Dutch History for the non-Dutch

(Part 5) Age of Industrialization & Imperialism (1831 - 1917)

The Vienna treaty that was signed in the wake of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo caused nationalistic tensions to rise in a lot of countries throughout Europe. The problem for Europe is, that there isn't a single nation in Europe that is culturally homogeneous and culturally unified, no matter how small that nation is. Europe is a patchwork of various towns, villages and regions with many different languages, religions and ethnicities and the Netherlands is no different from any other European country.

Countries that didn't have to deal a lot, with this new rise of seperatism and nationalism all across Europe instead embarked on their own kind of "nation building". Throughout the 19th and 20th century we see states evolve, emerge and dissolve, as Nationalism and Industrialisation begins to spread across Europe and of course industries require resources and so a scramble for Africa and the few remaining nations left to colonise also emerges in the 19th century.

Dutch Nationalism

In the 21st century Princess Maxima was asked by the Dutch media what the Dutch cultural indentity was. Maxima is originally Argentinian (Argentina is a largely catholic nation, while the Netherlands is considered a protestant nation), she is the daughter of a former minister of Agriculture of the Videla regime (the Videla-regime was a right-wing dictatorship), who worked at the Deutsche Bank in New York, before she married to crown prince Willem Alexander and so she will some day be the future queen of the Netherlands. Her reply was that there is no Dutch cultural identity, much to the dismay of the conservative and right-wing media. The thing is, she isn't wrong, in fact she is quite right alltogether. The reality is that the Netherlands is quite diverse and this was as much true in the 19th century as it is today. So any Dutch cultural identity that right extremists would like anyone to adhere to, to show they are (true) Dutch, is of course sheer political nonsense. But then what kind of "nation" is the Netherlands anyway?

Most citizens in the Netherlands speak the Dutch language. Standard Dutch is based on a Holland dialect of flat-German or low-German found in an area near Haarlem (a city to the west of Amsterdam). There is a reason why standard Dutch is based on this dialect, because the area near Amsterdam was then the wealthiest region inside the Netherlands. However there are other minority languages spoken in the Netherlands. The most obvious minority language is Frisian. Frisian is spoken by roughly 2.5% of the Dutch population, so it's a small minority. There are other minority languages which are often based on a Saxon dialect of German, but these aren't all that more different from Standard Dutch compaired to Frisian. Frisian itself is akin to a mix of old German and Old English, so all the languages and dialects in the Netherlands are quite similar to one another and all have a germanic origin. So you can say that language isn't much of a dividing factor in the Netherlands, unlike Belgium for instance.

In Belgium language is a dividing factor, the south is mostly French speaking, the north Dutch speaking territory and there are a few counties in the east of Belgium were German is spoken. Ironically the old dividing line between the French speaking part and Dutch speaking part of Belgium is located at Waterloo. The village of Waterloo is right on the border of these liguistic territories, in fact the name of the village literally means "Water Water", because Water in Dutch is Water and Loo is a corruption of the French word L'eau which means, you guessed it.... water.

Most autochtonous Dutch have a germanic origin. Their forefathers are any of the Germanic tribes that lived in the Netherlands during the Roman times and there aren't many noticeable differences in the Netherlands in terms of appearance, aside from the fact that blonde hair and blue eyes is slightly more common in the north than it is in the south. So most of the forefathers of autochtonous people are either Batavian or Frisian tribesmen, or their family tree can be traced back to German, Belgian, French or Swiss migrants. So ethnicity too was never a dividing factor in the Netherlands.

In the course of the 20th century after the second world war people from the former colonies of Indonesia (arriving in the 50's), Suriname (70's) and the Dutch Antilles (80's) were added to the old population. Starting in the late fifties and early sixties of the 20th century guest workers arrived from countries like Spain, Italy, Marocco and Turkey. Many of these socalled allochtonous people have now been in the Netherlands for at least 2 or 3 generations. The socalled allochtonous Dutch of Maroccan or Turkish descent are labelled by the Central Bureau of Statistics as non-western allochtonous and they make up about 7 or 8 percent of the entire population. This percentage is more likely to go down, than up, because the Netherlands is no longer an immigration country and as these non-western allochtonous mingle with the autochtonous population it is more than likely that their supposed more distinct culture will eventually be assimilated as happened to all the other migrant groups.

