The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579 and have been governed since by a combination of parliament and monarchy ever since. During the 17th century Holland became a leading seafaring and commercial power with settlements and colonies around the world. After a twenty year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815 under the rule of the House of Orange which continues to be the reigning monarchy today.
In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern industrialized nation, the Netherlands is a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU) and Holland participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. In October 2010, the former Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands – Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba became special municipalities in the Netherlands administrative structure.
The larger islands of Sint Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands.