views updated May 21 2018


ETHNONYMS: Dutchmen, Dutchwomen; Hollanders (in a narrow definition for the people of the provinces of North and South Holland, in colloquial language for all Dutch) ; further differentiated according to provincial affiliation: Brabander, Drentenaar, Fries, Groninger, Limburger, Zeeuw


Identification. The origin of the name "Dutch" is supposed to be a corruption of the word "Duits" referring to the Germanic origin of the Dutch. The word "Netherlands" probably stems from the Rhineland. Since the twelfth century the lower Rhine basin north of Cologne has been referred to as "netherland" (lowland) in contrast to the "overland" (Highland) south of Cologne.

Location. The Netherlands is situated between 50° and 54° N and 3° and 7° E. The Netherlands is bordered by the North Sea to the north and the west, Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south. The West Frisian IslandsTexel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, and Rottumeroogare situated north of the Frisian coast. The climate is maritime: wet, with mild winters and cool summers. The Netherlands consists of low-lying land, part of which (in the west and north) is below sea level. This makes water management a crucial strategy. The fight against the water has resulted in programs of land reclamation, dike construction, and drainage of marshlands, generating such amazing infrastructural achievements as the Zuider Zee Works, the Deltaworks, and the canalization of the big rivers. The Netherlands is comprised of three geographic regions: the zones of largescale agriculture in the north, the regions of mixed agricultural-recreational use in the east and south, and the highly urbanized areas in the west. The Netherlands still possesses overseas territories, which consist of a number of islands in the Caribbean, collectively called "the Dutch Antilles": the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire north of the Venezuelan coast; and the Windward Islands of Saba, Saint Eustacius, and Sint Maarten 900 kilometers farther north. The total population of the Dutch Antilles amounts to 250,000 people of multiethnic origin.

Demography. In 1991 the Dutch population was 15 Million and the population density was about 440 persons per square kilometer, which makes the Netherlands one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Up to 1970 there was rapid population growth (more than 1 percent per year), declining to less than 0.6 percent in 1990. The declining growth rate was caused by an unexpectedly rapid decrease of the marital fertility rate since the 1960s, when modern contraceptive devices became available. Coupled with a low death rate, the decreasing birthrate results in an aging Population. While the natural growth is decreasing, immigration is increasing and 4.3 percent of the population is of non-Dutch origin, especially with an Antillian, Surinamese, South Moluccan, and Mediterranean background.

Linguistic Affiliation. Dutch is a member of the Germanic Language Group (Western Continental) and is related to Afrikaans, German, Yiddish, Frisian, English, and Luxembourgeois. It is spoken in Europe by about 16-17 million People spread over the kingdom of the Netherlands and the northern half of Belgium. Outside the continent of Europe it is spoken in Indonesia by the Dutch who live there and in the Dutch Antilles. Cape Dutch (Afrikaans), spoken in the Union of South Africa, has developed into an independent language. In the course of the state-building process, High Dutch, originally the language of the province of Holland, gradually was adopted as the language of daily intercourse by all the provinces. A peculiar position is occupied by Frisian in the province of Friesland, which is separated from the Dutch dialects by a sharp linguistic boundary line.

History and Cultural Relations

Julius Caesar found the country peopled by tribes of Germanic stock. By the end of the third century the Franks swarmed over the Rhine and took possession of the whole of the southern and central Netherlands. In a.d. 843 the Verdun treaty assigned the central part of the Frankonian Empire (comprising the whole of the later Netherlands) to what was to become Germany. Up to the fourteenth century the History of the Netherlands was the history of the various feudal states into which the Frankonian Empire was gradually Divided. Cities played an important part in the development of the Netherlands. The eleventh to the thirteenth centuries were rich in municipal charters granting the citizens considerable rights, counteracting the privileges of the feudal lords. The most powerful and flourishing were the cities of Flanders. They formed the central market and exchange of the world's commerce. In the north a number of "free cities" were establishedDordrecht, Leyden, Haarlem, Delft, Vlaardingen, Rotterdam, Amsterdamto equal the Flemish cities in power.

