Stamps issued: 1852-PRESENT
Constitutional monarchy in northwest Europe, bordering on the North Sea. A part of Charlemagne's empire, the area of the Netherlands was long ruled by outsiders: Burgundy, the Austrian Habsburgs and, by the 16th century, Spain. Political and religious repression led to a revolt in 1658, and in 1679 the seven northern provinces became independent as the Republic of the United Netherlands. During the 17th century, the Netherlands became one of the predominant naval and commercial powers, controlling a far-flung empire in the Caribbean, North and South America, Africa, India and the East Indies. Conflict with England weakened Dutch power and in 1794 the country was annexed by France. The Netherlands again became independent in 1815, and the Congress of Vienna reconstituted the state to include Belgium and Luxembourg, which later became independent themselves. The Netherlands remained neutral during World War I, successfully avoiding participation in that conflict. Its neutrality in World War II, however, was disregarded by Germany, which occupied it 1940-1945. The last major remnant of the Netherlands' once vast overseas empire was lost in 1950, when Indonesia became independent. The Dutch held West Irian until 1962, when that territory was seized by Indonesia. The Netherlands abandoned its policy of neutrality after World War II and aligned itself with the West. It is a member of NATO and of the Common Market. Although it has undergone substantial industrialization since World War II, the agricultural sector of the country's economy remains strong.