Lets go back in time, through the history of the Netherlands, to the Middle Ages. What was then known as the ‘territory of the Netherlands’ is largely the same as the Dutch provinces of today. Back then, it contained many countships, and a few duchies. These were inherited by King Philip II of Spain, in the second half of the 16th century.

The King made plans to end the privileges of the cities and rural districts, which were unsurprisingly not met with enthusiasm. The unrest led to a successful uprising, in which William of Orange, patriarch of the Dutch royal family, played a central role. The revolt resulted in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

William of Orange

The Netherlands is no longer a union of states, but a democratic state. Its unity is symbolized by the King – a descendant of William of Orange’s older brother Jan. Interestingly, the mentality of the Dutch has remained in keeping with their roots. Whilst Dutch society has become strongly secularized, it is still greatly influenced by Calvinistic philosophies. This Protestant work ethic is reflected in the way in which the country is run; through a system generally referred to as the ‘Poldermodel’ (a word invented by the British press in 1997). It might be going too far to say that it is solely responsible for making the Dutch a democratic people. However, it is clear that they are partial to detailed agreements, which must be strictly adhered to. As the old saying goes: everyone is responsible for ‘their part of the dike’. This coming together to reach a consensus, characterizes Dutch society and Dutch politics.

Recommended reading
The Low Sky – Understanding the Dutch by Han van der Horst

Dutch History in a Nutshell by Herman Beliën and Monique van Hoogstraten

Logbook of the Low Countries by Wout van der Toorn

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