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No more "Holland": it's "the Netherlands"

The Dutch tourist bureau won't speak of "Holland" anymore, but of "the Netherlands", as reported in this article in the Guardian, to get rid of the image of tulips, windmills and cows, and to stimulate tourists to visit other parts of the country.
I doubt whether it will work. For most foreigners "Holland" is just another name for the Netherlands, not limited to the two provinces in the western part in which the icons of Amsterdam, Delft and Kinderdijk happen to be situated.

The whole nomenclature for the Netherlands is confusing. The English "Netherlands" is a full synonym of "Low Countries", which is used for present-day Netherlands and Belgium combined. The equivalent of "Low Countries" in other languages - such as the French "Pays-Bas" - is reserved for the Netherlands, with the exclusion of Belgium.
It all has to do with the history of these two countries. Having been one political entity until the present-day Netherlands got its independence (officially in 1648), it was part of the Spanish empire. The independent republic got known as the "United Provinces" or the "United Netherlands". The western provinces being the most important for trade and politics, "Holland" became the name for the country as a whole, like "England" is often used for the whole of Great Britain.
Only with their independence - in 1830 - Belgium got its present name. Before the brief period of reunification with the northern Netherlands in 1813, it was known as the "Spanish Netherlands" (later, after one of the geopolitical moves of those days, the "Austrian Netherlands").

Posted by
2487 posts

And to complicate it even further, the English "Dutch" for the inhabitants of the Netherlands and their language is also confusing. The Dutch equivalent "Duits", similar to the German "Deutsch", is used for the Germans.
It led to the misnomer "Pennsylvanian Dutch", which were German and not Dutch. The Dutch in New York, on the other hand, were Dutch, and not Duits or Deutsch.

Posted by
8293 posts

So. What is the origin, do you think, of the phrase “going Dutch”, meaning each person pays for himself or herself on a date? Or is that just a term used in my country?

Posted by
2487 posts

All those English expressions in which "Dutch" has a more or less negative meaning (don't forget the "Dutch courage", "double Dutch" and so on) seem to date from the days the two countries were in stiff competition with each other and were periodically at war.
Those Anglo-Dutch relations are so complicated. The young Dutch Republic sought support in England, which led to the Duke of Leicester having a not small say in the politics of those days, until he made himself impossible. The so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 (only a few years after the Third Anglo-Dutch war of the 1670s!) was no less than a Dutch invasion on request of the English Protestants. The Orange Marches in Northern Ireland are a reminder of that.

Posted by
1131 posts

Dutch uncle, dutch widow, I'm a Dutchman, etc. There seem to be loads of them. More even than "French ..." ones which you'd expect to be more common given the much longer animosity. I recall, just, having to learn about the Anglo-Dutch Wars at school, it all seemed very confusing and never clear who won (overall, I think it was a score draw).

Posted by
1759 posts

I want to know what they put in the water that makes them so tall!

Easy to identify the Dutch - they are huge (in a nice way)

Posted by
2487 posts

I would say two wars without a clear winner, one for the Dutch, one for the English.
They are still a sensitive issue. I remember a British royal visit to the Rijksmuseum, about which was said a trophy (from the raid on the Medway) was discretely hidden not to run the risk of hurting their feelings.

Posted by
2487 posts

what they put in the water that makes them so tall
Milk and genetics seems to be the explanation. It's the same with the Maasai in Kenya.

Posted by
1453 posts

Nick - For England and certainly not to forget France these wars were more about imperial interests, and for the Dutch Republic as a trading nation the interests mainly economic. The Republic being the absolute economic powerhouse of Europe (and beyond) in the 17th century both France and England wanted to get rid off this newcomer. Having not such a strong military tradition and ambition in that field too as these two dominant military and political forces in Europe it was more a matter of survival and it was a very close call we managed to avoid annexation by the French in 1672.

The Anglo-Dutch relationship was indeed very complicated. I think having too much internal struggle in the 17th century the English didn’t win but as everybody knows on the long run with the defeat of Napoleon and starting the Industrial Revolution they did, but that's ofcourse much later.

