Republic of the Seven United Netherlands


January 27, 2022

The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Latin: Belgium Foederatum) was a confederation between 1588 and 1795 with features of a defense alliance and a customs union. It largely covered the territory of what is now the Netherlands. It acquired great political and economic power in the 17th century and played a leading role on the world stage for quite some time. The end came with the French invasion of 1792–1795, although the decline had already begun. The Republic consisted of eight sovereign states: Stad en Lande (Groningen), Friesland, Overijssel, Gelderland, Utrecht, Holland, Zeeland and Drenthe. Each state governed its own territory. Representatives of seven states (Drenthe was not included) sent their representatives to the States General in The Hague. Territories that were located outside the eight provinces but did belong to the territory of the confederation, the so-called generality countries, were located in the current Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant (State Brabant) and Limburg (State-Overmaas and Staats-Opper-Gelre). , in present-day Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (Staats-Vlaanderen) and in the southeast of Groningen (Wedde and Westerwolde). Remarkable in the small republic of around 1.5 million inhabitants was the success of the Dutch world trade via the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), the West India Company (WIC), and those in the Baltic Sea, the great military successes vis-à-vis apparently much stronger countries such as Spain and England, the enormous fleet (with 2000 ships larger than those of England and France combined), and the flourishing of the arts (Rembrandt and many others) and sciences (including Hugo de Groot), accompanied by that time relatively great spiritual freedom.



The Netherlands under the Burgundians and Habsburgs

In the second half of the 15th century, a large part of the Netherlands belonged to the dukes of Burgundy by inheritance and conquest. Of all the regions, the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Flanders, with cities such as Bruges and Ghent, were the most important in the Netherlands. They had the largest population and were the most economically developed. Compared to the rest of Europe, economic power was matched only by northern Italy. In the 15th century, the county of Holland still had little economic value. It had little export and relied mainly on shipping and fishing. The duke's court was located in Mechelen and the first university in Leuven. During the reign of Charles the Bold, the administration of the Netherlands became more centralized, to the dismay of the provinces, the army was expanded, and taxes were increased. After his death, Flanders revolted against its successor, Mary of Burgundy, and the Great Privilege was enforced in 1477, restoring the rights of the regions. Maria married Emperor Maximilian, with which the Netherlands passed to the House of Habsburg. After Mary's death, Maximilian did everything he could to abolish the Great Privilege, much to the dismay of the revolted regions. This great uprising was crushed by military intervention. Subsequently, the Habsburgs tried to forge a unity of the seventeen Dutch regions, with Brussels as its capital: the Habsburg Netherlands. Of these regions, Flanders, Brabant, and Holland, which grew economically from the 16th century, were by far the most important; together they generated 75% of tax revenues. The Reformation began in the Low Countries at the beginning of the 16th century. One of the reasons for this was people's dissatisfaction with abuses in the Roman Catholic Church. In the beginning Protestantism was mostly professed in secret because it was punishable by death. After 1560 the Calvinists gained more ground, starting in the Southern Netherlands. The Habsburg government did everything in its power to

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