Religion on the other hand was a dividing factor in the Netherlands. Ever since William of Orange converted to the Calvinist faith, the majority of the Dutch population was protestant (about 60%), the other 40% remained Catholic.

However the Netherlands never saw any religious inspired and violent conflicts like in Northern Ireland. There are a few reasons for that.

Although the protestants made up the majority of the Dutch citizenry, they themselves were divided. The largest denomination within the protestant group is the "Nederlands Hervormde Kerk" (Dutch Reformed Church (reformed as an adjective). The second largest group of protestants is the "Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerk" (Dutch Reformed Church (reformed as a verb)), this more orthodox group that split from the main denomination is also Calvinist, but seperated from the main branch in the 19th century due to different interpretations of the bible.

Most Dutch calvinists outside the Netherlands belong to the oldest and main branch of the Dutch Reformed Church, but since the more orthodox people seperated from the main branch, after many of these Dutch migrants left for colonies in the modern day nations of The United States and South Africa, you get the strange practice that their "colonial" counterparts are more conservative than their "Dutch" counterparts.

These orthodox Calvinists in turn were divided into even smaller denominations as yet more groups seperated from this orthodox Calvinist denomination. Aside from Calvinist protestants, there are also "Luthers" (Lutheran), "Doopsgezinden" (Baptists) and "Remonstranten" (Remonstrants) and many more smaller protestant denominations. Next to the protestants and catholics there was also a relatively large jewish minority in the Netherlands, that made up a few percentages of the entire population, up until the second world war (nowadays only a few tens of thousands are left).

Not all people were equally strict in practising their religion and a large minority was in fact quite liberal. As industrialisation spread across the Netherlands, workers also began to form labor unions and some counties in the Netherlands, especially in the far northeast in the province of Groningen developed into communist strongholds. Needless to say most communists and some liberals alike were decidedly atheist.

Roman Catholics themselves were also divided, some were quite liberal in practising their religion, while others especially in the deep south in the province of Limburg were far more conservative. Some Catholics (mostly near the city of Utrecht and in the north of the Netherlands) seperated from the Catholic church and so in the Netherlands as in some parts of Germany we have Catholic (those who don't recognise the authority of the pope) churches next to Roman Catholic churches (those who do recognise the authority of the pope).

Most Roman Catholics lived in the southern parts of the Netherlands in the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg, these were areas conquered in the Eighty Years War and known under the name of "Generaliteitslanden". However there were also some Roman Catholics who lived in other parts of the Netherlands. Most large cities in the Netherlands had some Roman Catholic communities, some regions in the east of the Netherlands such as Twente, also continued to be Roman Catholic and there were the socalled "Roman Catholic diaspora" scattered in the north of the Netherlands. The province of Friesland for instance has what is called a "Roman Catholic belt", of small Roman Catholic communities and villages running diagonally from the southeast to the northwest. The province of Noord-Holland has towns such as Volendam that are still Roman Catholic.

So while the Netherlands was linguistically and ethnically quite homogeneous in the 19th century and early 20th century, there were quite a lot of different religious beliefs and political groups living next to eachother, making the Netherlands quite culturally diverse.

In the early 19th century the Netherlands had no approved national banner, no national anthem, no proper constitution, no national timezone and no heraldic motto. The Netherlands had only one decidedly nationalistic element and that was the royal family and this left nationalists with a problem. The Dutch Royal family were the Frisian descendants of the prince of Orange. However this Nassau branch did not speak the Frisian language, instead they spoke a posh kind of standard Dutch. They were Dutch reformed and therefore Calvinists and could not marry catholics (the fact that Maxima was a Catholic caused quite a stir amongst conservative Catholics and Protestants alike). So that meant only a large minority of the Dutch population fitted that description, naturally that didn't mean instant popularity for the royal family within every tier of Dutch society.

While the Netherlands were nominally a kingdom, the Netherlands in practice still operated more like the days of the old Republic and again parlaiment was infested with more liberals than royalists. The problem for the Dutch national parliament was that the Netherlands had no real constitution and in the absence of universal suffrage only a small elite of rich and influential men held any real power. Despite of this situation the Netherlands were relatively politically stable compaired to other European nations.

