Visual History of the World




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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present


After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states -
Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg


After the end of World War II, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg decided to cooperate economically, culturally, and politically under the collective name Benelux. They integrated themselves into the emerging Western security structures, giving up their traditional neutrality by joining NATO. The Benelux states were also founding members of the European Economic Community in 1957. Within this framework, all three countries rapidly recovered from the war and became prosperous and stable liberal democracies. The course of development of each state differed in some important respects, however.



 Luxembourg's development has been determined by its relationship to its neighbors. The steel industry and financial sector are equally dependent on cooperation with the bordering nations.


As early as the 1920s, 1 Luxembourg, an independent grandduchy, bordered to the west and north by Belgium, was able to establish a customs, trade, and currency union through its economic association with Belgium.

The iron and steel industries were of particular international significance because of the rich ore deposits in Lorraine. Furthermore, Luxembourg was of high strategic importance for armies attempting to move through Belgium into France.

After the end of World War II, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg began by joining the Benelux customs union and then became a champion of the 2 European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and was thus involved in the process of European unification.

Appropriately, the ECSC high authority chose Luxembourg as its seat in 1952; the treaty had a fixed term of 50 years, and the high authority was abolished in 2002.

Other important European offices are also located in Luxembourg, including the 5 European Court of Justice and the European Investment Bank.

1 The old town of Luxemburg along the River Alzette, in the Grund Valley

2 Signing of the ECSC treaty, 18 April 1951

5 The original seat of the European Court of Justice in
the Kirchberg area where many European institutions
are clustered, Luxembourg

Luxembourg gave up its neutrality in 1949 and joined NATO. Its foreign policies arc almost exclusively determined by EU policies. The long terms of office of Luxembourg politicians especially qualify them for the European stage.

Among them are 3 Jacques Santer, president of the European Commission from 1995 to 1999, and the current prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, who has made a name for himself as a negotiator within the European Union.

Being a small nation, Luxembourg is very intent on not being left out of European committees. Since 2003, the Benelux states have been demanding a commission that is smaller and therefore more capable of acting, whose seats would be equally allocated according to a rotation system.

Luxembourg is one of the most important 4 finance centers of the world.

Financial management is of vital significance to the country. EU efforts to create an interest tax and the abolishment of bankers' confidentiality are therefore seen as an economic threat. A related EU law was prevented by Luxembourg's veto in 1989.

3 Jaques Santer, president of the EU commission, 1996

4 Building of the DG Bank Luxembourg on the
Kirchberg in Luxemburg, 1997



Charlemagne Prize to the People of Luxembourg

The people of Luxembourg were awarded the Charlemagne Prize by the city of Aachen in 1986. Since 1950, this award has been presented annually for services to European unity.

The Luxembourgers were deemed worthy of the prize because, as founding members of the European Union, they were among the first committed Europeans, and Luxembourg politicians have made essential contributions to the unity of Europe.

The medallion was given to Grand Duke Jean representing the citizens of Luxembourg.

Grand Duke Jean with his wife




The Netherlands

After World War II, the Dutch economy was dominated by industry and services. The social structures also changed.


The Netherlands conducted massive "cleansings" and criminal prosecutions of collaborators after 1945. It was estimated that close to two per cent of the Dutch population had collaborated with the German occupiers. Over 90,000 people were arrested and the Dutch Nazi, Anton Mussert, was condemned to death.

Unlike neighboring Belgium, the Netherlands had suffered great 6 destruction in the war, but with assistance from the Marshall Plan, it achieved a rapid recovery.

6 Ruins of the Dutch city of Rotterdam
following the bombardment, 1940

The Netherlands could no longer continue as an agricultural and colonial power. The Hutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) had been occupied by Japan and in 1945 proclaimed its independence, which was recognized by the Netherlands after difficult negotiations and fighting in 1949. In 1963 the territory of Western New Guinea was handed over to Indonesia, and in 1975 Surinam gained independence.

The process of decolonization contributed to the Netherlands' transformation to an 9 industry and service-oriented nation after the war.

The Dutch iron processing, electrical appliance, and 10 petrochemical industries are among the most successful economic sectors worldwide.

9 The Erasmus Bridge that spans the River Maas, Rotterdam

10 Oil tank of the Shell refinery in Rotterdam

The Dutch social structure also changed in the mid-1970s. Up until then, individual social groups had lived side by side as "pillars," culturally inclusive communities with their own social facilities who hardly ever came in contact with one other. There were Catholic, Protestant, Social Democrat, and Liberal pillars. As religions lost their significance, these firmly set worlds gradually dissolved. The student unrest of the 1960s also provided for a more porous social structure.

