HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS:
The Netherlands was part of the “Dutch Republic” from 1581 to 1795. During this period the Dutch operated the largest fleet of merchant men of any nation & were leaders in world trade.
In the years leading up to 1795, theNetherlands was being controlled by Prince William V of Orange, from Britain (he was the last ‘Stadtholder’, or lieutenant, of the Dutch Republic).
Many people in the lower classes at this time supported William V (and the Dutch Republic System); however the middle and upper classes were becoming frustrated. They were discontented with the hereditary system & unemployment in the textile industry; and they wanted more democracy.
A band of young revolutionaries, called Patriots, began challenging the authority of William V. Their rebellions were quashed, and most of the Patriots were driven abroad to Northern France.
French Invasion (1795-1813):
The Batavian Republic:
In the severe winter of 1795, French revolutionary forces crossed the great frozen rivers that traditionally protected the Netherlands. The French were quickly able to break the resistance of the forces of William V of Orange (and his Austrian and British allies), causing him to flee toEngland.
Many of the Dutch people viewed the French invasion as liberation. The exiled Patriot revolutionaries were allowed to leave Northern France and return to the Netherlands. With the help of the French revolutionary armies, they established the “Batavian Republic” (modeled after the French Republic). The new Republic enjoyed widespread support from the Dutch population and was the product of a genuinely popular revolution. For a while, the new Republic was governed democratically.
Although the French presented themselves as liberators, they behaved a lot like conquerors (for example, a new treaty obligated the Dutch to maintain a French army of occupation of 25,000 men to serveFrance’s foreign and military policy). However, the Netherlands did retain some independence, and the program of reform that the Dutch revolutionaries attempted to put in place was mostly driven by indigenous needs and aspirations.
In 1798 a new constitution was formed which addressed many of the reformist concerns of the Patriots since 1785 (no hereditary offices, accountability of officials, and the establishment of democracy).
The Kingdom of Holland:
In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte forced the Dutch government to accept his brother, Louis Bonaparte, as monarch, so that he could better control theNetherlands. The “BatavianRepublic” became the “KingdomofHolland”. King Louis did not perform to Napoleon’s expectations (he tried to serve Dutch interests instead of his brother’s) and the kingdom was dissolved in 1810 when Napoleon annexed the country into the French Empire.
Netherlands (1813 – today):
TheNetherlandsregained independence from France in 1813. In 1815 it became the “United Kingdom of the Netherlands” when the Southern provinces (Austrian Netherlands, Luxembourg and Liège) rejoined it in order to create a strong buffer state north of France. After Belgium became independent, the state finally became known as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as it remains today.