Thayer Watkins

The Netherlands


The economic circumstances of the Low Countries are disguised by political boundaries. Economically the crucial aspect of the Low Countries is that they are at the mouth of the Rhine River. This gives them, particularly Holland, access to the Rhine River Valley, but they also have access to the coastal trade of the English Channel, the North Sea and beyond. This strategic location is evidenced in the fact that the busiest port of Europe is Rotterdam. In particular, petroleum supplies for western Europe can come by way of Rotterdam.

The riverine nature of the Netherland is revealed in the names of the major cities, Rotterdam, the dam on the Rot River; Amsterdam, the dam on the Amster River.

The Period of Spanish Domination

The Netherlands came to be dominated by Spain because the heir to the Habsburg realm in the Low Countries, Philipp I ("the Handsome") married the heiress to the throne of Spain, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. This made their son Charles (later Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) the heir to both Spain and the Low Countries and other Habsburg realms. Charles was born in Ghent in what is now Belgium.

Charles grew up in the Low Countries and apparently was more comfortable speaking Dutch than Spanish. The accusation was often made later that he did not speak Spanish. Charles expanded his territories in the Low Countries, but when he became King of Spain he shifted his location and field of interest to Spain. Most disasterously of all he chose Spaniards to rule in the Netherlands, most notably the infamous Duke of Albi.

The Industrial Revolution in the Netherlands

For a period of time in the Renaissance the Netherlands was the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. But by the time England was going through the industrial revolution the Netherlands was lagging behind. In part, this was due to the lack of coal and metal ores.

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