The Dutch Republic is an independent nation in Europe existing from 1581, when part of the Netherlands separated from Spanish rule.
The Dutch Republic also known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Dutch: Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden), Republic of the United Netherlands or Republic of the Seven United Provinces (Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Provinciën).
The Dutch Republic was at war with several European Empires: Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Anglo–Spanish War (1625–1630), Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654), Dano-Swedish War of 1658–60, Second Northern War (1655–60, often intervened against Sweden), Dutch–Portuguese War (1662-1661) and overseas possessions: Malayan–Portuguese war (1511–1641) and various conflicts with China.
The republic is a confederation of seven provinces, which have their own governments and are very independent, and a number of so-called Generality Lands. The latter are governed directly by the States General (Staten-Generaal), the federal government. The States General are seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives of each of the seven provinces. The provinces of the republic are, in official feudal order:
- The Duchy of Guelders (Gelderland in Dutch)
- The County of Holland
- The County of Zeeland
- The Lordship of Utrecht (formerly the Episcopal principality of Utrecht)
- The Lordship of Overijssel
- The Lordship of Frisia
- The Lordship of Groningen and Ommelanden.
In fact, there is an eighth province, the County of Drenthe, but this area is so poor it is exempt from paying federal taxes and as a consequence is denied representation in the States General. Each province is governed by the Provincial States, the main executive official (though not the official head of state) is a raadspensionaris. In times of war, the stadtholder, who commands the army, would have more power than the raadspensionaris.
After the Peace of Westphalia (1648) several border territories were assigned to the United Provinces. They are federally governed Generality Lands (Generaliteitslanden). These Generality Lands are: Staats-Brabant, Staats-Vlaanderen, and Staats-Limburg.
After independence the Dutch Republic adopted Calvinism as a quasi state religion (although never formally), but practiced a degree of religious tolerance toward non-Calvinists. Chiefly Anabaptists, Lutherans and Remonstrants. It became considerably safe for Jewish and Protestant refugees from Flanders, France (Huguenots), Germany and England (religious dissents). However Catholics are systematically and official discriminated against.
The Netherlands Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, NGK, 1571) is the Presbyterian organized Reformed Christian denomination in the Dutch Republic. In 1579 by the Union of Utrecht, it enjoys the status of "public" or "privileged" church. The Union of Utrecht explicitly states that people and towns of other religions could continue to practice their religion, as long as they were loyal to the Republic, and had respect for the NGK.
The NGK is not formally adopted as the state religion, but the law demands that every public official should be a communicant member. Consequently, the Church has close relations with the Dutch government. A privilege of members of the NGK is that they could have their businesses open on Sundays, otherwise considered a religious day and not one for business.
The NGK as the following privileges:
- Pastors of the NGK baptized all children, regardless of the faith of the parents. Public servants who protested could be removed from office under pressure from the government.
- Marriages had to be done in this church.
- Pastors are paid with public money and Church buildings were built with public money.
- Schools were managed by the from the NGK (Children learn the alphabet, so that the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism could read.)
- The public education and Latin schools have religious teachers from the NGK.
- The NGK often reviews certain government appointments if the candidate is religious suspected (Antipapism)
- ¨People were not automatically members of the NGK, and the number of professing church members is therefore relatively small in different parts of the country.
The Dutch Republic as the following overseas territories, with indication of the chartered company that administers it:
In North America (Dutch West India Company)
- New Netherland in North America
- Dutch Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen) comprising various islands around the Caribbean principally colonized or seized by the Dutch from the Spanish
In South America (Dutch West India Company)
- Cape Colony (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch Gold Coast (Dutch West India Company)
- Senegambia (Dutch West India Company)
- Dutch Slave Coast (Dutch West India Company)
In Asia (Dutch East India Company)
- Dutch East Indies
- Several settlements and trading posts of the Dutch East India Company in India
- Dutch Governorate of Ceylon
- Dutch Coromandel
- Dutch Suratte
- Dutch Bengal
- Dutch Formosa (until 1662)
- Dutch City and Fort of Malacca
- Dejima, in Japan
The Dutch Republic dominates world trade in the 17th century, conquering a vast colonial empire and operating the largest fleet of merchantmen of any nation. The free trade spirit of the time received a strong augmentation through the development of a modern, effective stock market in the Low Countries. The Netherlands has the oldest stock exchange in the world, founded in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company. While Rotterdam has the oldest bourse in the Netherlands, the world's first stock exchange – that of the Dutch East-India Company – went public in six different cities. Later, a court ruled that the company had to reside legally in a single city, so Amsterdam is recognized as the oldest such institution based on modern trading principles. While the banking system evolved in the Low Countries, it was quickly incorporated by the well-connected English, stimulating English economic output.
The States General of the United Provinces are in control of the two main chartered companies: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC). Some shipping expeditions were initiated by some of the provinces, mostly Holland and/or Zeeland.
The VOC and WIC are the pillars of Dutch "merchant capitalism" which is based on trading, shipping and finance rather than manufacturing or agriculture and marked the transition of the Dutch economy to a new stage.