In the fifteenth century the Netherlands fell under the dominion of the house of Burgundy. When the sole heiress of the Burgundian possessions, Mary, married Maximilian of Austria in 1477, the long domination of the Roman Catholic house of Habsburg began, bringing the Netherlands into the huge and incongruous collection of states that the wars and marriages of the Habsburgs had brought together. The Netherlands, prosperous under the Burgundy rule, had to make large financial sacrifices to pay for the many wars of the Emperor. Opposition emerged in the cities. As a result, the burghers of the cities, the lower gentry, and the nobility united under the leadership of the Prince of Orange (William the Silent) to fight Habsburg domination. This uprising resulted in the separation of the seven northern provinces of the Netherlands from the south (which was to become Belgium). Each developed into distinct political, religious, Social, and economic units. Enacted in the Protestant Union of Utrecht in 1579, the northern provinces formed a republic under the legislation of the State-General (the board of representatives of the provinces) and the reign of the stadtholder, William of Orange, who became the symbol of political unity. In 1673 the seven provinces voted to make the stadtholderate hereditary in the house of Orange. Williamborn the third William in the house of Orangeattempted to centralize and consolidate his government, put down the feudal liberties in the provinces, and free himself from constitutional checks. He was unable, however, to establish absolute monarchy, and the United Provinces remained a decentralized patrician republic until 1795. Married in 1677 to Mary, the king of England's niece, William became king of England in 1689. In the aftermath of the French Revolution liberalism made its entry. Rebellious citizens, aided by French troops, overthrew the stadtholder. From 1795 to 1814 the Netherlands was under French rule. Liberalism, however, turned out to be a disappointment for the Dutch citizens. In 1814, freed from the French, they returned the house of Orange. The Netherlands became a monarchy, though a constitutional one. It was not until the nineteenth century that modernization startedlater and more gradually than elsewhere in western Europe. Also in the nineteenth century, the cultural differences between the various ideological and political groups were institutionalized, generating separate organizations for each group in almost every area of life. This development of parallel organizations ("pillars") is called "pillarization." The pluralistic society that developed after 1917 had its origin in this "pillarized" structure.

During World War I the Netherlands kept its neutrality, nonetheless suffering from the economic crises caused by the war. World War II brought German occupation from 1940 to 1945. The postwar reconstruction of the Netherlands generated the modern Dutch industrial welfare state. Processes of European integration led to increasing cooperation with other European states: the Netherlands joined the European Economic Community (EEC)the Common Marketin 1957. After World War II the Dutch had to cope with their colonies' struggle for independence. Decolonization did not take a peaceful course. The proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia, which was the former Dutch East Indies, provoked military intervention by the colonial authorities. Under International pressure, however, the Dutch government agreed to transfer sovereignty to the young Indonesian republic. In 1962 the Netherlands had to cede New Guinea to Indonesia; and in 1975 Suriname gained independence. The Dutch Antilles are still part of the kingdom.


The Dutch population is irregularly spread over the territory. The three provinces in the west (North and South Holland and Utrecht, collectively known as "Randstad Holland") are highly urbanized and most densely populated: almost half of the population lives there. The north (the provinces of Groningen, Friesland, Drente, Overijssel, and South Flevoland) has a rural and relatively small population. The provinces in the east (Gelderland) and south (Limburg, North Brabant, and Zeeland) show a mixed pattern of urban-rural settlements.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Dutch agriculture is highly commercialized and specialized. The cities have been a market for the country's agrarian products from the twelfth century onward. After the Agrarian Crisis of 1880 the Dutch farmers specialized in labor-intensive horticulture and dairy farming. Intensive fertilization, agrarian training and Research, reorganization of small farms, land consolidation, and Common Market agreements increased productivity.