There is one major economic reason for that relative stability. The Netherlands didn't have resources such as easily accessible coal (only Limburg has some coal hidden deep in the ground) and the Netherlands had no deposits of iron ore. Manufacturing was therefore a small part of the total economic activity compaired to nations such as Belgium, England and Germany. Instead most industries were agriculturally based industries, mostly food processing plants in areas near Amsterdam, or factories that produced dairy products in Friesland, or textile plants in regions such as Twente. For the greatest part the Dutch economy centred around the old core business and that business was the same it had always been, namely international trade. Trade was often done by small businesses which didn't have such a demand for a very large workforce like large steel plants, so monopsonistic power of large companies was relatively absent in the Netherlands. This absence in turn also meant there was little need for large labor unions. That in turn meant there were no large pockets of communist or socialist held territories in the Netherlands.

Except for some religious zealots in distant and obscure regions, political extremism was comparatively hard to find in the Netherlands. Though that did not mean, it did not exist. There were some anarchist and communist counties in the north. The Netherlands also has a bible belt of its own, that is inhabited by orthodox calvinists. This bible belt runs in a diagonal line from the southwest to the northeast and includes counties in the province of Zeeland, Gelderland and some northern provinces. These orthodox Calvinists founded their own political party in the late 19th century. The "ARP" Anti-Revolutionary Party was led by notorious statesmen like Abraham Kuijper. Abraham Kuijper was a statesman who likely suffered from bipolar disorder. Although a married and devout man, there are many rumours of him having an affair with a German prostitute. These rumors didn't make headlines in Dutch papers at the time, but English papers were quick to take up on these rumors.

Another reason for the relative stability in the Netherlands was, that trade was booming again in the Netherlands. As Germany exported its machines all across the world, most of this trade went through Dutch ports such as Rotterdam. So if anything, the Netherlands benefitted from the industrialisation of its neighbours. Nevertheless because of the hardship of the previous centuries, we were still relatively poor compaired to our neighbours. It is this relative poverty of the 19th century and early 20th century that attributed to the view of the Dutch as a modest, thrifty and sometimes avaricious, hard working protestant.

The Dutch Constitution (1848)

The industrialisation brought its own boom and bust cycles. As countries like Italy and Germany became unified and independent in the 19th century, there was the scent of conflict and warfare in the air around Europe. When the potato famine struck in Ireland (1845 - 1852), other areas in Europe were not left untouched and a number of waves of agricultural crises hit various parts of Europe. One such agricultural crisis, such as the sugar crisis of 1844 also affected the Netherlands. There was the growing fear amongst the liberals that Dutch public sentiment was severely affected and that a socialist revolution might be lurking around the corner. There had already been some failed revolutions in France and Germany and cities in the Netherlands like the Hague and Amsterdam had seen a few riots. King William II was quite unpopular in the Netherlands, particularly with the politically left. Anarchists for instance nicknamed him "King Gorilla", as he was anything but an enlighted monarch.

The liberals in the parliament decided something had to be done to turn the tide. It was decided that the old constitution of 1814 was no longer suited for the task at keeping the nation together. There had already been a few amendments to the constitution of 1814, most notably in 1840 when the constitution was amended due to the fact that Belgium had left the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but by 1848 the mood was ripe for a bigger change.

In 1848 King William relented and Johan Rudolf Thorbecke set about amending the constitution. The changes brought about in the constitution in 1848 were numerous. The constiution of 1848 ensured ministerial responsibility for the first time. The second chamber could amend laws. The second chamber had the right of enquiry. The constitution ensured freedom of education, freedom of unionisation and the right to be a member of any foundation, whether political, religious, or economic. The king could no longer influence the decisions made by the Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands. However most important of all the constitution ensured free elections for census members (the first significant step towards universal suffrage). All of these changes happened without a coup and without a loss of life.

