Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also includes most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. In 1568 the Eighty Years" War started after the entire population had been condemned to death by the Holy See and confirmed by the king, and in 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces declared itself independent and formed the Union of Utrecht, which is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. However, it would not be until 1648 before Spain would recognize Dutch independence. After gaining formal independence from the Spanish Empire, the Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the era, referred to as the Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe.
After briefly being incorporated in the First French Empire under Napoleon, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815, consisting of the present day Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The king of the Netherlands became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890 as a result of ascendancy laws which prevented Queen Wilhelmina from becoming Grand Duke.
During the 19th century, The Netherlands was slow to industrialize compared to neighboring countries, mainly due to its unique infrastructure of waterways and reliance on wind power. After remaining neutral in World War I, over 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust of World War II, along with significant numbers of Dutch Roma (gypsies). Netherlands suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. After the war, the Dutch economy prospered again, being a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and European Economic Community unions. The Netherlands also became a member of NATO. The Netherlands was among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve into the European Union.
The Netherlands is located in northwestern Europe. It borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. A significant feature of the Netherlands is the flatness of the country. About half of its surface area is less than 1m above sea level, and large parts of it are actually below sea level. An extensive range of dikes and dunes protect these areas from flooding. Numerous massive pumping stations keep the ground water level in check. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the south-eastern most point of the country, is 321m above sea level. A substantial part of the Netherlands has been reclaimed from the sea.
在拿破仑的统治下，荷兰曾一度并入法兰西第一帝国，1815年荷兰王国成立，由今天的荷兰、比利时和卢森堡组成。 荷兰国王成为世袭的卢森堡大公。1830年比利时反抗荷兰国王获得独立。 卢森堡和荷兰的私人联盟在1890年由于帝王继承法律阻止威廉敏娜王后成为大公而终止。
19世纪，和其邻国相比，荷兰的工业化发展缓慢，主要是因为它只能靠地下水和风力。在第一次世界大战中，荷兰保持中立，超过10万荷兰犹太人和大量荷兰人的罗马人 (吉普赛人)在二战大屠杀中丧生。第二次世界大战中，荷兰被德国侵略和占领。战后，荷兰成为比荷卢 （比利时、荷兰和卢森堡）和欧洲经济共同体成员，经济再次繁荣。 荷兰也成为了北大西洋公约组织成员。荷兰是欧洲煤钢共同体的6个创建国之一，它后来发展为欧盟。
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