Industrial Arts. Throughout its history, Dutch industry has depended heavily on the importation of raw materials to supply its major industries: the production of foodstuffs and stimulants, which developed when raw material was imported from the colonies; the nineteenth-century clothing- and footwear-manufacturing and metal industries; and the primary twentieth-century industry, the production of petrochemicals. There is today an increasing number of mergers between both national and multinational enterprises. After the Emergence of modern industry in the mid-nineteenth century, the significance of agriculture for the national product diminished steadily, while the significance of the secondary sector increased until it fell behind the growing services sector after 1960.

Trade. The small size and the spacial position of the Netherlands (especially the location at waterways strategic for maritime and inland shipping) are of enduring significance for the international economic relations of the country. Where the waterways meet, the big seaports have risen; in fact, Amsterdam and Rotterdam's Europort is the world's largest harbor. Traditionally the Dutch have been traders and merchants. Since the fifteenth century the Netherlands has been a seagoing nation, owing their affluence to the exploitation of overseas provinces and to a prospering trade. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were characterized by commercial capitalism: as the trade center of the world the Netherlands maintained and even increased its wealth by trade and the trade-related industries. This era has become known as the "Golden Age."

Division of Labor. The Dutch labor force consists of 7 million people, with only 38.8 percent being female. Despite the growth of the female work force since the 1960s, labor participation of married women has remained considerably lower in the Netherlands than in other European countries. During the 1960s the Dutch population could not meet the growing demands for labor because the work force was over-skilled. Consequently, the Dutch labor market in the 1990s is characterized by a large number of jobless people and at the same time a large number of foreign workers who are employed in the lower-paid and lower-skill jobs.

Land Tenure. In about 1500 the east and south (the sandy soil regions) were characterized by traditional village communities structured according to the peasant model. Peasants formed the majority of the agrarian population until the mid-nineteenth century, dwelling on very small and unspecialized family farms. Alternative work outside agriculture was lacking. Specialization in cash crops and cattle breeding was impossible because of capital shortage. The peasant Family was almost self-sufficient and productivity was low. In the west and north (the clay soil regions) agriculture developed according to the fanner model. In these areas feudalism never gained a foothold. In Holland the polders (land reclaimed from the sea) provided the people with land acquired in ownership or in leasehold on businesslike conditions. Village communities were of no significance in these areas; the farmers lived dispersed over the land on their own farmsteads. They produced for a market, and their enterprises were capital-intensive. After the agrarian crises, modernization led to production increase.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. Dutch kinship is bilateral with a patrilateral kinship preference. Until recently, this descent pattern was reflected in the custom of adopting the husband's name after marriage. This practice is changing with women's emancipation.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms follow the Eskimo system.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. In preindustrial society, marriage was possible only after acquiring economic independence. The rural Population and urban craftsmen used to marry at a later age. The choice of a marriage partner followed endogamous preference. People married within the same occupational sector or social group, the same religious or political pillar, or at least the same village or age group. Maintaining and increasing wealth were crucial motives in arranging marriages among the aristocracy and freeholding farmers. Among urban craftsmen there was more opportunity for individual choice than among the propertied classes. Romantic love was the basis of Marriage more often among the urban population than among the rural.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is a typical Dutch phenomenon. The Dutch even have a special word for it: gezin. The stem family has never been of any significance in the Netherlands, not even in the rural areas. Since the nineteenth century the concept of the nuclear family has been Invested with strong moral feelings. State policy was aimed at fostering and protecting the nuclear family; extramarital relations were condemned as deviant and antisocial. After World War II, several factorsincluding the emancipation of women, a decline in the number of household members, and an increase in the number of single-member householdsresulted in more people living together without marriage, more children being born outside marriage, and more Marriages ending in divorce.

Inheritance. In Dutch rural society it was common that one of the children, usually the oldest son, inherited the patrimony. Impartible inheritance was both customary and legally mandated. Among the urban bourgeoisiewhere money, not land, was involvedthe children were more equally treated when it came to inheritance. The bourgeois pattern has become the prevailing standard in modern society.

