD and 50 AD respectively. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the control of the country passed to the Franks. Later it became part of Holy Roman Empire.

During the Middle Ages the "Netherlands", along with surrounding countries of Belgium, Luxembourg and the north-eastern part of France, was known as the Low Countries. Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the country was part of the Burgundian-Habsburg Empire. In 1579 William of Orange gained independence for the Protestant provinces of the north.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century the "Netherlands" was a great trading nation. The United East India Company and the West India Company were responsible for Dutch expansion. Dutch mercantile success was seen as a threat to the commercial interests of the English and led to the Anglo-Dutch wars.

In 1810 the "Netherlands" became part of Napoleon's French Empire. Following Napoleon's defeat, the Congress of Vienna (1815) amalgamated the Netherlands and Belgium into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This was an unpopular decision and in 1830 the Belgians formed their own kingdom with Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg as the first King of the Belgians.

During World War One the Netherlands remained neutral but in World War Two the country was occupied by the German army. After the War, in 1949, the Dutch East Indies in the Indian Ocean, became the Republic of Indonesia and in 1975, Suriname, the Netherlands' territory in South America, gained independence.

The "Dutch Antilles", in the Caribbean was dissolved in 2010: Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, became autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands; Aruba Curacao and St Maarten become nations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands was a BENELUX country, an economic union between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. These countries together with France, West Germany and Italy formed the European Coal and Steel Community: "to substitute for age-old rivalries the merging of essential interests". In 1957 the same countries signed The Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community (EEC) now known as the EU.

The Netherlands has a well developed transport system that includes water transport and excellent ports. Schiphol is the main airport.

The country's economy is strong and highly industrialised; its mechanised farming sector enables the Netherlands to be one of the world's largest exporters of food products.

The service sector is the major contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product providing employment for the largest percentage of the working population.

Agricultural produce includes grains sugar beet, potatoes, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. The Netherlands is well known for cheeses such as Edam and Gouda and the production of tulip bulbs.

Fishing is a traditional industry. Other industries include agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, microelectronics, chemicals, petroleum and construction. (2008)

The Netherlands has many famous artists. The most well known early artist is the fifteenth century painter Hieronymus Bosch, whose works include the Adoration of the Magi and The Last Judgement. Other artists are Rembrandt (1606-1669), Vermeer (1632-1675), Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), the scholar, and Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677), the philosopher, were two of the most famous Dutch intellectuals. Joost van den Vondel, the seventeenth century writer, is the country's most well known poet and playwright.

The Netherlands has a very lively popular music industry. The classical arts are represented by the Concertgebouw Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Opera and the Dutch National Ballet.

Football is played at national and international level. Rugby is also played. Skating and cycling are popular.

Liberation Day (5 May) marks the end of German occupation in 1945.

Easter and Christmas are observed and St. Nicholas' Day is on 5 December.

News from the Netherlands is available from Newslink.

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