Netherlands Fact File
Official name Kingdom of the Netherlands
Form of government Constitutional monarchy with two legislative bodies (First Chamber and Second Chamber)
Capital Amsterdam; The Hague is the seat of government
Area 41,865 sq km (16,164 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 1 hour
Projected population 2015 16,420,000
Population density 383.8 per sq km (994.1 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 78.6
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 4.3
Official language Dutch
Other languages Frisian
Literacy rate 99 %
Religions Protestant 35%, Roman Catholic 34 °л Muslim 3%, other 2%, unaffiliated 26%
Ethnic groups Dutch 95.8%, Turkish 1.2%, Moroccan 0.9%, other 2.1 %
Economy Services 71 %, industry 26%, agriculture 3 %
GNP per capita US$ 26,900
Climate Temperate, with cool winters and mild summers
Highest point Mt Vaalserberg 321 m (1,053 ft) Map reference Page 288
Situated in northwestern Europe, with a western and northern coastline on the North Sea, the Netherlands is bordered by Germany to its east and Belgium to its south. About half the area of this low-lying nation is below sea level and the country is saved from inundation only by a series of coastal dikes and sand dunes, heavily planted with marram grass to prevent erosion, and a com-
plex network of canals and waterways, into which excess water is pumped from low-lying areas and then carried to the rivers that flow to the coast. For centuries the Dutch have been engaged in battle with the sea, and have gradually reclaimed huge amounts of land from it. In the last century more than 3,000 sq km (1,160 sq miles) of land were added. The most spectacular reclamation was the Zuiderzee project that began in 1920 and was completed almost 50 years later. Several polders were created in the former bay, the largest of them being Flevoland and the Noordoostpolder. The newly gained areas are important for settling and economy. They substantially relieve the agglomerations in the south of the country.
In the first century вс the Germanic peoples of the Low Countries, which include present-day Belgium and Luxembourg, were colonized by Roman armies. From the fifth century ad the region came under the successive control of Frankish, Burgundian, Austrian, and finally, in the fifteenth century, Spanish rulers. In 1568, William of Orange, outraged by Spain's suppression of a spreading Protestant movement, led a revolt. In 1581 the seven northern provinces of the Low Countries declared their independence as the United Provinces of the Netherlands.
This set the scene for the consolidation and expansion of Dutch power throughout the seventeenth century. Trading posts and colonies were established in the East Indies (now Indonesia), the Caribbean (the Antilles), Africa, and South and North America. This period also saw the emergence of the Netherlands as a great maritime nation and a blossoming of Dutch art, literature, and scientific achievements.
The French, under Napoleon, invaded in 1794. After the defeat of France, the Congress of Vienna united the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg under a Dutch monarch in 1814. Belgium declared itself independent in 1831 and Luxembourg was granted autonomy in 1848. In 1848 a new constitution was introduced reducing the power of the monarch and investing greater authority in the Estates-General, as the parliament is still called. This laid the groundwork for the later emergence of a parliamentary democracy under a monarch with strictly formalized and limited powers.
The Netherlands remained neutral in the First World War and its neutrality was respected by both sides. In the Second World War it was overrun by Nazi forces in 1940, in blatant breach of interntional law. Its East Indies colonies were invaded by Japan. At the end of the war, the Netherlands began an armed conflict with rebel forces in its East Indies colony. It finally granted them independence, as the Republic of Indonesia, in 1949. Suriname, in South America, became independent in 1975, leaving the Antilles and Aruba as the Netherlands' only overseas territories.
After the Second World War the Netherlands joined the NATO alliance and became one of the founder members of the European Economic Community, later the European Community and then the European Union. In 1992 the Treaty on European Union, the Maastricht Treaty, was signed in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht.
Physical features and land use The Netherlands
Almost all of the Netherlands is flat and much of the landscape is covered by small farming plots, intensively cultivated and surrounded by ditches or canals. Dotting the landscape are windmills which for centuries have been used to drain the land. These are now largely picturesque as they have been supplanted by motor pumps. Much of this land is dedicated to horticulture, especially the growing of tulips and other bulb plants, often in tandem with vegetable produce.
Cattle farming and dairying, the country's main forms of agriculture, are strongest in the northwest, in the provinces of North Holland and Friesland, on either side of the Ijsselmeer, the area of the Zuiderzee project. The Ijsselmeer is an expanse of fresh water, separated from the salt water of the Waddenzee by a dike that is 32 km (20 miles) long. This lies between the northwest coast and a succession of accumulations of sand which are known as the West Frisian Islands. On the land side, streets are built on the dike.
Further south, near the coast, is a succession of densely populated urban areas that include Amsterdam and the other major Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, one of the world's largest ports. Together with other important cities such as Haarlem, The Hague, Utrecht, Delft, and Leyden, the main centers Amsterdam and Rotterdam form an extended agglomeration, called the Randstad Holland. Just south of this urban conglomeration, the major rivers that flow into the Netherlands—among them the Rhine from Germany and the Schelde and the Meuse from Belgium—share a common delta area. The only relief from flat land is in the far southeast, where a range of hills rises in places to about 100 m (300 ft).
Industry and commerce Netherlands
Concentrated in the heavily populated urban southwest, manufacturing industry employs about one in five members of the workforce. Food processing, chemical and electrical machinery manufacture, metal, engineering, electronic products, and petroleum refining are major industries. Natural gas is the country's principal natural resource, and there are extensive reserves in the north.
Most Dutch people enjoy an affluent lifestyle, although some groups of immigrants on the fringes of the cities live in conspicuous poverty. Social services are well developed and the country has one of the best state-funded healthcare systems in the world.