Netherlands: The United Provinces
The United Provinces
Fighting with Spain was resumed in the Thirty Years War (1618–48), after which the independence of the United Provinces—as the independent Netherlands was then called—was recognized in the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Spain also ceded North Brabant, with Breda, and part of Limburg, with Maastricht. Still struggling for independence and involved in religious contention between Calvinists and Remonstrants, the Dutch laid the foundation of their commercial and colonial empire.
The Dutch East India Company (see East India Company, Dutch) was founded in 1602, the Dutch West India Company in 1621. The decline of Antwerp under Spanish rule and the right (awarded to the Dutch in the Peace of Westphalia) to control the Scheldt estuary gave supremacy to the Dutch ports, particularly Amsterdam. Dutch merchants traded in every continent (including exclusive privileges in Japan), and captured the major share of the world's carrying trade. The United Provinces opened their doors to religious refugees, notably to Portuguese and Spanish Jews and to French Huguenots, which contributed vastly to the prosperity of 17th-century Holland.
With material wealth came a cultural golden age. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals, and others carried Dutch art to its peak. The Univ. of Leiden won world acclaim; the philosophers Descartes and Spinoza and the jurist Grotius were active in the United Provinces.
Prince Frederick Henry, who had succeeded his brother Maurice in 1625 as stadtholder, was in turn succeeded by his son, Prince William II, in 1647. His death in 1650 signaled the opponents of the house of Orange to reassert the rights of the provinces and the States-General. Jan de Witt, the political leader of the estates of Holland, was chosen (1652) grand pensionary and led the Dutch republic for the next 20 years. To prevent Prince William III of Orange (son of William II) from regaining the authority of his father, de Witt by the Eternal Edict (1667) abolished the office of stadtholder in Holland and secured the virtual exclusion of the house of Orange from state affairs.
Sections in this article:
- The Postwar Years
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands
- A Succession of Wars
- The United Provinces
- Revolt in the Netherlands
- The Rise of the Netherlands
- Land and People
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