Socialization. As early as the seventeenth century, the urban middle classes began to treat children not as small adults but as members of a different age group, with their own wants and needs. This attitude became standard in the nineteenth century, partly because of the increasing use of contraceptive measures, which resulted in a decreasing birthrate within the nuclear family and a consequent increase in the time and attention that could be spent on individual Children. A number of factors contributed to this concern with keeping the family size small. One powerful incentive was the high cost of raising the next generation. A good education and dowry had come to be considered necessary expenses. Moreover, providing loving care for a child required an enormous effort that could not be bestowed on an unlimited number of offspring. This attitude first emerged among the urban middle classes, who increasingly did not require married women to work outside the home. Thus, middle-class women were able to give much attention to their domestic and maternal tasks. The life cycle of children changed: the interval Between puberty and marriage was recognized as a special stage in life.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Although the standard of living is high, it is lower than in some neighboring countries. The burden of taxation is heavy, making considerable collective expenditures possible and resulting in an excellent set of social services. The media, labor unions, public organizations, associations, and club life are defined by the typical Dutch phenomenon of pillarization. Dutch society is characterized by complex social stratification, based on partly converging and partly conflicting criteria. As far as political and economic power relations are concerned, tokens of nineteenth-century class society can still be found in modern Dutch society. However, regional, religious, ethnic affiliation, and life-style factors modify social and economic class differences. The Netherlands is famous for tolerance toward ethnic minorities. Since World War II, Dutch society has developed into a multiethnic society. The persistent flood of allochthonous People, coupled with a growing unemployment rate, however, causes more and more tension and conflict.

Political Organization. In the nineteenth century parliamentary democracy emerged. The monarch, subject to the constitution, is head of state. The Dutch Lower Chamber is constituted by direct elections by all enfranchised Dutch citizens, while the Dutch Upper Chamber is elected by the provincial states. A political breakthrough happened in 1918 when general elections were established; from that time on the seats in the Lower Chamber were held by representatives of political parties. Dutch political life is characterized by a large number of small political parties competing for votes. Since 1900, when party politics emerged, an average of eleven parties have been represented in parliament each term. The most important movements in Dutch political life have been liberalism, denominationalism, and socialism.

Social Control. During the Dutch republic (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries) Dutch village life was relatively unrestricted by the central government. Within the village Community, however, mechanisms of social control operated. Social mobility was low and social stratification kept people in their places. Consolidation of property formed an Important consideration in marriage arrangements. There were almost no illegitimate children. When a girl got pregnant, strong social pressure was exerted on her to marry, especially in Protestant areas. The authority of the older generation was respected. The moral demands of diligence and austerity were internalized and determined the attitude toward life of both young and old. Calvinism, especially north of the big rivers, intensified this propensity as well as the rejection of amusement and diversion. Although city life was less restrained, Dutch mentality, characterized by a strong sense of values, put a check on urban allure. Thus, the image of the Dutch people as tidy, diligent, and hard-working citizens does have historical roots. Since the 1960s, however, the image of the Dutch has changed. The Netherlands has made headlines as the country of the Provo movement (the organized provocative behavior of young people against the authorities, which manifested itself especially in Amsterdam in 1965-1967), insubordinate bishops, long-haired soldiers with their own trade union, and permissiveness in drug use and pornography. The country is famous for its high rate of petty crime, blurred standards, squatting, and civil disobediencephenomena that the international press has labeled "the Dutch disease."

Conflict. At home the Netherlands has witnessed a Peaceful development through the ages. In political and social life, physical violence was the exception. The pillarized society was characterized by a pacific policy at home. Violence was applied in the process of colonization and in colonial wars abroad. In the twentieth century the situation has reversed: the Netherlands has tried to take a strictly neutral position in external armed conflict (World War I and World War II); at home pacification relations have given way to occasionally violent conflicts between social and ethnic groups, between generations, and between pressure groups.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The conflict between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism since the Reformation has fundamentally influenced the nature of Dutch society, creating its unique pillarized character. The basic organizational principle in many spheres, at the local as well as national level, is Religious, not economic, affiliation. Although this pillarization has begun to erode, it is still quite evident, especially in rural communities where it colors all social relations. Although the Netherlands is characterized by secularization, other more informal ways of expressing religious feelings have emerged.

