The Netherlands is a popular tourist destination and known for its canals, windmills, and notoriously liberal attitude although Amsterdam is going some way to cleaning up its act.
The city is home to many museums covering a wide range of topics; yes we know about the Rijksmuseum, the principal national museum illustrating Dutch art and history, we know about the Anne Frank museum and the moving account of a Jewish girl living a shadow life in Nazi occupied Amsterdam in World War 2, but what about the Sexmuseum? The Museum Vrolik with exhibits of deformed babies in jars and other rare human defects, anyone?
History of the Netherlands
There is a rich pre-history of the area now comprising the Netherlands but what I find interesting is that certain ages did not happen everywhere all at the same time. For example, the Bronze Age in the this area started around 2000 BC but in Greece it started around 3200 BC.
From 800 BC migration of northern Germanic tribes who would develop into the Saxons and eastern tribes that would form the Franks settled in the area. Celts also established themselves but eventually the whole area would be conquered by the Romans before their retreat to positions along the Rhine. Franks later settled within the empire and extended their influence and power as Roman power declined in the area from the 400s AD.
The Franks reunited much of western and central Europe after the end of the Western Roman Empire, modelling themselves in fact on the Roman Empire.
In 843 it divided in to West Francia forming the basis of modern France, East Francia became known as the Kingdom of Germany and the weak, short lived Middle Francia occupied the area of the Netherlands and was subject to partition by its powerful neighbours.
The successor to East Francia, the Holy Roman Empire ruled the low countries with the Habsburgs controlling the 17 Provinces of the Netherlands until the Dutch Revolt in the second half of the 16th century, which saw the loss of the seven northern Protestant provinces. The southern Catholic part (modern day Belgium and Luxembourg) known as the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands were held until they were conquered by French Revolutionary armies in 1795 allowing the Dutch to proclaim the Batavian Republic, making the the Netherlands a sovereign state. Napolean Bonaparte set it up as a puppet state though from 1810 to 1813 it became part of the French Empire.
The end of Napoleon in 1814 gave rise to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands though the southern parts broke off to form the country of Belgium in 1830.
The Netherlands were neutral in World War 1 but in World War 2 was occupied from 1940. The Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies but with Japanese defeat, the power vacuum allowed the new Republic of Indonesia to be declared. A four year colonial war eventually saw the Netherlands give up sovereignty in 1949. Other colonies gave way to independence but some as recently as 2010 voted in referendums for closer ties and incorporation into the Netherlands as special municipalities.