See L. Mitchell Holland House (1980).
The name Holland first appeared in sources in 866 for the region around Haarlem, and by 1064 was being used for the name of the entire county. By this time, the inhabitants of Holland were referring to themselves as "Hollanders". Holland is derived from the Middle Dutch term holtland ("wooded land"). This spelling variation remained in use until around the 14th century, at which time the name stabilised as Holland (alternative spellings at the time were Hollant and Hollandt). Popular, but incorrect, etymology holds that Holland is derived from hol land ("hollow land") and was inspired by the low-lying geography of Holland.
The proper name of the area in both Dutch and English is "Holland". "Holland" is a part of the Netherlands. "Holland" is informally and quite incorrectly used in English and other languages, including sometimes the Dutch language itself, to mean the whole of the modern country of the Netherlands (this example of pars pro toto or synecdoche is similar to the tendency to refer to the United Kingdom as "England").
The people of Holland are referred to as "Hollanders" in both Dutch and English. Today this refers specifically to people from the current provinces of North Holland and South Holland. Strictly speaking, the term "Hollanders" does not refer to people from the other provinces in the Netherlands, but colloquially "Hollanders" is sometimes mistakenly used in this wider sense.
When referring to the Netherlands as a whole, the adjective is "Dutch". "Dutch" is not used as an adjective for "Holland" in a modern context because "Dutch" refers to all of the Netherlands, not just Holland. However, there is a good deal of confusion about this. In actual practice, the adjective "Dutch" is often (but somewhat inaccurately) used in the specific context of Holland.
In Dutch, the Dutch word "Hollands" is the adjectival form for "Holland", but in English there is no commonly used adjective for "Holland". "Hollands" is ordinarily expressed in English in two ways:
The following usages apply in certain limited situations but do not ordinarily serve as the English equivalent of the commonly used Dutch adjective "Hollands".
See the article on the "Geography of the Netherlands" for a more detailed description.
Holland is situated in the west of the Netherlands. A maritime water-oriented region, Holland lies on the North Sea at the mouths of the Rhine and the Meuse (Maas). It has numerous rivers and lakes and an extensive inland canal and waterway system. To the south is Zealand. The region is bordered on the east by the IJsselmeer and four different provinces of the Netherlands.
Holland is protected from the sea by a long line of coastal dunes. Most of the land area behind the dunes consists of polder landscape lying well below sea level. At present the lowest point in Holland is a polder near Rotterdam, which is about seven meters below sea level. Continuous drainage is necessary to keep Holland from flooding. In earlier centuries windmills were used for this task. The landscape was (and in places still is) dotted with windmills, which have become a symbol of Holland.
Holland is 7,494 square kilometres (land and water included), making it roughly 13% of the area of the Netherlands. Looking at land alone, it is 5,488 square kilometres in size. The combined population is 6.1 million.
The main cities in Holland are Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Amsterdam is formally the capital of the Netherlands and its most important city. The Port of Rotterdam is Europe's largest and most important harbour and port. The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands. These cities, combined with Utrecht and other smaller municipalities, effectively form a single city - a conurbation called Randstad.
The Randstad area is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe, but still relatively free of urban sprawl. There are strict zoning laws. Population pressures are enormous, property values are high, and new housing is constantly under development on the edges of the built-up areas. Surprisingly, much of the province still has a rural character. The remaining agricultural land and natural areas are highly valued and protected. Most of the arable land is used for intensive agriculture, including horticulture and greenhouse agri-businesses.
See the article on the Dutch language for a more detailed description.
The language primarily spoken in Holland is Dutch. Hollanders often refer to the Dutch language as "Hollands".
The standard Dutch that is spoken in the Netherlands is mostly based on the Dutch spoken in Holland; however, there are many local variations in dialect throughout the Netherlands.
Despite the correspondence between standard Dutch and the Dutch spoken in Holland, there are local variations within Holland itself that differ from standard Dutch. The main cities each have their own traditional dialect. A small number of people, especially in the area north of Amsterdam, still speak what is considered to be an original, older dialect, called "Hollandic". The areas where people still speak with the Hollandic dialect are Volendam and Marken and the area around there, West Friesland and the Zaanstreek.
"Holland" is not in itself a province of the Netherlands. It is divided into two provinces of the Netherlands -- North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland). These provinces were created in 1840 largely because it was unacceptable for Holland to remain such an overwhelmingly large and powerful province in comparison to the other provinces. A few regions that were historically part of Holland have been ceded to other provinces.
Some territory was gained:
Each of the provinces in the Netherlands has a history that deserves full attention on its own. However, to a certain extent at least, the history of Holland is the history of the Netherlands, and vice versa. See the article on "History of the Netherlands" for a more detailed history. The article here focuses on those points that are specific to Holland itself or that highlight the nature of the role played by Holland in the Netherlands as a whole.
The land that is now Holland had never been stable. Historical maps of Holland bear little resemblance to the maps of today. Over the millennia the geography of the region had been dynamic. The western coastline shifted up to thirty kilometres to the east and storm surges regularly wreaked havoc with the coastline. The coastline was constantly changing. The Frisian Isles, originally joined to the mainland, became detached islands in the north. At some point the sea broke a natural barrier and rushed in to fill in the area that used to be called the Zuiderzee (now the IJsselmeer). The main rivers, the Rhine and the Meuse (Maas), flooded regularly and changed course repeatedly and dramatically.
The people of Holland found themselves living in an unstable, watery environment. Behind the row of coastal dunes a peat plateau had grown. Much of the area was marsh and bog. The inhabitants set about cultivating this land by draining it. By the tenth century this area was brought under cultivation. The drainage however resulted in extreme soil shrinkage, lowering the surface of the land by up to fifteen metres.