The Phlight of the Dutch Indies (1860)

The new constitution brought more freedom to many Dutch citizens, but the inhabitants of the Dutch colonies had no such luck. Their rights were surpressed by the Dutch army and the Dutch government, many inhabitants of the Dutch colonies were living in extreme poverty and were continually exploited. Most Dutch citizens either didn't know or didn't care and the few citizens that did know and did care were often powerless to change it. One such citizen who had seen all the exploitation, was fed up with this immoral economic system and he sought to make people aware of the situation. His name was Eduard Douwes Dekker and he wrote a book called "Max Havelaar of de Koffieveilingen der Nederlandse Handelsmaatschappij" (Max Havelaar or the coffee auctions of the Dutch trading corporation), also simply known as Max Havelaar, under the pseudonym of Multatuli. The book was a great literary piece and was meant to be a political message against the exploitation that was caused due to the Dutch colonial system. The book was successful in stirring up popular sentiment against the Dutch government and made many people at least somewhat aware of the terrible practices used by the Dutch colonial authorities, it also embarrased some officials, but the book did nothing more than that. Aside from limiting some excesses by the colonial authorities, business would continue as it did before and it would continue to do so for another 90 years in the Dutch Indies.

The Dutch Indies were seen as the crown colonies of the Netherlands, initially they were held, because the area was rich in spices, over the course of the colonial history of almost five centuries long, the Indonesian countryside was exploited for numerous resources, such as: coffee, rubber (used for the production of tires), palm oil (used for the production of soap) and eventually also crude oil (used for the production of gasoline, diesel and plastics).

A far more formidable opponent for Dutch colonial might was the Sultan of Atjeh. Atjeh was an area in the North of the island of Sumatra (the northern most island in modern Indonesia). The Atjeh war was one of the bloodiest colonial wars fought in the 19th century by the "KNIL" (Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger) Royal Dutch-Indian Army. Initially the war was fought over the access of the straits of Malakka. Dutch shipping was harassed by Atjeh pirates in the straits of Malakka. However later the war delevoped into a fully fledged war of conquest. The first military expedition that started the war occured in 1873, but guerilla fighting would continue well into the 20th century. Over the course of the war, many thousands of innocent Atjeh subjects died, most of whom died due to diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

The Dutch Indies were not alone in their misery at the hands of the Dutch colonial government. Another Dutch colony, but this time situated in South America, namely Suriname, had a labor shortage. With slavery abolished, Dutch merchants copied and started to use the English practice of impressment and in the late 19th century to the early 20th century transported many Indian workers to work in the plantations of Suriname.

The Dutch & Luxembourg Flags (1890)

Though Belgium was lost in the Belgian revolt, King William kept the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for a while longer. This is the reason why the Dutch and Luxembourg flags are so incredibly similar in appearance. The blue in the Luxembourg flag is slightly lighter than the blue in the Dutch flag. Legally speaking Luxembourg was a member of the German Union, so when this union dissolved in 1867 as a result of the Prussian-Austrian war of 1866, William also lost territoral control of Luxembourg and Luxembourg effectively became an independent state in its own right, just like Belgium had become earlier. The personal union of the Netherlands with Luxembourg was dissolved in 1890 when King William III was unable to produce a male heir (the Luxembourg legal system adhered to the Salic law).

So by the end of the 19th century the Kingdom of the Netherlands which had transpired from the Vienna treaty had fallen apart and roughly taken only the territories that were intially held by the Dutch Republic were left in the possession of the Dutch state, now led by the Regent-Queen Emma.

Due to the similarities of the Dutch flag and the new French "tricolour" that started to be used by the French after the French revolution (prior to the French revolution the national banner was blue with 3 tellow lily's on it, with the lily signifying the French monarchy), the Dutch merchants and Dutch navy started to use an orange ribbon on top of the Dutch flag in order to help distuingish themselves better. This use of orange ribbons, later evolved into the use of the color orange to denote anything Dutch and royalist. Its one of the reasons why the Dutch national football team in the 20th century started to use the orange color in their jersey.

Red, white and blue are in fact the most common colors used in national flags. Some examples of countries that use the colors red, white and blue in their ntional flags, besides the Netherlands are: France, Luxembourg, Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Czechia and Russia. However the oldest tricolour of them all is the Dutch flag.