After 1945, a coalition government of Catholics and the social democratic Labor party was established; it lasted until 1958 when Labor withdrew. Thereafter, the Netherlands was governed by a shifting coalition of centrist parties; Labor has sat on the government benches only occasionally since then.
The monarchy suffered a crisis in the 1970s.

The husband of 7 Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard, was involved in a bribery scandal and in 1976 resigned from his military offices.

8 Princess Beatrix, the heir to the crown, had married a German diplomat in 1966, triggering heated domestic political debates.

Nevertheless, after her mother's abdication in 1980, Beatrix was able to once again win over the people to the idea of monarchy.

7 Juliana of the Netherlands

8 The dutch Queen Beatrix, 2004


The Kingdom of The Netherlands (1914–1999)

Queen Wilhelmina and World War I

During the first half of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina (1890–1948), the political situation remained fundamentally unchanged. The major parties came to recognize that the school struggle interfered with the solution of other problems. An agreement in principle was reached on the eve of World War I, by which the secular parties accepted state support for religious schools on a basis of equal funds in exchange for enactment of universal male suffrage. When war broke out in 1914, The Netherlands, which had declared its neutrality, put aside the proposed reforms in order to concentrate on the immediate problem of maintaining the country’s livelihood in the face of blockades. The “Pacification,” as the compromise was called, was adopted in 1917 and put into effect after the return of peace. The war years saw almost all political controversies set aside, while the government took unprecedented action in maintaining trade and guiding economic life. Although spared the horrors of combat, the Dutch had to maintain a large standing army, and mutinies broke out among the soldiers in 1918.

The century from the restoration of Dutch independence in 1813 until World War I saw fundamental transformations of Dutch life. The economic base was modernized; the role of agriculture diminished, with most Dutch farmers producing dairy, meat, and horticultural products for the market; and trade and shipping were revived in the face of fiercely competitive conditions. But most important was the rise of industry—first textiles in the eastern provinces, then coal in the southeast, and finally modern manufactures, notably the great Philips electrical products factories at Eindhoven. Rotterdam became one of the world’s busiest ports and the centre of chemical and other industries. These changes were paralleled in society by the gradual extinction of pauperism, the domination of middle-class businessmen and professional men, and the gradual improvement of the conditions of working people and farmers, especially after the mid-19th century.

Although religious freedom in The Netherlands was generally as great as anywhere else in Europe, orthodox Calvinists faced major difficulties, especially during the first half of the 19th century, when they protested against the modernizing ideas of the mainstream Calvinist Reformed (Hervormde) Church; their efforts to create independent religious communities met with sharp resistance from the government. Some of the Gereformeerden (the older name for “Reformed” used by the conservatives) emigrated, many of them to the United States; however, in the second half of the century, this group prospered at home and took its place at the heart of the pillarized Dutch system.

The cultural life of The Netherlands remained very largely confined within national boundaries; Dutch thinkers, writers, and artists responded strongly to influences from Germany, France, and England but themselves had little impact abroad. Dutch scientists maintained a respected position for their country; Hugo de Vries was one of the principal founders of the science of genetics, while the physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz contributed greatly to Einstein’s theories of relativity. Dutch artists were generally imitative; although The Hague school of Impressionists displayed great gifts, only Vincent van Gogh, who spent most of his active life in France, achieved world reputation. Dutch literature ran parallel to main currents abroad; the Réveil early in the century was a movement of intensely religious romanticism with strongly conservative ideas, while Eduard Douwes Dekker (pseudonym Multatuli) in mid-century expressed the moods of social criticism with great power; the movement of “Men of the ’Eighties” (Tachtigers) brought to the fore an emphasis on aesthetic values and spirituality; and early in the 20th century, a literature of social protest reemerged.

The Netherlands since 1918

The movement of The Netherlands into modernity was accelerated after 1918. Although the country became a member of the League of Nations, it reaffirmed its neutrality, which seemed to have obtained the respect of the powers and which was symbolized by the presence of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. There was considerable harshness in relations with Belgium, which not only abandoned its neutrality for a close alliance with France but demanded territorial cessions from Holland. The Dutch government, although humiliated by a demand that it present its case before the peace conference at Versailles, successfully resisted any amputation of its territory. The Dutch, for their part, refrained from giving any official support to the Flemish nationalist movement in Belgium, although a Great Netherlands movement, principally among intellectuals, emphasized the underlying unity of the Dutch and Flemings. Domestic politics followed the same course, with the Protestant political parties continuing to provide leadership for generally conservative policies, especially after the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Dutch sedulously maintained their neutrality, although their sympathies lay overwhelmingly with the Allied powers. Nonetheless, when Nazi Germany undertook the campaign against France in the spring of 1940, its forces struck not only against Belgium in order to outflank the French defenses but also against The Netherlands. The Dutch land armies were overwhelmed in less than a week, and the government, accompanied by Queen Wilhelmina and the royal family, withdrew to England, where they formed a government in exile.