This combination of factors threatened the inhabitants. There were catastrophic floods that literally washed away entire regions and killed thousands. The early inhabitants understood that human intervention was needed to save the land. The counts and large monasteries took the lead in these efforts, building the first heavy emergency dikes to bolster critical points. Later special administrative bodies were formed, the waterschappen ("water control boards"), which had the power to enforce their decisions on water management. As the centuries went by, they eventually constructed an extensive dike system that covered the coastline and the polders, thus protecting the land from further incursions by the sea.
However, the Hollanders did not stop there. Starting around the 16th century, they took the offensive and began land reclamation projects, converting lakes and marshy areas into polders. This continued right into the 20th century.
This ongoing struggle to master the water played an important role in the development of Holland as a maritime and economic power and in the development of the character of the people of Holland.
Until the 9th century, the inhabitants of the area that became Holland were Frisians. The area was part of Frisia. At the end of the 9th century, Holland became a separate county in the Holy Roman Empire. The first count of Holland known about with certainty was Dirk I, who ruled (also as count of Frisia) from 896 to 931. He was succeeded by a long line of counts in the House of Holland. When John I, count of Holland, died childless in 1299, the county was inherited by John II of Avesnes, count of Hainaut. By the time of Willian V (House of Wittelsbach; 1354-1388) the count of Holland was also the count of Hainaut, Flanders and Zealand. In this time a part of Frisia, West Friesland, was conquered (as a result, most provincial institutions, including the States of Holland and West Frisia, would for centuries refer to "Holland and West Frisia" as a unit). The Hook and Cod wars started around this time and ended when the countess of Holland, Jacoba or Jacqueline was forced to give up Holland to the Burgundian Philip I in 1432.
The last count of Holland was Philip III, better known as Philip II king of Spain. He was abolished in 1581 by the socalled Act of Abjuration, although the kings of Spain continued to carry the titular title of count of Holland until the Peace of Münster signed in 1648.
In 1432 Holland became part of the Burgundian Netherlands and since 1477 of the Habsburg Seventeen Provinces. In the 16th century the region became more densely urbanised, with the majority of the population living in cities. Within the Burgundian Netherlands, Holland was the dominant province in the north; the political influence of Holland largely determined the extent of Burgundian dominion in that area.
In the Dutch Rebellion against the Habsburgs during the Eighty Years' War, the naval forces of the rebels, the Watergeuzen, established their first permanent base in 1572 in the town of Brill. In this way, Holland, now a sovereign state in a larger Dutch confederation, became the centre of the rebellion. It became the cultural, political and economic centre of the United Provinces in the 17th century Dutch Golden Age, the wealthiest nation in the world. After the King of Spain was deposed as the count of Holland, the executive and legislative power rested with the States of Holland, which was led by a political figure who held the office of Grand Pensionary.
The largest cities in the Dutch Republic were in the province of Holland such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, Alkmaar, The Hague, Delft, Dordrecht and Haarlem. From the great ports of Holland, Hollandic 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.
Many Europeans thought of the United Provinces first as "Holland" rather than as the "Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands". A strong impression of "Holland" was planted in the minds of other Europeans, which then was projected back onto the Republic as a whole. Within the provinces themselves, a gradual slow process of cultural expansion took place, leading to a "Hollandification" of the other provinces and a more uniform culture for the whole of the Republic. The dialect of urban Holland became the standard language.
The formation of the Batavian Republic, inspired by the French revolution, led to a more centralised government. Holland became a province of a unitary state. Its independence was further reduced by an administrative reform in 1798, in which its territory was divided into several departments called Amstel, Delf, Texel, and part of Schelde en Maas.
From 1806 to 1810 Napoleon styled his vassal state, governed by his brother Louis Napoleon and shortly by the son of Louis, Napoleon Louis Bonaparte, as the "Kingdom of Holland". This kingdom encompassed much of what would become the modern Netherlands. The name reflects how natural at the time it had become to equate Holland with the non-belgian Netherlands as a whole.
During the period the Low Countries were annexed by the French Empire and actually incorporated into France (from 1810 to 1813), Holland was divided into the départements Zuyderzée and Bouches-de-la-Meuse.
Holland was divided into the present provinces North Holland and South Holland in 1840, after the Belgian Revolution of 1830. This reflected an historical division of Holland along the IJ into a Southern Quarter (Zuiderkwartier) and a Northern Quarter (Noorderkwartier).
The predominance of Holland in the Netherlands has resulted in regionalism on the part of the other provinces. This is a reaction to the perceived threat that Holland poses to the identities and local cultures of the other provinces. The other provinces have a strong, and often negative, image of Holland and the Hollanders, to whom certain qualities are ascribed.
Hollanders themselves, however, have a weak self-image. They take Holland's cultural dominance for granted. To them, the concepts of "Holland" and the "Netherlands" coincide. Consequently they see themselves not primarily as "Hollanders", but simply as "Dutch" (Nederlanders). This phenomenon is called "hollandocentrism".
Holland tends to be associated with a particular image. The stereotypical image of Holland is an artificial amalgam of tulips, windmills, clogs, cheese and traditional dress (klederdracht). As is the case with many stereotypes, this is far from the truth and reality of life in Holland. This can at least in part be explained by the active exploitation of these stereotypes in promotions of Holland and the Netherlands. In fact only in a few of the more traditional villages, such as Volendam and locations in the Zaan area, are the different costumes and wooden shoes still worn by some inhabitants.