NetherlandsAfter being ruled by the Romans for four centuries, the Netherlands later became part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, they consisted of several counties, duchies, and cities, which were first united in 1433 by the Duke of Burgundy.
When Charles V. inherited the Burgundian territories in 1506, the Netherlands became part of the Spanish Empire. But beginning in 1566, the (now protestant) Netherlands fought for independence from (catholic) Spain - which was finally sealed some 80 years later in the Peace of Westphalia. The new Dutch Republic entered its Golden Age that was to last throughout the 17th century. Amsterdam now was the most important trading centre in northern Europe.
The Netherlands became a major power, present on all continents. Trade and industry flourished, and with them, the arts. Enormous numbers of paintings were produced, and the Dutch masters like Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen in Haarlem, Jan Vermeer in Delft, and many others were famous throughout Europe - led by the greatest of them all, Rembrandt van Rijn who worked in Amsterdam. After the mid-18th century, the Netherlands were surpassed by France and the British Empire, Amsterdam lost its leading position to London - and Dutch art never again gained the standing it had during the Golden Age. In 1815 the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, which thirty years later became the constitutional monarchy it still is today.