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Holland: 1813-1914

In order to present an analysis of the Five Days' War that makes any sense to foreigners, it is imperative to set things [events and figures] into perspective. Any comparison can only be reliable once we equalize the main components.

And then again, history is a science ["is it?"] that can only be managed by the perception that it is a subjective composition of a chain of events. Manipulations in the shape of "what if" are extremely dangerous and basically unreliable. Isolation of events means that the chain of events is broken, and as such any isolation equals any form of "what if" hypothesis. That's why in this epistle the "what if" hypothesis have been limited to the bear minimum.

Bearing in mind that we are very much aware of the risks and liabilities of a depth analysis of the Dutch Situation in May 1940, we still put the magnifying glass over Holland in 1940 and before. We could also say: we go typically Dutch ...

Holland: 1813-1914

The Netherlands became a Kingdom in 1813, when the French left [1795-1813] and King William I was inaugurated [1815]. He would be the first of three Kings who would reform The Netherlands from a relatively poor agricultural and basic industrial nation into an economically modern nation. Industry was stimulated, mechanisation promoted and modern roads and water-ways were constructed. Poverty was fought by means of labour-colonies and tremendous changes in social laws were gradually processed. The burden of the financial losses of the bankrupt VOC [Dutch East-Indies Company] still weighted heavy on the Dutch shoulders, and as such the wealth that The Netherlands had known only two centuries before was far away. During the first two decades after 1813 the country's territory still comprised the current Netherlands and the mainly Dutch-speaking part of Belgium.

In 1830 the Belgians started rebelling against the Dutch dominance. During the period 1830-1839 the Dutch invested huge amounts in the military when the Belgians fought their 'war' of independence with the Dutch. When finally the independence of Belgium had been declared by Holland in 1839, The Netherlands had grown a huge debt. In 1840 the army was degraded and the emphasis was again put on economic developments.

When Belgium had become independent of The Netherlands, the national deficit had reached its peak. The army had been decimated and the country had no financial reserves whatsoever. The Colonies did not produce the huge trade profits of earlier era's and the indigenous industry and trade had been poor. The Netherlands was a small country that was very much on its own and had hardly any structural trade with its neighbours. International trade was more or less limited to Scandinavia and Germany. Local trade was traditional, within regional trade patterns that had been there for ages. In the east of the country the borders with Germany were more or less artificial. Dutch and German nationals crossed the border as if it wasn't there and communities along the border visited each others Churches and markets, even eachothers schools. People spoke eachothers languages and dialects.

When Europe found itself once again in a considerable conflict over territory and interests [1870-1871 French-Prussian war] The Netherlands kept aside and maintained a strict neutral policy. The war itself did however contribute to a revolution in industry and armament. The industrial processes in relation to steel-works and fabrication were boosted by the inventiveness shown to produce better arms. The production of stronger steel and alloys as well as the invention of far more powerful explosives boosted the development of guns and infantry weapons. Guns were modified to a breech-loading process and were capable of firing far more powerful shells. Rifles were developed based on bolt-action and solid munitions. The first machineguns saw daylight. Last but not least, the 1870-1871 war left its scars on the French. They mediated up on revenge.

The Netherlands was traditionally a country of very liberal religeous policy. During the 19th century the new developments in the Protestant Church caused a number of dramatic church reforms. The very strong compartmentalization of Dutch society [that lasted until 1945] was based on these new reforms and the consequential Church divisions. Basically three strong Churches [which were also sub-divided themselves] were known pre-war: 1) the traditional Catholic Church, which was "ruling" the entire south of Holland, 2) the regular Protestant [Reformed] Church, which was by far the strongest in the west and centre of the country and 3) the very formalistic Calvinistic Church which found its followers especially amongst the agricultural inhabitants of the country and in the district [the north- and north-eastern provinces, Betuwe and Zeeland - called the Bible-Belt]. The people of The Netherlands moved and worked very much within their own communities and Church. Interaction between the Churches and their followers was very limited.

The Netherlands was traditionally a country that was ruled and lead from the west. The province that used to be called "Holland" - and now in fact comprised the two provinces "Noord-Holland" and "Zuid-Holland" - was the place to be should one desire to live the "modern life". Things were happening in the west. In the district life was far less complicated and more static for everyone was minding his own business. The district comprised the better part of the country's territory. Communities were strong and isolated, and even travelling from village to the nearby town was considered a genuine journey. The Dutch in the district were working and attending the regular church services in their own communities and were usually very much unaware of the events beyond their own limited world and environment.

Dutch society was also very much segregated in different classes. The upper class, the middle class [bourgeois], the working class and the agricultural class. The first two classes isolated themselves from the lower classes. In order to give an impression of the severity of the social classes, it is interesting to know that around 1870 about 30% of the Dutch lived in pure poverty [on the parish]. Communities did not really care for poor people, social security was not in place yet. Notables ruled the villages and towns and all nice and important positions were filled by the two upper classes. It was hard to fight oneself out of the class in which one was born and raised. Society was ruthless to the poor. During the last decades of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century the social standards and rules were gradually improved. Labour colonies were founded and stricter laws on labour-time and labour-conditions were set. Child-labour was abolished. Payments improved and some sort of rudimentary social system saw daylight. Still, the position of labourers in the beginning of the 20th century was so bad that when the Dutch economy sunk in deficit at the end of WWI, a social revolution was started by the Dutch Labour Party, involving some parts of the army too. Loyal units of the army had to be brought in to suppress the revolting labourers. The social turmoil would keep a large part of the conscript army under arms long after the November capitulation of Germany.