Much of the work of public administration and civil government under German military occupation was continued by Dutch organs of state, which made some effort to buffer German political repression, deportation of Jews, and forced employment of Dutch labour in Germany. A resistance movement sprang up, which, with the exception of the Dutch Nazi collaborators, spanned all groups from the conservatives to the communists. The Germans retaliated by executing Dutch hostages for such measures of resistance as the strike of Amsterdam dockworkers against the seizure and deportation of Dutch Jews to extermination camps in Germany. Some Jews were able to “go underground” (into hiding) with the assistance of friends, but the large majority were taken away to their deaths. In the final phases of the war, particularly after the Allied failure to capture bridgeheads across the rivers at Nijmegen and Arnhem, the Dutch suffered from severe food shortages, and, during the last months before liberation (May 1945), they were near famine (the so-called Hunger Winter).

The late 20th century

After the war many aspects of Dutch life changed dramatically. Wilhelmina and her government returned from exile to reestablish a regime more strongly democratic than ever before. Anticipating the characteristic difficulties of postwar reconstruction, the government, industry, and labour agreed upon a plan for industrial and commercial expansion, with avoidance of the rapid expansion of prices or wages that would bring a threat of inflation. The plan worked effectively for more than two decades, and the Dutch were able to avoid drastic inflation until the breakdown of such corporatist consensus in the 1960s.

Dutch industrialization moved forward with speed and depth, expanding to include the large-scale production of steel, electronics, and petrochemicals. Putting aside the policy of neutrality as a failure, The Netherlands entered vigorously into the postwar Western alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the various organizations of European unity (the Common Market; later the European Community within the European Union); however, its influence was limited, even though it joined with Belgium and Luxembourg in a closer union (Benelux). Indonesia, where Dutch authority was reestablished after wartime occupation by Japanese forces, soon became the scene of a nationalist revolution. After some hesitation as well as bitterness, the Dutch were obliged to grant it full independence. In the Caribbean area, the Netherlands Antilles remained part of the Dutch kingdom, although no longer under the authority of the government at The Hague; the island of Aruba gained an autonomous status within the Antilles in 1986. Surinam became independent in 1975 and was renamed the Republic of Suriname in 1978.

Dutch political alignments since the mid-20th century have evolved only gradually and until the 1990s were always dependent on the Christian Democrat parties of the centre. The first postwar governments were dominated by an alliance of the Labour and Catholic parties, which continued until the Labour Party went into opposition in 1958. Thereafter, with the exception of 1973–77, when the country had a left-led government, and 1981–82 and 1989–91, when it was ruled by a centre-left coalition, governments were formed by centre-right coalitions. After the early 1980s the government was faced not only with recurrent economic problems but also with the emotion-charged issue of siting U.S. nuclear cruise missiles (as part of the NATO defense strategy) in the country. It finally reached the decision in 1985, against widespread popular opposition, that 48 missiles would be sited by 1988. The issue was dissolved by the subsequent ending of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

During the 1960s the generally peaceful mood of Dutch public life was broken by rioting of youth and labour groups, especially in Amsterdam. The most difficult crisis affected the royal family. The marriage (1966) of Princess Beatrix, the heiress to Queen Juliana (who had succeeded Wilhelmina on her abdication in 1948), to a German diplomat aroused acrimonious debate. The unsanctioned marriage of Princess Irene to a Spanish Carlist prince had already come as a shock even to Roman Catholics, but it was less difficult politically because she lost her right of succession. Juliana’s husband and consort, Prince Bernhard, was involved in a bribery scandal and withdrew from public office. Juliana abdicated in 1980 and was succeeded as queen by Beatrix.

By the 1970s Dutch politics, like Dutch society in general, had largely ceased to practice what was strictly defined as pillarization. Pillarization had received official confirmation in the Pacification of 1917 and removed most of the tinder from Dutch politics, but it also kept ordinary Dutchmen ideologically separated from each other to a greater degree than in most other Western countries. Yet, because the leaders of the pillar organizations worked well with each other and the right of each pillar to exist and function was unquestioned, public life generally ran smoothly.

