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Holland is a region in the central-western part of the Netherlands. Holland is a former county of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by the Count of Holland, and later the leading member of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands (Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden, 15811795).

North Holland and South Holland lie along the western coast of the Netherlands.The area is today divided between two provinces of the Netherlands: North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland) that were created in 1840, and make up roughly 13% of the area of the Netherlands. A few regions that were historically Hollandic became part of other provinces as a result of reforms during the French occupation (1795-1813): Willemstad and surroundings, Biesbosch and the Land van Altena became part of North Brabant. In 1940, after the German occupation of the Netherlands, the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling went to Friesland. This was not changed back after World War II. In 1950, the island of Urk went to Overijssel (in 1986 to Flevoland). More recent territorial changes are the transfer of Oudewater, Woerden and Vianen from South Holland to the province of Utrecht, in 1970, 1989 and 2002 respectively.

Etymologically the word Holland is derived from holt land ("wooded land"). A popular, but incorrect, fake etymology holds that it is derived from hol land ("hollow land"), inspired by the low-lying geography of both the Dutch and the English region (Holland, Lincolnshire).

The province of Holland was the cultural, political and economic center of the United Provinces. The greatest cities of the provinces were located within the province of Holland such as Amsterdam (capital of The Netherlands), Rotterdam, Leiden, Alkmaar, the Hague (the seat of government), Delft and Haarlem (capital of Noord-Holland). Today, together with Utrecht, this group of cities form what is called Randstad Holland. From the great port cities of Holland, Dutch merchants sailed to and from destinations all over Europe, and merchants from all over Europe gathered to trade in the warehouses of Amsterdam and other trading cities of Holland. As a result, many Europeans heard of the United Provinces first as "Holland" rather than "Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands". This tradition continues to this day.

From 1806-1810 Napoleon styled his vassal state, which included much of the modern Netherlands, as the Kingdom of Holland.


Amsterdam the official capital of the Netherlands, lies on the banks of two bodies of water, the IJ bay and the Amstel river. Founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village on the banks of the Amstel, it is now the largest city in the country and is a financial and cultural centre. As of August 1, 2006, the population of the city proper is 741,329; the population of the greater Amsterdam area is approximately 1.5 million. Amsterdam is also one of the core urban centres of the greater metropolitan area called "Randstad" which encompasses other Dutch cities such as Haarlem, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam and has a population of over 7.5 million.

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, dating largely from the 17th century. At this time, a series of concentric, semi-circular canals ("grachten") were dug around the old city centre. Along the canals houses and warehouses were built. The canals still define Amsterdam's layout and appearance today. Many fine houses and mansions are situated along the canals. Some of the narrow brick houses are gradually sinking because they are built on wooden piles to cope with the marshy subsoil.

Although Amsterdam is officially designated as the capital of the Netherlands, it has never been (save a brief period between 1808 and 1810), the seat of the court, government, or parliament of the Netherlands, which are all located at The Hague. Amsterdam is also not the capital of the province in which it is located, North Holland, whose capital is located at Haarlem. See capital of the Netherlands for more information.


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