Religious Practitioners. Parish priests and parsons have always had an important impact on Dutch mentality, political conviction, and voting behavior. Even people's private lives were ruled by standards of behavior set by the clergy. Ecclesiastical directives influenced the development of taboos on sexual activities and social contact between persons of Different social classes. For Catholics the rules were dictated by the pope but translated and mediated by the clergy, with adaptations to local culture. The Protestants did not rely on Religious mediators as heavily as did the Catholics, as their religious experience did not lie in the community but in the heart of the individual. Compared to their Catholic counterparts, the parsons were weak and their power limited.

Ceremonies. Since the fifteenth century Dutch popular culture has increasingly been put under pressure by the bourgeois elite. The tales, riddles, rhymes, feasts, and rituals were suppressed to give way to high culture. Popular culture provided not only diversion and amusement but also an outlet for social tensions and instability, complaints of social abuses, and expression of religious feelings. The Catholic church tried to absorb these elements of popular culture into official religion; Protestantism, however, went on the offensive against popular culture.

Arts. Art blossomed in the seventeenth century (i.e., the Golden Age). Many Dutch painters from that period have become famous: for example, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, and Jacob van Ruisdael. Because rich burghers and merchants, not the church and court, were the most important patrons of the artists, the art of painting became specialized. Some painters painted only landscapes, others painted exclusively portraits or still lifes. As far as music is concerned, the composer and organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck became well known for his organ playing. Since the seventeenth century, Dutch art has aroused relatively modest international attention, aside from a small number of celebrities such as the painters van Gogh, Mondrian, and Appel. Cultural life is traditionally focused on the big cities, where large orchestras, theater companies, and Museums of regional significance have been established in the twentieth century.

Medicine. In the Netherlands a modern pharmaceutical industry of international significance has developed. Big Concerns have concentrated their research activities in the Netherlands. This has led to a widespread penetration of medical standards and medical consumption, resulting in a "medicalization" of everyday life that has come to be such a public-health problem that alternative medicine has recently taken root.

Death and Afterlife. In the twentieth century compulsory institutionalized mourning has lost much of its force, while the personal side of mourning has been accentuated and privatized. Funerals characterized by public display have given way to cremations in private. As religious beliefs have declined, the dominant standard of bereavement behavior has become more informal and individualized, making higher demands on self-regulation and self-restraint. As far as dying is concerned, the ritual and rigid regime of silence has relaxed, and more informal and varied codes of behavior- and emotion-management have spread.


Boissevain, J., and J. Verrips, eds. (1989). Dutch Dilemmas: Anthropologists Look at the Netherlands. Assen and Maastricht: Van Gorcum.

Diederiks, H. A., et al. (1987). Van agrarische samenleving naar verzorgingsstaat: De modernisering van West-Europa sinds de I5de eeuw. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff.

Goudsblom, J. (1967). Dutch Society. New York: Random House.

Schama, S. (1987). The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. New York: Knopf.

Sinner, L. (1973). De worteis van de Nederlandse politiek: De 42 politieke partijen sinds 1848. Amsterdam: Wetenschappelijke Uitgeverij.

Wouters, C. (1990). Van minnen en sterven: Informalisering van de omgangsvormen rond sex en dood. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.



views updated Jun 11 2018

DUTCH. The national language of the Netherlands, virtually identical with Flemish and ancestral to AFRIKAANS. Scholars use the term Netherlandic as a general and especially historical term for the varieties spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium, and north-western France. With English and FRISIAN, Dutch belongs to the Low German branch of the West Germanic group of INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES; all are structurally similar. Such words as lip, maken, open, water show that Dutch is closer to English than is GERMAN, whose equivalents are Lippe, machen, offen, Wasser. It was a major language of commerce in the 17c, and was established in North America (especially in the colony first known as New Amsterdam, then New York), in southern Africa (where Cape Dutch became Afrikaans), in the Caribbean region, and in Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies).

