Seven outlines to the Canon of the Netherlands indicate thematic links. They connect Canon subjects and time periods with important themes that are covered in different learning areas.

Hoofdlijn 1

Living in a vulnerable delta

The Netherlands: land of water

In a country criss-crossed with major rivers and half situated below sea level, water largely determines how we live and work. In order to keep our feet dry, collaboration on water management is essential here. Even now, the risk of sea or river flooding is never far away. For how long will we be safe behind our dykes and dams? The upside is that water also brings riches. Impoldering has expanded our territory. For centuries, transport by water – from polder ditch to ocean – has boosted the Netherlands’ prime position as a trading nation. And the remarkable flora and fauna in the aquatic eco system is garnering increasing attention.

Hoofdlijn 2

What gives meaning?

Fulfilment and philosophy of life

The quest for meaning and significance is a universal one: “How (or: for whom) do I become a good person?” The various outlooks on life ensuing from this quest help to interconnect and inspire many people. On the other hand, they regularly fill people with an urge to convert others, and in many cases, such different outlooks lead to alienation and conflict between groups. Ideological leaders and institutes are being faced with issues regarding influence and power, and the abuse thereof. How can you form a constructive society with different – religious or other – life principles? Over the course of time, the Netherlands has formulated a range of responses to this question. Authoritative rules, in combination with tolerance and mutual respect, are considered important ingredients for such a society.

Hoofdlijn 3

Connecting words and images

Language, art, and culture

For over a thousand years, the Low Countries have formed a continuous cultural area. This is reflected in words and images. Here, the Dutch language is the main vehicle for the mind: speaking and singing, listening and reading, thinking and writing in the same language interconnects us all, even if we challenge one another in terms of content. The literary and visual arts can open up new horizons and cross borders; they record but also influence the spirit of the age. Language and culture are in a constant state of flux; vernacular and slang, folk art and youth culture, old and new media constitute the glue that binds groups together.

Hoofdlijn 4

What do we know?

Knowledge, science, and innovation

Amazing examples of human ingenuity in Dutch history go back a long way: for example, how did the megalith builders manage to lift those heavy boulders off the ground? Every era since has seen an abundance of intellectual, technological, and cultural development. Evidently, this same brainpower can be used in the purview of misuse of power and of destruction. From the eighteenth century onwards, the possibilities for man to bend nature to his will have been gaining momentum. Expansion and computerisation bring prosperity, but also unemployment. Mankind has an ever greater impact on its environment, with an unexpected downside, as is evident by now.

Hoofdlijn 5

Who is included?

Social (in)equality

In 1983, the equality before the law of all the residents of the Netherlands was set down in Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution: “Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.” An important Article, because in the course of history, unequal treatment of people and groups turns out to be the rule rather than the exception. People regularly rebel against forms of social inequality and oppression. Sometimes, successfully. In addition to such types of struggle, Dutch social legislation is also underpinned by centuries of brainwork. And still, social inequality is not entirely eradicated.

Hoofdlijn 6

Who is governing?

Politics and society

The first outlines of the Netherlands in its present form are already reflected in the principalities of the early Middle Ages. The collective defence of cherished local privileges and prerogatives eventually leads to an independent state. On account of the many different interests and groups, power needs to be shared, which at times results in considerable internal clashes. In the modern era, the Netherlands becomes an administrative entity with increasingly more emphasis on equal rights for all its citizens. The times when independence is jeopardised leave deep wounds. There is a profound desire to safeguard the freedom and peace that have never been a matter of course.

Hoofdlijn 7

Hub of connections

World economy

In this swampy land of rivers, opportunities for agriculture were limited. Consequently, trade and cities start to flourish at an early stage. From the late Middle Ages onwards, the Low Countries develop a modern and innovative economy which turns the region into an important hub of world trade. They are not afraid of engaging in violence and exploitation in this process. Since that time, the area has been attracting large numbers of migrants who help to keep up the economy. The Netherlands has thus been a prosperous country for centuries, although this prosperity is not divided equally. The economy benefits from open borders; however, its extreme dependence on such open borders renders it vulnerable.