Low Countries from 1450-present

Present-day Netherlands & Belgium

Northern Renaissance

  • Northern Renaissance was the spread of Renaissance ideals throughout Europe (north of Italy)

  • Some Northern Renaissance thinkers combined Christianity with Humanism

    • Believed classical values of patience & calmness combine with Christian values of love & faith

  • Thomas More (England) published Utopia (1516)​

    • Believed there lay a utopian land where everyone receives humanist education, & poverty is solved​

  • Desiderius Erasmus (Rotterdam) wrote scholarly books to harmonize humanism with Christianity

    • Believed in inner morality rather than Scholastic theology

    • Believed the church should have a renaissance

    • Promoted reading the Bible & Christian texts

    • Translated New Testament into Latin

  • Northern Renaissance art used oil paintings & wood panels

    • Albrecht Dürer created woodcuts & other mechanical devices to help artists with linear perspective

    • Mannerism developed, where people used oil paintings to exaggerate certain body parts or expressions


War in Low Countries & Creation of Netherlands

Charles V (ruler of Habsburgs) abdicated throne in 1556, giving Spain & Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium) to Philip II

Lutherans in Low Countries respected Philip II, but Calvinists hated it as they were taught to oppose ungodly governments

10 southern provinces (Belgium) joined Spain, became Catholic. 7 northern provinces (Netherlands) declared independence, became United Provinces (Calvinist). England helped them gain independence from Spanish

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King Philip II sent troops to maintain order in Low Countries

King Philip II raised taxes for Calvinists because they hated his government

Calvinists revolted & destroyed Catholic images (iconoclasm)

List of Explorers



Year of Journey


Henry Hudson



Tried to find Northwest Passage, sailed through Hudson river to present-day New York City. Named it New Amsterdam. 

Dutch Preeminence in late 1500s

  • Dutch took over Portuguese prestige in Indian Ocean​

    • Dutch ship (fluyt) was faster than Portuguese caravel, so Dutch were able to take over Portuguese ports

    • Dutch East India Company (VOC) was established in 1602

      • Got trading concessions in Indonesia in exchange for assisting local Indonesian kings in shirmishes​

      • Expelled Portuguese from Ceylon & other islands

      • Dominated spice trade


Constitutionalism in Netherlands

  • Established constitutional government

  • Had 7 provinces (Estates) with a general assembly of all the estate leaders (States General)

    • Each Estate was ruled by oligarchy of wealthy businessmen

    • Each Estate could veto any proposed legislation

  • Holland was the largest & richest Estate, it dominated States General

  • Provinces of Netherlands were successful due to their economic prosperity

    • Had religious toleration, allowed Jews because of their expertise in business​

    • Used money carefully, attracted lots of foreign capital & investment

    • Used profits from fishing to finance shipbuilding, giving it the lowest shipping rates in Europe

    • Highest standard of living, plenty of food, few riots


In 1830, The Kingdom of Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands. Belgium was largely Catholic, while Netherlands was largely Protestant

In World War 1, Belgium was neutral, so Germany attacked France through Belgium

In 1957, both Belgium & Netherlands joined the Common Market along with Luxembourg, Italy, France, and Germany