The origin of the name " Holland"
The origin of the name " Holland" cannot be determined with much certainty. We only know that it was first given to the neighbourhood of the town of Dordrecht, whose soil was formerly very infirm, and was later on swallowed up by the water (the Biesbosch. In many places of Holland the soil is still rather infirm or "hollow" (Dutch "hol"), as, for instance in the "Vondelpark" at Amsterdam, where the ground shakes when a carriage passes.)
One of the most eloquent indicators of the state of an economy is the physical well-being of its population. The demographic history of the Dutch in the modern period has some distinctive characteristics, while remaining clearly rooted in the mainstream pattern of European development. The European population increased approximately fourfold between 1750 and 1950, from 144 million to 574 million.There was considerable variance in the rate of increase across the regions of Europe, and the Netherlands tended to fit into the pattern of faster growth which characterized some of the northern European nations like the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, northern Germany and the Low Countries. Between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of the Second World War, the world population is estimated to have grown by a factor of 2.4, the European by a factor of 2.9, while the Dutch managed to expand their numbers by a factor of no less than 4.4. 2
Indeed, a whole string of more subtle demographic indicators than the gross population increase show the Netherlands to have been something of a demographic maverick: not only did it possess one of the highest growth rates, but it also has had some of the highest birth rates and the lowest death rates in the world, and in the twentieth century its life expectancy has also been among the highest. All this has meant that the Netherlands is now the most densely populated country in the OECD area. 3 Two factors lie at the root of this prominence of the Netherlands within the European pattern: the rapidity and extent of the decline in mortality since the middle of the last century, and the relatively late and gentle decline in fertility rates.
Americans have a genuine affection for Holland. We like to study her history, we sympathize with her struggle for independence, and we compare her national hero -- the great Stadthouder William the First of Orange -- with our own hero, George Washington.
Two distinct faces to Amsterdam
There are two distinct faces to Amsterdam: one, the quiet graceful old town of endless canals, narrow houses and tiny winding streets; the other, the harsh reality of twentieth-century capitalist consumerism: fast food, fast sex, loud music and drug pushing. The two sides live incongruously together and have made Amsterdammers famed for their tolerance of different standards and others' opinions. There are so many things to experience in this city that it is pretty well essential to see it during any comprehensive European tour. The best time to visit Amsterdam is early June, for the Festival of Fools; you can also buy bulbs and herrings.
The Migration of Centers of Culture
The center of civilization in Europe and neighboring regions has moved from southeast to northwest. We have seen this in agriculture, transportation, and industry. It is equally true of art, science, government, education, and other phases of human progress. Five or six thousand years ago the earliest great civilizations flourished in Egypt and Babylonia. At a later date great centers arose in Crete, Syria, and Assyria, four or five degrees north of the earliest centers. Then Greece took the lead, another two or three degrees to the north and farther to the west. Rome, still farther north and west, comes next.
During the Dark Ages and the great recession in human progress the lead passed to Constantinople in the east, but this was soon overshadowed by Venice, Florence, and Genoa, even farther northwest than Rome. These in turn gave place to Vienna, Paris, and other minor cities, still another five degrees to the north. Even here the northwestward march of progress did not stop, for London, Amsterdam, and Berlin represent regions which came to the forefront still later. Last of all, in our own day, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and the Scotch cities represent extremely northerly or northwesterly regions whose extraordinarily high standards are universally recognized. Thus in four thousand years the center of human progress--that is, the greatest center--has migrated more or less steadily for 2,500 miles from Egypt and Babylonia to the region around the North Sea--from latitude 30° to 50° or more, and through 40° of longitude.
At each stage in this migration there have been zones of culture. In the center new inventions, institutions, and ideas have arisen; political and military power has reached the highest levels; industry has been most active; and art and science have flourished most steadily. Farther out in each case there has been an irregular zone of moderate progress, and outside that a relatively backward zone. The size and form of the zones have varied according to the shape and location of seas, rivers, mountains, plains, and deserts, according to the character and migrations of races, and according to the nature of new inventions, habits, and institutions. Read More