Holland is the name of a stretch of 100 miles of land along the North Sea. Its name ("Holtland" - woodland) isn't much reflected in its landscape, which is predominantly urban area and agricultural polderland. Holland is a centre of world trade, provides agricultural products to the whole of Europe and far beyond, and is home to over 4 million people.

Its highest natural points are the dunes; what lies behind is flat and mostly below sea level. The lowest points are urban areas: the Willem-Alexanderpolder in Rotterdam and, at 6.74 m below NAP, the Zuidplaspolder in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel.

In mediaeval times, Holland was a county. Its counts were homegrown, bearing names like Dirk and Willem. The most striking event in its history was the assassination of count Floris V in 1296. Through war and marriage, its rule fell to foreign nobility (globalization medieval style), and at the start of the 16th century, to the duchy of Burgundy. Thus, Holland became part of the Low Countries, a federative assembly of counties, with a parliament seated in Brussels.

The retirement (1555) and death (1558) of Charles V left Burgundy in the hands of the new king of Spain, Philip II, who showed little interest or respect for his remote "Burgundian" property. He set out to rule as an absolute monarch, attempted to centralize power, imposed heavy taxation and enforced religious prosecution of the new protestant movement, which had spread like wildfire.

The Low Countries revolted; after a Spanish military campaign ran dead in the Holland moorlands, the Northern half formed its own parliament in 's-Gravenhage, and effectively gained political independence, a status quo eventually confirmed by treaty after an 80 year war (1568-1648).

In the new federation, which later developed into the present-day state of the Netherlands, Holland became the dominant economical and political force. A free haven for those persecuted elsewhere, it attracted much economic activity. Amsterdam took over Antwerps role as the main European port, not least because Antwerp was under Spanish rule, had been sacked by Spanish troops, and saw its port permanently blocked by the Dutch fleet.

A Golden Age set in; trade flourished, the arts, sciences and engineering skills moved north to Holland, and produced wonders such as the paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn, the land reclamation works of Cornelis Leeghwater, and the development of the wave theory of light by Christiaan Huygens.

After decades, neighbours Britain and France (10 to 20 times bigger) overcame their internal and mutual conflicts, and pushed back Holland into a secondary political role. Holland always retained its prominent place in world trade, and lost political independence only twice after (1798-1813, to Napoleon, and 1940-1945, to Hitler).

The three principal cities of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Den Haag, are all located in Holland. Amsterdam, the capital, is the cultural centre; Rotterdam, until recently the biggest port in the world, prides itself on being a working man's city; Den Haag, the seat of parliament, is the political and administrative centre. Loosely knit together by a string of smaller and bigger towns and suburbs, they form the Randstad, which surrounds the "Green Heart", a agricultural area with moderate urbanization.

Holland's liberal reputation is due to these origins, and lives on not so much in its policies, but rather in its lack of rigour in enforcing them. Consensus politics and laisser-faire have been the rule all through its political history; moral conduct has largely been considered the territory of religion.

Citizens of more repressed areas flock in large quantities to Amsterdam to have a taste of its red light district and drugs; the Dutch themselves are moderate users, but, as in all matters, are keen to make money on them.

It is common practice to identify Holland with the Netherlands - many Dutch do so themselves - but that is really a case of pars pro toto. North and South Holland are only two of the twelve Dutch provinces.

6 Misconceptions about Holland:

1. Everybody wears wooden shoes.
Probably at one time in history this was true (or at least the majority wore them), but it definitely isn't true today anymore. People wear normal shoes just like the rest of the world, except for farmers.

2. Everywhere you look you see the traditional windmills.
In the past, there were a lot more windmills then there are nowadays. They were used to make flour, the main ingredient for bread. These days, only few windmills are left, and they are mainly kept working for tourists. However, you can occasionally see new sorts of windmills that produce electricity.

3. Everywhere you look you see tulips.
Sure, tulips are a major export product, but they are not grown on every square inch that is left in the country.

4. Everybody wears traditional clothes.
Almost everybody used to wear them, up to 50 years ago. But especially after World War II and in the 1950s, clothing changed. These days, you can't tell a dutch guy from a swedish guy by looking at his clothes, and only some older men and women (usually that are 60 years or older) only wear them.

5. Everybody is a drug addict.
Just because the government condones the use of so called soft drugs, doesn't mean that everybody uses it. Since we're used to it that you are able to buy weed (in a small amount) without being afraid of getting arrested, it's not so special anymore. Foreigners usually go totally mad when they first see a coffee-shop where you can buy the stuff, and quite a lot of them come to the Netherlands (and especially Amsterdam, since they think you can only buy it there) just for the drugs. Note: drugs are still illegal, but the government only condones the use of soft drugs, like marihuana. Hard drugs, like cocaine and heroine, are still highly illegal, and are not condoned.

6. The story of the boy holding his finger in a dike to prevent a flood.
There is a story about a boy, Hans Brinker, who sticks his finger in a hole in a dike. By doing that, he prevents a flood. Let me wake you up from that dream: it was made up by some American writer. It is impossible to be true. If there is such a small hole in a dyke, then the water pressure would be enormous, so a small boy would never be able to stop the water by putting his finger in the hole.

Also a Beach Boys album, recorded, as the title suggests, in Holland. Due to Brian Wilson's almost total non-involvement (although he did write the incredible Sail On Sailor with Van Dyke Parks among others), meant this was one of the most democratic of Beach Boys albums, with everyone, including manager Jack Rieley, getting almost equal writing credits, including one of only three Mike Love songs written without a collaborator that the band ever recorded - Big Sur.
Much of the album is based around the themes of travel, homesickness and love of California. While one of their most highly rated albums, it suffers in hindsight from a surfeit of 70s pretension...
Tracklisting:
  1. Sail On Sailor
  2. Steamboat
  3. Big Sur
  4. Beaks Of Eagles
  5. California
  6. Trader
  7. Leaving This Town
  8. Only With You
  9. Funky Pretty
  10. Mount Vernon & Fairway - A Fairy Tale

Band members at the time - Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar.
Currently available on Capitol Records as a twofer with Carl & The Passions (So Tough)
Previous album - Carl & The Passions (So Tough)
Next album - The Beach Boys In Concert

One of the traditional three administrative parts of the English county of Lincolnshire. It is the dead-flat fenny region in the south to south-east, bordering on the inlet of the North Sea called The Wash, and adjoining Cambridgeshire to the south. The main town is Boston.

The other two parts of Lincolnshire are Lindsey to the north and Kesteven to the west.

In the 1974 reorganization of local government Holland ceased to have an administrative function. It now consists of two districts called Boston and South Holland.

Holland is the widely used synonym for the Netherlands to foreigners and tourists. The word Holland originally comes from Holt, which means forest. Since this country was not only very flat (neder = nether = flat), but also covered with large forests, the name Holt-land (later named Holland) was used for the country in the 16th and 17th century.

The two main provinces are North-Holland (capital: Haarlem) and South-Holland (capital: Den Haag).

After the merge of all old provinces in the 18th century, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed.
Holland is used as synonym for the Netherlands today, but officially it's still Nederland, the Netherlands, le Pays Bas or die Niederlande.

Hol"land (?), n.

A kind of linen first manufactured in Holland; a linen fabric used for window shades, children's garments, etc.; as, brown or unbleached hollands.

 

© Webster 1913.

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