The Netherlands’ name reflects its low-lying topography, with more than a quarter of its total area under sea level.
Now a constitutional monarchy, the country began its independent life as a republic in the 16th century, when the foundations were laid for it to become one of the world’s foremost maritime trading nations.
Although traditionally among the keener advocates of the European Union, Dutch voters echoed those in France by spurning the proposed EU constitution in a 2005 referendum.
The Netherlands has produced many of the world’s most famous artists from Rembrandt and Vermeer in the 17th century to Van Gogh in the 19th and Mondrian in the 20th. It attracts visitors from across the globe.
- Republic of Netherlands
- Capital: Amsterdam
- Population 16.7 million
- Area 41,864 sq km (16,164 sq miles)
- Major language Dutch
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 79 years (men), 83 years (women)
- Currency euro