Useful country information
Total area: 16,033 sq mi (41,526 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 16,877,351 (growth rate: 0.42%); birth rate: 10.83/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.66/1000; life expectancy: 81.12
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Amsterdam (official), 1.056 million; The Hague (administrative capital), 635,000
Other large cities: Rotterdam, 1.014 million
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly guilder)
National name: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden
Languages: Dutch (official) note: Frisian, Low Saxon, and Limburgish are recognized as regional languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Ethnicity/race: Dutch 80.7%, EU 5%, Indonesian 2.4%, Turkish 2.2%, Surinamese 2%, Moroccan 2%, Caribbean 0.8%, other 4.8% (2008 est.)
Religions: Roman Catholic 28%, Protestant 19% (includes Dutch Reformed 9%, Protestant Church of The Netherlands, 7%, Calvinist 3%), other 11% (includes about 5% Muslim and lesser numbers of Hindu, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witness, and Orthodox), none 42% (2009 est.)
National Holiday: Queen's Day, April 30
Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)
The Netherlands, on the coast of the North Sea, is part of the great plain of north and west Europe.
After centuries of foreign rules by the Romans, Franks, Burgunds, Habsburgs, and Spaniards in 1648 the Dutch Republic became a free and sovereign state. During the 17th century, also called the 'Golden Age', the Republic became increasingly prosperous and a major colonial power, thanks largely to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
In 1815, the northern and southern Netherlands – today's Netherlands and Belgium – were combined to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I but was invaded in World War II by Germany in May 1940 and occupied for five years.
Today the Netherlands is a modern, industrialized nation and the third largest exporter of food. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EU, and participated in the introduction of the Euro in 1999.
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