The history of the Netherlands is the history of seafaring people thriving on a lowland river delta on the North Sea in northwestern Europe. Records begin with the four centuries during which the region formed a militarized border zone of the Roman empire. This came under increasing pressure from Germanic peoples moving westwards. As Roman power collapsed and the Middle Ages began, three dominant Germanic peoples coalesced in the area, Frisians in the north and coastal areas, Low Saxons in the northeast, and the Franks in the south.
During the Middle Ages, the descendants of the Carolingian dynasty, came to dominate the area and then extended their rule to a large part of Western Europe. The region of the Netherlands therefore became part of Lower Lotharingia within the Frankish Holy Roman Empire. For several centuries, lordships such as Brabant, Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Guelders and others held a changing patchwork of territories. There was no unified equivalent of the modern Netherlands.
By 1433, the Duke of Burgundy had assumed control over most of the lowlands territories in Lower Lotharingia; he created the Burgundian Netherlands which included modern Belgium, Luxembourg, and a part of France.
The Catholic kings of Spain took strong measures against the new Protestantism and other dissent, which polarized those peoples of present-day Belgium and Holland. The subsequent Dutch revolt led to splitting the Burgundian Netherlands into a Catholic French and Dutch-speaking "Spanish Netherlands" (approximately modern) Belgium and Luxembourg, and a northern "United Provinces", which spoke Dutch and was predominantly Protestant, with a large Catholic minority. It became the modern Netherlands.
In the Dutch Golden Age, which had its zenith around 1667, there was a flowering of trade, industry, the arts and the sciences. A rich worldwide Dutch empire developed and the Dutch East India Company became one of the earliest and most important of national mercantile companies based on entrepreneurship and trade.
During the 18th century the power and wealth of the Netherlands declined. A series of wars with the more powerful British and French neighbors weakened it. Britain seized the North American colony of New Amsterdam, turning it into New York. There was growing unrest and conflict between the Orangists and the Patriots. The French Revolution spilled over after 1789, and a pro-French Batavian Republic was established in 1795–1806. Napoleon made it a satellite state, the Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810), and later simply a French imperial province.
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