The Dutch National Anthem (1901)

In the second part I already mentioned that the "Nieu Christelijk Liet", supposedly written by Philip of St. Aldegonde and used by the Dutch forces led by William of Orange during the war of indepedence became the Dutch national anthem. This was done so by an act of parliament in 1901. Prior to this the Netherlands didn't have a national anthem. The reason this song was picked is quite obvious, it is written in Dutch, it commenmorates the reasons for independence, it's a protestant song and it mentions the royal family forefathers. So it had all the right qualities to be picked by parliament.

Railways & Timetables (1905)

Parliament also sought to have a national timezone for the Netherlands. Prior to that act of parliament there was no national timezone. Time might even be different in the next town. Time in the south was an halfhour later than the west. All these differences caused a huge mess for the railroad companies and their timetables. The oldest railway track of the Netherlands is in the west of the Netherlands and runs between Haarlem and Amsterdam. When the railway companies expanded and constructed more railway lines it was decided that there needed to be a single timezone for the whole country, so that railway timetables didn't mess up. In the early 20th century there were actually 2 railway companies in the Netherlands, so that complicated matters even more. The two old companies were the Hollandse Spoorwegen (HS, Holland Railways) and the Staatse Spoorwegen (SS, State Railways, not to be confused with Hitler's elite army). Eventually the two companies were nationalised and they became the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Dutch Railways). Nowadays the railway companies are privatised. Both companies initially used Amsterdam local time (about 19 minutes behind Greenwich time), but switched to Greenwich time in 1906.

Although the Dutch cities in the west like the Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam are much closer to Greenwich, the Dutch nowadays use the Central European Time (CET), also known as Berlin Time, despite the fact that Berlin is further away. This switch to CET occured in 1940 when Nazi forces occupied the Netherlands and so the practice of using CET as the national timezone is a historical remnant of the occupation during WW2. The practice of daylight savings was reintroduced in 1977 in the Netherlands and is still used today.

The Multinationals; Philips (1891) & Royal Dutch Shell (1907) & Unilever (1908) & Fokker (1910) & KLM (1919)

Over the course of the late 19th century and early 20th century many large multinational corporations emerged in the Netherlands. If you look at the top 200 largest multinational companies of the world, there are many Dutch companies in that list, which seems somewhat unusual for such a small European country, but there is a reason for that. The Dutch enterpreneurs were used to International trade, so starting an enterprise in another country wasn't unusual. The Netherlands had many large banks and a good and sound banking system, so that meant a starting capital was readily available. The only problem was that the Netherlands was a small country and so the internal market was small too. While not a problem for many old companies, other technological enterprises needed a larger market to survive the competition and so many of those enterprises expanded abroad. The first Dutch company to do this was Philips.

Philips was founded by two brothers who initially produced lightbulbs in a shed near the town of Eindhoven in the province of Noord-Brabant. As the use of electricity spread across the Netherlands, the demand for lightbulbs increased and so the market grew, the problem was the Philips brothers hadn't invented the lightbulb, because as we all know Thomas Edison invented it and patented it in 1875. As the patent expired many other companies like the Philips brothers started to produce lightbulbs. The bigger the marketshare the easier it is to mass-produce lightbulbs and as we all know mass production reduces production costs, which leads to cheaper lightbulbs. The Philips brothers solved this problem by expanding their enterprise in another country. They started another production line in Germany in the late 19th century and so were able to circumvent protectionist measures. The company did well and as their marketshare grew in Germany they decided to expand even further. Part of the company success also came from an aggresive advertisement campaign. The biggest marketing success came in the early 20th century when the company got the order to light the Eiffel tower in Paris. Philips started to produce other products besides lightbulbs early on and began to produce a lot of households electronics, often patented by other inventors, such as radio sets and televisions. Later on the company founded their own research and development department, which is credited to have patented the compact disk among other things.

