ON THE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE NETHERLANDS

Industrialisation came late: on the one hand, because the Netherlands had only small deposits of the key raw materials coal and iron ore, and on the other, because the "Golden Age" was followed by a long period of economic stagnation: In the 18th century, important economic sectors such as shipbuilding, fishing and brewing, which had previously led Europe, declined. Textile production, established around Leiden, Delft and Haarlem, also fell behind the British competition; only the highly specialised silk weaving industry was able to hold its own. Until well into the 19th century, the economy was supported by traditional trade - not least through the exploitation of the colonies in Southeast Asia - and highly productive agriculture, which exported meat and dairy products. Among the few expanding trades were tobacco processing and paint production: the beginnings of the tobacco factory "Van Nelle" and the paint specialist "Sikkens", which is still well-known today, date from this period.

Political setbacks such as French rule at the turn of the 19th century and the secession of Belgium in 1830 further slowed down development. The construction of a railway network began in 1839 with the Amsterdam-Haarlem line, but remained hesitant - hampered by the numerous waterways criss-crossing the country and the preference of Dutch investors to invest their capital abroad.

Symbolic, but of little consequence, was King Willems I's decision to protect the coastline from encroachment by the Haarlem Sea by using steam drainage pumps rather than the tried and tested windmills.  From 1849, three gigantic steam engines pumped out the water. The largest of its time, manufactured by an iron foundry in Cornwall, worked in the pumping station "De Cruquius", today a museum. After three years, Holland's largest inland lake had become an expanse of land, but other infrastructure projects bore more fruit.

Because the port of Amsterdam was becoming increasingly difficult to reach due to the increasing silting up of the Ijsselmeer, the construction of the North Sea Canal, a direct connection to the sea, began in 1865. Now new companies such as the Heineken and Amstel breweries settled in the city, shipbuilding and mechanical engineering expanded, and textile factories sprang up. The population doubled as more and more people moved from the agricultural regions to the industrial cities, which gradually began to flourish. When the prestigious Amsterdam Centraal main railway station was opened in 1889, the railway network had also expanded throughout the country.

Rotterdam also benefitted from the expansion of the transport routes. Since heavy industry boomed in the Ruhr area, transit trade across the Rhine had increased massively. To enable new, ever larger steamships serving the lucrative transatlantic route to ujse the port, a "New Waterway" to the North Sea was dug from 1866. Massive expansion was the result. Thanks to a new bridge over the Meuse, trains could access the southern provinces and more port facilities were built on the south bank of the river. Finally, from 1906, the Waal harbour was excavated, the largest artificial harbour in the world.

Around the turn of the century, the boom reached its peak. The Netherlands profited from the typical industries of the "second industrialisation" and a number of world-famous companies emerged: as a light bulb factory, the "Philips" company was founded in Eindhoven in 1891. The "Dutch artificial silk factory Enka" and the pharmaceutical company "Organon", which later merged with the paint manufacturer "Sikkens" to form the "Akzo-Nobel" group, form part of a significant chemical sector. Two family businesses from the butter trade founded a margarine factory in 1871, which merged with a British soap manufacturer in 1929/30 to form the "Unilever" company. The continued growing importance of colonial trade is evidenced by the history of "Royal Dutch": founded in 1890 as one of the many companies drilling for crude oil in what is now Indonesia, it merged in 1907 with an up-and-coming British competitor, the former shell merchant Samuel Marcus, to form "Royal Dutch Shell".

In 1896, thanks to a new railway connection, large-scale mining of the country's only significant coal deposits began in Limburg, the southernmost province. Over the next thirty years, 12 mines erected their winding towers there and a densely populated industrial region developed around the cities of Kerkrade and Heerlen. Even the crises of the interwar period could not stop the momentum of the upswing: in 1919 the airline KLM was founded. On the initiative of some industrialists who wanted to reduce their dependence on steel imports, a large steel and rolling mill was built at the mouth of the North Sea Canal in 1920. But most of the labour force was already employed in the service sector at the beginning of the 20th century. This meant that the Netherlands was better equipped for the next structural change than it had been in previous periods of economic and industrial change.