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Wednesday 29th June
Netherlands Facts
The Netherlands is sometimes called Holland after its provinces of North and South Holland.

The Netherlands has twelve provinces: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland and Zuid-Holland.

At one time it was possible to walk between the Netherlands and Britain. However, the levels of the North Sea began to rise at the end of the last Ice Age; 8,000 years ago a tsunami - said to be the biggest tsunami recorded on Earth - changed Britain into an island.

Historically windmills were used as a source of energy in the Netherlands, especially for drainage.

The fourteenth century Cathedral tower in Utrecht is the tallest church tower in the country.

The name Amsterdam is a combination of the words, Amstel and dam: in early times a dam was built at a fishing village on the River Amstel.

Today, Amsterdam has one hundred and sixty canals and over twelve hundred bridges.

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), born in Rotterdam, was one of the most famous scholars in history.

The University of Utrecht was founded in 1636.

Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), the microbiologist, was the first person to study bacteria.

Willem Barentsz was a famous Dutch explorer of the sixteenth century.

Abel Tasman, the Dutch navigator, was the first European to discover New Zealand (1642) and the islands of Tonga and Fiji (1643).

The islands of the Dutch Antilles, in the Caribbean, were colonized in the seventeenth century.

Dutch migrants moved to countries such as the USA, Canada, the Cape Colony of South Africa and Australia.

Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Suriname, in South America, became a Dutch possession while the British had gained New Amsterdam (New York) in the Treaty of Breda, 1697.

The Boers (Dutch for farmers) or Afrikaners in South Africa were descendants of employees of The United East India Company.

Amsterdam has been a centre for the diamond industry for over four hundred years. The industry expanded when diamonds were found in South Africa in 1867.

The Cullinan, the world's largest diamond, and the famous Koh-I-Noor were cut in Amsterdam.

Prince William III of Orange and his wife, Mary Stuart, were invited by the English to become the King and Queen of England in 1689.

By the late eighteenth century "Indonesia" was part of the Dutch colonial empire, known as the Netherlands East Indies.

The Indonesian island of Bali did not come under Dutch control until 1906.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha G. Zelle in Leeuwarden, Friesland, in 1876. She was executed for espionage in 1917.

During the Second World War Anne Frank hid with her family, from the Germans (1942-44), in the Achterhuis (rear house) of an old merchant house in Amsterdam.

In 1953 flooding in the southern coastal region left almost two thousand people dead.

If global warming brings about climatic change, sea levels could rise considerably. Low-lying countries such as the Netherlands, Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands could find much of their territory underwater.

In 1995 the Dutch company ING bought Barings Bank for one English pound (along with its debts of 660m). This purchase was made after Nick Leeson, a rogue trader, speculated on the Tokyo stock market, from Singapore, losing millions of pounds and sending Barings to the verge of bankruptcy.

The Netherlands Antilles 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.

Willem-Alexander became king in April 2013.

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