Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Holland or the Netherlands?

The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn (1650)/Wikimedia
While the Dutch football team is prominently part of the 2014 World  Cup, I am continuously being asked : What is the difference between Holland and the Netherlands? What is Holland? Or how do your fellow Dutchmen call their own country?

I have to admit it may be a bit confusing, because both the Dutch and others use the name Holland, L'Hollande, L'Ollanda, but also Nederland, the Netherlands, Les Pays Bas, and Pajais Bass intermittently. 

A brief history lesson for those history buffs among you: the official name of the Netherlands is Kingdom of the Netherlands (in Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) or in short the Netherlands (in Dutch: Nederland.) The state of the Netherlands exists in its current form only since 1830, when the current state of Belgium seceded from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which in turn then became the Kingdom of the Netherlands. To make things a bit more complicated, in 2013 the Netherlands celebrated its 200th anniversary as Kingdom of the Netherlands, because it was in 1813 that the Dutch Prince of Orange returned to what was then the Kingdom of Holland, at the end of the reign of King Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, and a country which was essentially part of the French empire. Prince of Orange took first over as "sovereign prince", while in 1815 becoming the first (Dutch) King of the Netherlands, King William I.

So what is then Holland? It is actually

 a region in the Northwest of the Netherlands, which name due to its economic and political dominance during the 17th and 18th centuries, has been used often to describe the whole country even though it's only part of it.  The importance of Holland during that era was visualized in the above painting of the threatened swan by Jan Asselijn, which was later interpreted as symbolizing the Dutch statesman Johan de Witt (the swan) protecting Holland from its enemies in the middle of the 17th century.

Below you can see the map of the Netherlands with the provinces of Northern and Southern Holland colored in orange.

Holland in orange/Wikimedia Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek

So, even though many Dutch, especially those living in Northern provinces (like Friesland) or Southern provinces (like Noord Brabant and Limburg) wouldn't say they are from Holland, but from the Netherlands or from their own province,
"Holland" is still being used in many official ways: as a typical Dutch football song Hup Holland Hup and also as the official website of the  Netherlands Board of Tourism, which is called 

If after all of this you would like a brief visual to refresh your memory of the differences between Holland and the Netherlands, have a look at the following video clip.

And as today is the day that Holland plays against Argentina in the semi-finals of the 2014 World cup in Brazil, Holland will need every support it can get. So sing along with Andre Rieu, Dutch violinist and conductor from Limburg: Hup Holland Hup! Enjoy the game!

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