The Netherlands, mostly also called Holland has 25% of its land area at below sea level with another 50% just one metre above. Its lands have been reclaimed from the sea and the delta of three rivers, the Meuse, the Rhine and the Scheldt, by an elaborate system of polders and dykes. Even Amsterdam, its capital consists of a system of canals surrounded by low-lying houses, often supported by stilts. Considerable land loss was incurred during an immense storm in 1134 when the Zeeland Archipelago was formed. The Delta Project which secures Holland from the sea is considered by many to be one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

Holland is a densely populated country with 16.5 million people, with 850,000 living in Amsterdam. It is in fact the 25th most densely populated country in the world just in front of Israel.

Holland was part of the Habsburg Dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire including Spain, Germany and parts of France until 1581 when The Netherlands declared independence and became a republic after over 80 years of war with Spain, helped to a lesser extent by the British. The Dutch Empire then grew to become one of the most important seafaring nations in the world creating colonies in Asia, Central America and Africa. Most famously they founded New Amsterdam, later called New York when the British took it over.

The Netherlands were neutral during WWI and intended to remain neutral during WWII but were invaded by the Nazis in 1940 and within just five days, occupied. Netherlands were forced to declare war on Japan when their colonies in Indonesia were occupied in 1942.

Since the war the Netherlands has developed considerably, both economically and socially, now being considered one of the most liberal countries on earth.

View Larger Map