Posted by
2487 posts

And not to forget the overall balance of power in Europe which made alliances change as quickly as the Dutch and English weather.
In 1780s England had its 4th and last war against the Netherlands in this series of maritime conflicts, only a mere 15 years later to be active in restoring the power of the House of Orange, when they felt the influence of revolutionary France in the Netherlands had become too strong during the period of the Batavian Republic.

Posted by
950 posts

I always thought Holland referred to the north half of the country and Netherlands to the country as a whole? I have always called it the Netherlands and not Holland. I cant remember where I read that.

Posted by
2487 posts

In a strict sense Holland is used for the present-day provinces of North Holland and South Holland. Don't say to somebody in Friesland or Groningen, in the north, they are Hollanders! For them the Hollanders are the arrogant city people in the west.

Posted by
1131 posts

Wil - from what little I still remember of my school history, the 17th century in England was the most complicated bit. With constantly shifting alliances and preferences based on religion, civil power, trade, Ireland, and so on. Frankly the whole century was a mess of civil wars; protestants, more protestant protestants, and catholics; long, short, rump and loyal Parliaments; Jacobites; invasions (in and out); early colonisation of the Americas; the Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights (didn't the USA steal that one?); kings then a republic then kings again; Williamanmary: England ruled by an Orange descended from Nell Glyn; etc.

Posted by
1294 posts

"Holland" became the name for the country as a whole, like "England"
is often used for the whole of Great Britain.

I think this statement brings up another common confusion.
"Great Britain" is the name of the island that includes the three countries of England, Scotland, and Wales.
"The UK" or "The United Kingdom," or more completely, "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is the correct term for the entire sovereign state that we often refer to for simplicity's sake (but inaccurately) as "England" or "Britain."

Posted by
2487 posts

Bill of Rights (didn't the USA steal that one?)
There are some who argue that the American Declaration of Independence was inspired by the Dutch equivalent, the Act of Abjuration (Plakkaat van Verlatinghe) of 1581.
Both countries-to-be faced the same problem: what justification can be found to reject the authority of the king? The Dutch found it in the principle that a king is to serve its people, not the people to serve its king, and that the subjects are entitled not to regard him any longer as their sovereign if their rights are not respected.
The language of the American declaration differs widely from its possible Dutch predecessor. It is after all two centuries later and the influence of the Enlightenment is clear, but the principal justification is the same.

Posted by
1453 posts

Nick - Have to say my knowledge about English history is more bits and pieces but I know that the struggle between protestants and catholics and other conflicts like the English Civil War strongly devided the nation during that time.

As far as I know the Act of Abjuration was more about a dispute between the nobility of the Low Countries and it’s ruler Spanish king Philip II and had to my opinion lesser to do with the will of a people at that point in history. The Act of Independence is more based on the will of a people, the independence made soon the way free for democracy. The Constitution of the United States (with the Bill of Rights) is based on human rights, and indeed an important benefit of Enlightenment.

Posted by
5817 posts

Referring to Great Britain or the UK as England might be "simpler" for people who don't know better but it's also wrong and potentially quite offensive to a lot of people. Scotland and Wales are NOT England and to lump them all together with England with little consideration to differing histories, cultures, languages etc is basically rude. It would be progress if the RS organisation would make the effort to accurately include Wales in the title of the "Best of England" tour, but I'm not holding my breath!

Posted by
1294 posts

Good point, emma!

As a US citizen living in Mexico, I can't pass up mentioning that referring to US citizens as "Americans" or to the US as "America" is seen as offensive in some other parts of the Americas. I have tried to avoid conflating the US and America in my writing and speaking for a long time. But I wish there were a more convenient demonym for people from the USA.

Posted by
2487 posts

I have once jokingly said a proper name for the USA would be the United States of a Part of North-America. The present one is somewhat pretentious.

Posted by
226 posts

OK Ton , I get it , really I do . But.....as long as products from The Netherlands are described as being made in "Holland" you can't blame people for calling The Netherlands "Holland " .
Droste cacao , Delft Blauw pottery , Chrysal cut flower food and many more products have ' made in Holland ' on them !
So don't blame people for not calling it The Netherlands when businesses in The Netherlands call it HOLLAND !

Posted by
5284 posts

Important question -- should my Eggs Benedict now be made with "Netherlandaise" sauce ?