In the 1960s the system began to disintegrate. New radical political parties were formed, and, in the face of rapid secularization of the vote, the various Christian parties joined together in the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). However, the religious vote has continued to decline, and in the 1990s there were “purple” coalitions for the first time, between the (red) Labour Party and the (blue) Liberals (conservatives). The Communist Party, once influential beyond its small numbers, disbanded in 1991. The far-left groups joined with environmentalists to form an electoral group called Green-Left, which garnered about 5 percent of the vote beginning in the late 1990s.

Herbert H. Rowen
Michael J. Wintle

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Wilhelmina of the Netherlands

Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1901;
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1909;
Queen Wilhelmina and her daughter Juliana, circa 1914

queen of The Netherlands
in full Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria

born Aug. 31, 1880, The Hague, Neth.
died Nov. 28, 1962, Het Loo, near Apeldoorn

queen of The Netherlands from 1890 to 1948, who, through her radio broadcasts from London during World War II, made herself the symbol of Dutch resistance to German occupation.

The daughter of King William III and his second wife, Emma of Waldeck-Pyrmont, Wilhelmina became queen on her father’s death (Nov. 23, 1890) under her mother’s regency. She was inaugurated Sept. 6, 1898, at Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk, and soon gained widespread popular approval. On Feb. 7, 1901, she married Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and gave birth to a daughter, Princess Juliana, on April 30, 1909. During World War I, Wilhelmina was influential in maintaining The Netherlands’ neutrality.

When Germany invaded The Netherlands on May 10, 1940, Wilhelmina issued a proclamation to her nation of “flaming protest” and a few days later left for England with her family and members of the Cabinet. Throughout the war, she exhorted her people over Radio Orange to maintain their spirit until the nation’s liberation, and she was welcomed back with enthusiasm when the German occupation was ended in 1945. After abdicating the throne in favour of Juliana on Sept. 4, 1948, because of poor health, Wilhelmina retired to her palace, Het Loo, near Apeldoorn. Her memoirs, Eenzaam maar niet alleen (1959; Lonely but Not Alone, 1960), reveal the deep religious feeling that dominated her life.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Wilhelmina in World War II
On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, and Queen Wilhelmina and her family were evacuated on HMS Hereward to the United Kingdom three days later. Queen Wilhelmina had wanted to stay in the Netherlands: she had planned to go to the southern province of Zeeland with her troops in order to coordinate further resistance from the town of Breskens and remain there until help arrived, much as King Albert I of Belgium had done during World War I. She fled The Hague, and she boarded HMS Hereward, a British destroyer which was to take her south;however, after she was aboard, Zeeland came under heavy attack from the Luftwaffe and it was considered too dangerous to return. Wilhelmina was then left with no option but to accept George VI's offer of refuge. She retreated to Britain, planning to return as soon as possible.

The Dutch armed forces in the Netherlands, apart from those in Zeeland, surrendered on 15 May. In Britain, Queen Wilhelmina took charge of the Dutch government in exile, setting up a chain of command and immediately communicating a message to her people.

Relations between the Dutch government and the Queen were tense, with mutual dislike growing as the war progressed. Wilhelmina went on to be the most prominent figure, owing to her experience and knowledge. She was also very popular and respected among the leaders of the world. The government did not have a parliament to back them and had few employees to assist them. The Dutch prime minister Dirk Jan de Geer, believed the Allies would not win and intended to open negotiations with the Nazis for a separate peace. Therefore Wilhelmina sought to remove Jan de Geer from power. With the aid of a minister, Pieter Gerbrandy, she succeeded.

During the war her photograph was a sign of resistance against the Germans. Like Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina broadcast messages to the Dutch people over Radio Oranje.

The Queen called Adolf Hitler "the arch-enemy of mankind". Her late-night broadcasts were eagerly awaited by her people, who had to hide in order to listen to them illegally. An anecdote published in her New York Times obituary illustrates how she was valued by her subjects during this period:

Although celebration of the Queen’s birthday was forbidden by the Nazis, it was commemorated nevertheless. When churchgoers in the small fishing town of Huizen rose and sang one verse of the Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus van Nassauwe, on the Queen’s birthday, the town paid a fine of 60,000 guilders.
Queen Wilhelmina visited the USA from 24 June- 11 August 1942 as guest of the US government. She vacationed in Lee, Massachusetts, visited New York City, Boston, and Albany, NY. She addressed the US congress on 5 August 1942.

