Netherlands is a Western European state.
The Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
The constituent territory of the present Netherlands kingdom has formed a unitary complex since 1579, when the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands arose with the Union of Utrecht. Before then, the events of the territory were intimately linked to those of Belgium: both territories were designated in the Late Middle Ages with the common name of Flanders (➔ Flanders) or, in a broad sense, the Netherlands. Between the century 1st BC and the beginning of the Common Era the territories of the present Netherlands, inhabited by Germanic populations, were conquered by the Romans, who remained there until the 11th century. 4th, when the pressure of the Germanic tribes, and above all of the Franks, forced them to abandon the whole line of the lower Rhine. After the era of migration, the Franks (in Brabant, South Holland and part of Gelderland), the Saxons (especially in Overijssel, Drenthe, and also in parts of Gelderland) and the Frisians (in North Holland, Friesland and along the coasts). Saxons and Frisians, after the preaching of Saints Willibrord and Boniface, were Christianized by Charlemagne and became part of his empire. Under Charlemagne’s successors, the lack of royal authority favored the formation of vast fiefdoms and the struggle for investitures made their owners increasingly independent from imperial power. The geographical position was of particular importance for the development of commercial relations and for the foundation of new cities. In the century 15th Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy extended his sovereignty over the county of Holland proper (1433), but not over the other regions. The northern and southern Netherlands were reunited under the sovereignty of Charles V, between 1524 and 1543, years in which the emperor took possession of Friesland, Utrecht, Overijssel, Groningen, Drenthe and Gelderland: in 1548 all the Netherlands entered to be part of the empire (with the name of Circle of Burgundy). The spread of Protestantism (especially Calvinism) marked for the Netherlands B. the start of a new era. The religious persecutions, after the advent of Philip II on the throne of Spain, took on particular violence and, having failed the attempts at accommodation with the regent Margaret of Austria, caused serious riots. The situation worsened after the arrival of the Duke of Alba, who quelled the revolt, sentenced hundreds of Calvinists to death, had their assets confiscated and increased taxes. The duke thus apparently managed to restore calm, but, after his recall, the mutiny of the Spanish troops in Flanders and Brabant (1576) favored reconciliation between the Catholics of the southern Netherlands and the rebels of Holland and Zeeland, led by William of Orange-Nassau (pacification of Ghent). It was a temporary agreement, made with the intention of preserving the country from foreign soldiers; it failed because of the religious intolerance of the Calvinists who did not abide by the agreed covenants. The new governor (from 1578) Alessandro Farnese took advantage of the conflict, who with the promise of the withdrawal of the Spanish troops convinced the Catholic Netherlands to recognize the sovereignty of Philip II (union of Arras, Jan. 1579). For his part, William of Orange, fearful of the Spanish revenge, promoted the formation of a closer link between the rebel provinces and the Union of Utrecht (also from Jan. 1579). However, he was in favor of maintaining the union of all Netherlands, and the league between the non-Catholic provinces was to be only a temporary expedient, in opposition to the policy of the Farnese. The Utrecht Union instead marked the beginning of a new independent state and inflicted a fatal blow to William’s policy. The military operations undertaken by the Farnese to bring the rebel provinces back to Spanish obedience accelerated the process of definitive secession: in 1581 the General States of The Hague rejected Philip II as their sovereign. The immediately following period was extremely critical: the assassination of William of Orange (1584) coincided with notable military successes by the Farnese who managed to reconquer all the territory south of the great rivers. The United Provinces were saved by their dominance over the sea and by the fact that Philip II gave up a thorough action against them to instead attempt the conquest of the British Isles: the destruction of the Invincible Army (1588), to which the united provinces also contributed, he removed the nightmare of an upcoming capitulation.
The decade 1588-98 substantially changed the situation. The military genius of Maurice of Nassau and the political skill of J. van Oldenbarneveldt brought Dutch arms to victory: the whole country north of the great rivers was freed from Spanish rule. France and England entered into an alliance with the united Provinces, recognizing the country’s independence and its inclusion in the international community. After the Peace of Vervins (1598) between France and Spain, the united provinces continued the war, even though independence had in the meantime been granted to the southern Netherlands under the archdukes Albert of Austria and Isabella; but neither the victory of Maurice at Nieuport (1600), nor did the conquest of Ostend by the archdukes secure a clear advantage to one of the two contenders. After the peace between England and Spain (1604) it therefore seemed appropriate to conclude a truce, signed in 1609 for a period of twelve years, on the basis of uti possidetis. Once again the internal life of the United Provinces was upset by religious conflicts: within Calvinism the struggle broke out between Arminians and Gomarists. The conflict soon became political, since the claim of the Gomarists to delegate the solution of the controversy to the judgment of a national synod raised the opposition of the States-General, which had granted their protection to the Arminians. Having failed Oldenbarneveldt’s attempt, assisted by the states of Holland, Utrecht and Overijssel, to prevent the expulsion of the Arminians, the synod convened condemned the heterodox doctrines. Accused of high treason, Oldenbarneveldt was sentenced to death (1619). The war resumed in 1621, Nassau died (1625), the command of the operations was assumed by the stepbrother Federico Enrico, new statolder.