Posted by
2487 posts

That was my point: for most people Holland and the Netherlands are fully interchangeable.

Posted by
4202 posts

What fun to read all this history -- thanks to Ton and Wil and the rest! I feel like I should get course credit for this forum, or parts of it anyway.

The most interesting thing I've learned about Amsterdam, from the Russell Shorto book, is the idea that it was created by "building" a city over the water, therefore no established land ownership, therefore no feudalism, therefore the first republic since Rome. Venice has a similar origin and history.

Posted by
1017 posts

I wish there were a more convenient demonym for people from the USA.

U-S-Anians ? or easier to pronounce: Usanians?

Posted by
2487 posts

therefore no feudalism
This is also true for large parts of the countryside, especially the area which is now called the »Green Heart« (roughly between The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam). This was swampy terrain of peat grounds which had to be cleared and drained to make it suitable for agriculture. No landlords as in the eastern part of the country, but colonists who were attracted with property rights and tax exemptions.

Posted by
1294 posts

U-S-Anians ? or easier to pronounce: Usanians?

I like it, l.p.enersen. Unfortunately, I don't have much hope for widespread adoption. There are a lot of Usanians who are "proud to be an American" (as a certain song goes). The term "American" is deeply embedded in our national psyche.

Posted by
1453 posts

Dick - Instead of Amsterdam most of the time Venice and Northern Italy are compared historically with Bruges and Flanders as both had their economic and culturul heydays during medieval times. Later Antwerp was in the 16th century till it’s fall in 1585 the predecessor of Amsterdam. With drawing the borders of the Dutch Republic the Southern Netherlands lost free access to the North Sea, especially Flanders and with that the three main seaports Bruges, Ghent and formost Antwerp came into an economic and social downfall. This caused an unprecedented braindrain, a high percentage of the economical elite looked for a better life somewhere else like in the Republic. These skilled people helped boosting the economy and cultural life of many cities, Amsterdam included. The latter also benefited very much being located far away from the frontline during the Eighty Years' War and surrounded by swamps, inlets and rivers relatively easy to defend against military threats, so keeping it’s hands free for trade.

The independent Republic was able to follow it’s own course, the Southern Netherlands on the contrary remained under the Spanish rule and since then the ball in the game of foreign powers. So they were at the losing side of our independence struggle. For patriotic and nationalistic Flemish the name “Hollander” is like for the already mentioned inhabitants of Friesland and Groningen still the equivalent of pretence. For the rest we get along very well.

What made all these places to a succes is that they played a pivital (trading) role in a strongly urbanised area. These areas still are fertile and are since long agricultur well developed and so able housing a high number of people and so making a high level of urbanisation possible. In cities people had more freedom and with a higher concentration of talent it were centres of skills, innovation, knowledge, wide variety of networks (with an emphasis on trade) and there were early signs of democracy. As long as these rich cities supported the feudal lords financialy they could keep their relative freedom. As the feudal lords were not so much interested in the swamps of Holland, but also the coastal areas and those along the rivers prone to flooding we have only experienced in general a mild version of feudalism. People reclaimed and managed land and tolerated each other as that was the only way to face the challenges, think that defines our national character.

That tolerance made it possible that the Republic could welcome people with all kinds of backgrounds and so able to benefit the “Golden Age” and I wouldn’t be surprised it inspired someway the Founding Fathers of the USA.

Posted by
2487 posts

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the Netherlands got rich at the cost of Flanders.
The city council of Leiden published around 1600 a pamphlet thanking God for the »Spanish Fury«: the immense destruction they caused in Flanders, which - as Wil explained - made so many people with skills and money flee to the relative safety of the Netherlands. Leiden had to create a new extension to accommodate all these new arrivals, who were of immense importance for the city, giving a new impulse at the cloth industry. Somewhere on a street corner in that neighbourhood you can still see a contemporary memorial stone declaring it the »Promised Land in the New City« with an obvious biblical allusion.

Posted by
1453 posts

That’s a significant stone plaque Ton. Interesting to read all those different stories. As a kid I have learned too much the feel good side of our past and it’s fun to see there are so many different perspectives regarding history giving a more realistic idea about our past, like the story of the Pilgrims. The media nowadays payes more and more attention to this and that’s a good developement.