Netherlands, a country located in north western Europe, also known as Holland.
“Netherlands” means low-lying country, and the country is incredibly flat, with large expanses of lakes, rivers, and canals.
Some 2,500 square miles (6,500 square km) of the Netherlands consist of reclaimed land, the result of a process of careful water management dating back to medieval times. Along the coasts, land was reclaimed from the sea, and, in the interior, lakes and marshes were drained, especially alongside the many rivers.
All this new land was turned into polders, usually surrounded by dikes. Initially, man power and horsepower were used to drain the land, but they were later replaced by windmills, such as the mill network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. If it were to lose the protection of its dunes and dikes, the most densely populated part of the country would be inundated (largely by the sea but also in part by the rivers).
This highly developed part of the Netherlands, which generally does not lie higher than about three feet (one metre) above sea level, covers more than half the total area of the country. About half of this area (more than a quarter of the total area of the country) actually lies below sea level.
Despite government-encouraged emigration after World War II, which prompted some 500,000 persons to leave the country, the country is today one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
This relative independence of outlook was evident as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Dutch rejected monarchical controls and took a relatively enlightened view of other cultures, especially when they brought wealth and capital to the country’s trading centres. In that period Dutch merchant ships sailed the world and helped lay the foundations of a great trading country characterised by a vigorous spirit of enterprise.
In later centuries, Holland continued to have one of the most advanced economies in the world, despite the country’s modest size. The Dutch economy is open and generally internationalist in outlook.