Land and People
Few peoples have been so shaped by their geography, or in turn so changed the land on which they lived, as the Netherlanders. This characteristic is inscribed in the very name of the country. It first appeared during the Middle Ages as a term of straight description, “the low lands by the sea,” but later became a fixed, proper name as de Nederlanden, “the Netherlands” or “the Low Countries” in the plural, as well as in the form Nederland, a singular which exists in English only in the occasional archaic form “the Low Country.” (The equivalent French forms are the common les Pays-Bas and the rare le Pays Bas.) The English name for the people of the northern Low Countries, the modern “Kingdom of the Netherlands,” is “Dutch,” reflecting their Germanic origins and speech; but its literal equivalent, Duits, means “German,” and the Dutch refer to themselves as Nederlanders or Hollanders (after their principal province). Yet the word “Dutch” does not encompass either the Flemings—the inhabitants of Flanders, Brabant, and other Dutch-speaking regions of modern Belgium—nor the Walloons, the French-speaking inhabitants of such provinces as Hainaut and Artois who were included within the territory of the Low Countries and were thought of in the medieval and early modern period as “Netherlanders.”
KeywordsWoolen Cloth Local Weight Germanic Origin Early Modern Period Plentiful Supply
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