The United Provinces (the Netherlands) became independent from Spain after the Thirty Years War and the Westphalia peace in 1648.
Their political system was not a monarchy; instead, they had a federal republic:
- They were formed by 7 provinces with their own assembly called State. The States ruled a province and they were led by wealthiest merchants and members of the local bourgeoisie.
- The States General was the federal government controlling the foreign policy.
The government represented the bourgeoisie ´s interests so their objective was to favor trade. They promoted shipbuilding, banking and commerce and Ámsterdam became one of the most important economic centres.
The Ducth controlled world trade and set colonies in America, Africa and Asia. By 1700 the United Provinces were wealthiest country in Europe and trade was managed by the Ducth East India Company and the West India Company which had the form of joint-venture companies.
On the other hand, the United Provinces had a great religious tolerance and there was no religious persecution. Protestants, Jews and Catholics lived without problems in
Ámsterdam and other Dutch cities.
The Dutch Republic
- Another exception to absolutism was the seven provinces of the Netherlands known as the Dutch Republic, which gained its independences from Spain in 1648
- The Dutch Republic began as a flexible republic with a federal legislature of delegates from all the provinces known as the States General
- The princes of the House of Orange served as a special advisor to the government known as the stadholder or steward, but power was really in the hands of merchant families
- By the 1670s or so the Dutch Republic had also build a very profitable overseas trading empire
- Toward the end of the seventeenth century the Dutch Republic’s power was waning as it was attacked by Louis XIV’s France on its southern border and the English took advantage of the distraction of the Dutch to attack Dutch trading interests.