Royal Dutch (Koninklijke Olie, Royal Oil) was a company that eventually merged with a British petroleum company called Shell, to become Royal Dutch Shell. Unlike many other companies that get the Royal seal of approval and hence can use it in their name, to signify themselves as a producer of quality products, the use of the word Royal is actually caused by the fact that the royal family is one of the largest shareholders. The company started out by drilling oil in the Dutch Indies and transporting that crude oil to the Netherlands with support of the Dutch government. It was a booming business. Royal Dutch merged with Shell, a company that started out with trade in Japanese ornamental seashells, hence the name, but eventually also drilled for oil in countries like modern day Malaysia, then a british colony, coincidentally the areas are near eachother and so the companies saw mutual interests to work together. The reason that Royal Dutch was so successful in the early stages had to do with sheer luck and good fortune. When the company needed more cash to invest into drilling new oil wells in Atjeh on the island of Sumatra they couldn't get enough support of the banks, because the risk of failure was too big. In turn Royal Dutch decided to seek financial aid from the government, to get that aid they needed to show to the government officials that they could actually drill for oil. So the company set up a test drill tower near the Hague (the seat of government) and started an exemplarary drill for the officials. Noone expected oil to come out, because noone expected oil to be found so deep below the surface in the Netherlands, but it did happen, much to the amusement of the company owners, shareholders and government officials.

Unilever was created in 1930 by the amalgamation of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie. The merger was so successful because palm oil is a major raw material for both margarines and soaps and can be imported more efficiently in larger quantities. Investment in palm oil plantations is a highly lucrative business and turned out to be the second most profitable form of investment in the 20th century. The chopping down of jungle trees to make room for palm trees is also one of the main causes of deforestation in Asia.

Fokker was a Dutch manufacturer of aircraft and no longer exists today and became bankrupt in 1996. The Fokker company operated plants in the Netherlands and in the United States. The family name Fokker actually means breeder, as the family origins can be traced down to a family of horse breeders during the napoleonic times. The company was founded by Anthony Fokker in 1910. Anthony Fokker was a brilliant engineer, who managed to solve the problem of firing machine guns during flight. These early Fokker aircrafts were used a lot and with great success by the German airforce in the first worldwar. The famous Baron von Richthofen also known as the Red Baron flew in a Fokker aircraft for instance. Although outnumbered, outdated due to insufficient funding, Fokker aircraft did manage to shoot down five times as many German aircraft in the second worldwar as the Dutch airforce lost in return. The reason that Fokker sold the aircraft to the Germans in the first worldwar was due to the fact that many Dutch were more in favor of supporting the Germans than the British during WW1. The British government was deeply unpopular in the Netherlands at the time, because of the events that had transpired during the "Boer War" or Farmer War (1879-1915) in what is now South Africa. That war saw the first use of "concentration camps" by the British army in which many innocent civilians died (mostly women and children) due to disease and starvation. Most of those civilians were colonial farmers of Dutch descent, many of whom had migrated to South Africa from regions like Zeeland and Holland. It is likely that Anthony Fokker didn't want to deal with the British not because of the money offered by the Germans, but because he was aware of that recent history and hence he must have had a dislike for the British. In the Young Indiana Jones chronicles, a television series co-produced by Steven Spielberg he is wrongfully depicted as a man who dismisses Indiana Jones offer, because the offer seemed to be less money than what the Germans were offering. It also would have made neutrality more difficult if a Dutch war manufacturer would have changed sides (see part 6 about Dutch neutrality). The reason that the Fokker company went broke is because it primarily used to manufacture war aircraft, as the civilian branch was never that successful. The Netherlands wasn't involved in that many wars and so there were few orders for military aircraft and with the colonies lost after WW2, the Dutch airforce no longer required as many aircraft too. Fokker was eventually also outcompeted in its military branch. The Lockheed affaire may have been the final blow to the company, as the American company bribed government officials to buy their aircraft instead, including Prince Bernhard (the husband of Queen Juliana).

KLM Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij or Royal Airlines Company was founded in 1919. One of its earliest co-founders and aviators was Albert plesman (1889 - 1953). Intially the airline flew from Amsterdam Schiphol airport to London and also to Batavia in the Dutch Indies (modern Jakarta in Indonesia). KLM was the first European airlines to start commercial transatlantic flights to the United States, only 4 years after most of the company assets were virtually destroyed in WW2. Despite the hardship of WW2 and severe competition, KLM nevertheless became a profitable company that finally merged with Air France in 2004.

Continue to PART 6