The Low Countries 1648 CE
The prosperous new nation of the Netherlands has appeared on the map of Europe.
What is happening in The Low Countries in 1648CE
The efforts of the dukes of Burgundy to turn their holdings into a new European power came to nothing when Charles the Bold was killed in battle (1477). His daughter Mary was married to Maximilian of Hapsburg, later Holy Roman emperor; and the bulk of Flanders passed under Hapsburg control. The south-western portion, however, is claimed by, and incorporated into, the kingdom of France.
With the division of the Hapsburg lands between the Holy Roman emperor and the king of Spain in 1556, the Low Countries went to king Philip II of Spain. Philip’s attempts to impose a centralised form of government throughout his territories, coupled with his aggressive anti-Protestant religious policy, led to revolt in the Low Countries. The southern provinces were cowed into accepting Spanish rule, but the more Protestant northern provinces, united in the Union of Utrecht (1579), stood out in rebellion.
By this period, the Dutch have the most dynamic economy in Europe, with Amsterdam the principle trading centre. This economic strength is decisive in helping the rebels to resist Spanish reconquest – as is the capable leadership of William of Orange, until his assassination in 1584. The war in the Netherlands splutters on until 1609, when the independence of the Dutch Republic is effectively secured, though not formally recognized by Spain until 1648.
In the meantime, the Netherlands have become the leading commercial power in Europe, the centre of a global trading network and an expanding overseas empire. In the midst of the struggle for independence, a group of Amsterdam merchants found the Dutch East India Company (1602), which will go on to play a pivotal role in establishing Dutch trade, and later control, in the East Indies.