Queen Wilhelmina went to Canada in 1943 to attend the christening of her grandchild Princess Margriet on 29 June 1943 in Ottawa and stayed a while with her family before returning to England.

During the war, the Queen was almost killed by a bomb that took the lives of several of her guards and severely damaged her country home near South Mimms in England. In 1944 Queen Wilhelmina became only the second woman to be inducted into the Order of the Garter. Churchill described her as the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London.

In England, she developed ideas about a new political and social life for the Dutch after the liberation. She wanted a strong cabinet formed by people active in the resistance. She dismissed De Geer during the war and installed a prime minister with the approval of other Dutch politicians. The Queen "hated" politicians, instead stating a love for the people. When the Netherlands was liberated in 1945 she was disappointed to see the same political factions taking power as before the war. Prior to the end of the war, in mid-March 1945, she travelled to the Allied occupied areas of the south of the Netherlands visiting the region of Walcheren and the city of Eindhoven where she received a rapturous welcome from the local population.

Following the end of World War II, Queen Wilhelmina made the decision not to return to her palace but move into a mansion in The Hague, where she lived for eight months, and she travelled through the countryside to motivate people, sometimes using a bicycle instead of a car. However, in 1947, while the country was still recovering from World War II, the revolt in the oil-rich Dutch East Indies saw sharp criticism of the Queen by the Dutch economic elite. Her loss of popularity and the forced departure from the East Indies under international pressure led to her abdication soon after.

She was the 896th Dame of the Order of the Garter in 1944.



Juliana of the Netherlands

Juliana and Prince Bernhard

queen of The Netherlands
in full Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina

born April 30, 1909, The Hague, Netherlands
died March 20, 2004, Baarn

queen of The Netherlands from 1948 to 1980.

Juliana, the only child of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, studied law at the University of Leiden (1927–30) and in 1931 helped form the Nationaal Crisis Comité to foster measures by private enterprise to alleviate the economic depression. She married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld in 1937 and gave birth to four daughters: Beatrix (1938), Irene (1939), Margriet (1943), and Christina (1947). During World War II, Juliana took refuge in Ottawa while her husband remained with Queen Wilhelmina’s government, which had relocated to London.

After returning to The Netherlands in 1945, Juliana acted as regent (October–December 1947 and May–August 1948) during Wilhelmina’s illness. Juliana was inaugurated as queen on September 6, 1948, following her mother’s abdication two days earlier. In 1949 Juliana oversaw the granting of independence to Indonesia.

Her employment of a faith healer in the 1950s to tend to Christina, who had been born almost totally blind, caused public concern, and the marriages of Princess Irene to a Spanish Carlist prince (1964) and Princess Beatrix to a German diplomat (1966) aroused political controversy stemming from Dutch memories of World War II. Another crisis involved Prince Bernhard’s acceptance of huge sums of money from the U.S. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in 1976. Juliana withstood these dissensions, however, owing largely to her great popularity. She endeared herself to the Dutch public with her modesty—she sent her children to public schools, shopped at the local supermarket, and abolished such formalities as the curtsy—and with her efforts to promote social welfare.

On April 30, 1980, Juliana, by her own wish, abdicated in favour of Beatrix. She continued, however, to maintain an active public life until the late 1990s, when her health declined.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Beatrix of the Netherlands


queen of The Netherlands
in full Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard

born January 31, 1938, Soestdijk, Netherlands

queen of The Netherlands from 1980.

The eldest of four daughters born to Princess (later Queen) Juliana and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, Beatrix went into exile with her family when the Germans overran The Netherlands in World War II, and she spent the war years in Britain and Canada. When Juliana ascended the throne in 1948, Princess Beatrix received the title of heiress presumptive. From 1956 to 1961 she attended the State University of Leiden, studying mainly social sciences, law, and history.

In 1965 her betrothal to a German diplomat, Claus George Willem Otto Frederik Geert von Amsberg (b. 1926—d. 2002), caused a national furor because of his past membership in the Hitler Youth and the German army, even though he had been cleared by an Allied court. On March 10, 1966, they were married amid rioting in Amsterdam, but the hostility dimmed with the births of Willem-Alexander (1967), Johan Friso (1968), and Constantijn (1969), the first male heirs in the House of Orange since 1890.

In 1980 Queen Juliana abdicated, and Beatrix ascended the throne on April 30. She was noted for her involvement in a number of social causes and proved a popular monarch. In 2004 Johan Friso married without the approval of the Dutch government, thus giving up any claim to the throne.

Encyclopaedia Britannica


see also: United Nations member states -
Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg



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