Provinces of the Netherlands

first-level administrative division in the Netherlands

The modern day European Netherlands are divided into twelve provinces (provincies in Dutch). The Caribbean Netherlands and other countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands are completely separate.

Provinces of the Netherlands

Structure change

A Dutch province is the administrative layer in between the national government and the local municipalities. It has the responsibility for matters of regional importance. The government of each province is made of three major parts: the Provinciale Staten which is the provincial parliament elected every four years. Elected from its members are the Gedeputeerde Staten, a college charged with most executive tasks. This college is presided by the Commissaris van de Koningin or royal commissioner, appointed by the Crown.

Provinces change

The twelve provinces are listed below with their people, area, density, and so on:

Province People in 2023 Total
land km²
since 2023
Drenthe 502,000 2680 2633 48 191 27 12 Assen
Flevoland 445,000 2412 1410 1002 315 8 6 Lelystad
Friesland 660,000 5753 3340 2413 197 45 18 Leeuwarden
Gelderland 2,134,000 5136 4960 176 430 110 51 Arnhem
Groningen 596,000 2955 2316 639 257 14 10 Groningen
Limburg 1,128,000 2210 2145 65 526 323 31 Maastricht
North Brabant 2,626,000 5082 4902 181 536 44 56 's-Hertogenbosch
North Holland 2,953,000 4092 2663 1429 1109 55 44 Haarlem
Overijssel 1,184,000 3421 3317 104 357 85 25 Zwolle
South Holland 3,805,000 3308 2698 609 1410 37 50 The Hague
(Den Haag)
Utrecht 1,388,000 1560 1484 76 935 69 26 Utrecht
Zeeland 391,000 2933 1780 1154 220 52 13 Middelburg
Total 17,811,000 41543 33647 7896 529 323 342 Amsterdam

Historical background change

Almost all Dutch provinces came from a medieval state, like a county or duchy. This is the same with the regions of Belgium. Their status changed once they came under the influence of a ruler. This single ruler then centralised their administration. They then became provinces of a larger state. In total there are 17 provinces today. From these unified Netherlands, seven northern provinces formed the Republic of the Seven United Provinces in the 16th century. These were Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel and Groningen. The Republic's lands also included Drenthe (one of the 17, but without the autonomous status of the others), and parts of Brabant, Limburg and Flanders, which were considered to be "conquered lands" and were governed directly by the Staten-Generaal, the parliament. From this came their name Generality Lands. They were called Staats-Brabant, Staats-Limburg and Staats-Vlaanderen, meaning "of the state". Each of these "Netherlands" had a high degree of autonomy. They co-operated with each other mainly on defense and on the international level in general. They kept to their own affairs elsewhere.

On January 1, 1796, during the Batavian Republic, Drenthe and Staats-Brabant became the eighth and ninth provinces of the Netherlands; the latter known as Bataafs Brabant, Batavian Brabant, changing its name to Noord Brabant, North Brabant, in 1815 when it became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. This kingdom also contained (then) South Brabant, a province in Belgium. This new unified state featured the provinces in their modern form. Today, they are non-autonomous subdivisions of the national state. There are again numbering 17 provinces, though not all are the same as the 16th century ones. In 1839, with the independence of Belgium, the original single province of Limburg was divided between the two countries. Each country now has a province called Limburg. A year later, Holland, the largest and most populous of the Dutch provinces, was also split into two provinces for a total of 11. The 12th member was to be Flevoland, a province consisting almost entirely of reclaimed land, established on January 1, 1986.

The Departments of the French Period change

During the Batavian Republic, the Netherlands were from 1798 to 1801 completely reorganised into 8 new departments, most named after rivers, inspired by the French revolutionary example, in an attempt to do away with the old autonomous provincial status. They are listed below, with their capitals and the territory of the former provinces they mostly incorporated:

Batavian Departments
English name Dutch name Capital Contained the territory of
Department of the Ems Departement van de Eems Leeuwarden Northern Friesland, Groningen
Department of the Old IJssel Departement van de Oude IJssel Zwolle Southern Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Northern Gelderland
Department of the Rhine Departement van de Rijn Arnhem Central Gelderland, eastern Utrecht
Department of the Amstel Departement van de Amstel Amsterdam The area around Amsterdam
Department of Texel Departement van Texel Alkmaar Northern Holland minus Amsterdam, northwestern Utrecht
Department of the Delft Departement van de Delft Delft Southern Holland up to the Meuse, southwestern Utrecht
Department of the Dommel Departement van de Dommel 's-Hertogenbosch The eastern part of Batavian Brabant, southern Gelderland
Department of the Scheldt and Meuse Departement van de Schelde en Maas Middelburg Zeeland, Holland south of the Meuse and the western part of Batavian Brabant

After only three years, following a coup d'état, the borders of the former provinces were restored, though not their autonomous status. They were now also called "departments" and Drenthe was added to Overijssel. In 1806 the Kingdom of Holland replaced the republic to further French interests. It was during this administration that Holland was first split in two, with the department of Amstelland to the north and that of Maasland to the south. East Frisia, then as now in Germany, was added to the kingdom as a department in 1807 and Drenthe split off again making a total of 11 departments.

When the Netherlands finally did become fully part of France in 1810, the departments of the kingdom and their borders were largely maintained, with some joined together. They were however nearly all renamed, again mainly after rivers, though the names differed from their Batavian counterparts. Following are their names and the modern day province they corresponded for the most part to:

French Departments in the Netherlands
English name French name Dutch name Modern province(s)
Department of the Zuiderzee Département du Zuyderzée Departement van de Zuiderzee North Holland & Utrecht
Department of the Mouths of the Meuse Département des Bouches-de-la-Meuse Departement van de Monden van de Maas South Holland
Department of the Mouths of the Scheldt Département des Bouches-de-l'Escaut Departement van de Monden van de Schelde Zeeland
Department of the Two Nethes Département des Deux-Nèthes Departement van de Twee Nethen Western North Brabant & Antwerp
Department of the Mouths of the Rhine Département des Bouches-du-Rhin Departement van de Monden van de Rijn Eastern North Brabant & southern Gelderland
Department of the Upper IJssel Département de l'Yssel-Supérieur Departement van de Boven IJssel Northern Gelderland
Department of the Mouths of the IJssel Département des Bouches-de-l'Yssel Departement van de Monden van de IJssel Overijssel
Department of Frisia Département de la Frise Departement Friesland Friesland
Department of the Western Ems Département de l'Ems-Occidental Departement van de Wester Eems Groningen & Drenthe
Department of the Eastern Ems Département de l'Ems-Oriental Departement van de Ooster Eems (East-Frisia)

With the defeat and withdrawal of the French in 1813, the old provinces and their names were re-established, Holland was reunited and East-Frisia went its separate way. The 17 provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands were for a significant part based on the former French departments and their borders, in particular in what would later become Belgium.

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