Dutch and English

(1) Dutch in English. There was a considerable influence on English from the later Middle Ages, through migration and commerce (especially the English wool trade with Flanders), as numerous Dutch nautical terms testify: boom, deck, freebooter, sloop, smuggler, yacht. Dutch was widely known in Europe in the 17c, when the first English—Dutch dictionaries appeared and such Dutch-derived artistic terms as easel, etch, landscape, maulstick, sketch were adopted into English. Later, many loans entered the language in the US: boss, coleslaw, cookie, dope, poppycock, Santa Claus, snoop, spook. (2) English in Dutch. Because of purist sentiment in the 16c and 17c, Dutch kept more of its Germanic character and resisted Latin more strongly than English did, but many Latinate words, such as cruciaal, informatie, and educatie (alongside Dutch onderwijs), are now entering Dutch from English, which has been the dominant foreign influence since the Second World War. English is now widely used for scholarly publishing in The Netherlands, is the first choice of foreign language in schools, and there is general exposure to it through the media, especially in TV from Britain. The effect is seen in BORROWINGS (management, research, service), loan translations (diepvries deep freeze, gezichtsverlies loss of face, gouden handdruk golden handshake), changes in the meanings of established words (controle in the English sense as well as earlier ‘check, supervision’), and idioms (je nek uitsteken to stick your neck out).



views updated May 29 2018

Dutch / ch/ • adj. of or relating to the Netherlands or its people or their language.• n. 1. the West Germanic language of the Netherlands.2. [as pl. n.] (the Dutch) the people of the Netherlands collectively.PHRASES: go dutch share the cost of something, esp. a meal, equally.in dutch inf., dated in trouble: he's been getting in dutch at school.ORIGIN: from Middle Dutch dutsch ‘Dutch, Netherlandish, German’: the English word originally denoted speakers of both High and Low German, but became more specific after the United Provinces adopted the Low German of Holland as the national language on independence in 1579.


views updated May 14 2018

Dutch Dutch courage strength or confidence gained from drinking alcohol; the term is recorded from the early 19th century, and referred to the belief that the Dutch were heavy drinkers.
Dutch uncle a person giving firm but benevolent advice; the expression is recorded from the mid 19th century, and may imply only that the person concerned is not an actual relative.
Dutch wife a bolster used for resting the legs in bed. The expression is recorded from the late 19th century, and is an extended use of an earlier term to describe a rattan open frame used in the Dutch Indies to support the limbs in bed.

See also beat the Dutch, double Dutch.


views updated May 23 2018

Dutch †German XIV; pert. to the people of Holland XVI. — MDu. dutsch Dutch, German (Du. duitsch German) = OE þēodisċ Gentile, also sb. a language, OS. thiudisc :- Gmc. *þeudiskaz, f. *þeudā (OE. þēod people); see -ISH 1. In Germany the adj. was orig. used to distinguish ‘the vulgar tongue’ from Latin,
Hence to denote German vernaculars and consequently the speakers of any of these.


views updated May 29 2018

Dutch Official language of the Netherlands, spoken by almost all of the country's 13 million inhabitants, and also in Netherlands Antilles and Surinam. Dutch is a Germanic language, belonging to the Indo-European family.


views updated May 14 2018

Dutch ★½ 1991 (PG-13)

Working class boob attempts to pick up his girlfriend's son from boarding school. Their trip together gives them an unexpected chance to connect, if they don't kill each other first. Silly premise from the Hughes factory has little innovation and uses typecasting instead of acting. 107m/C VHS, DVD . Ed O'Neill, Ethan (Randall) Embry, JoBeth Williams, Elizabeth (E.G. Dailey) Daily; D: Peter Faiman; W: John Hughes.


views updated Jun 08 2018

dutch (sl.) wife. XIX. Short for DUCHESS.