The Hague

The Hague (in Dutch: Den Haag) is the capital city of the province South Holland. With over 500 thousand inhabitants it is the third largest city of the Netherlands (after Amsterdam and Rotterdam). The Dutch government and parlement are located in The Hague, this might seem strange as The Hague is not the capital city of the Netherlands. You also might know The Hague as The International Court of Justice and The International Criminal Court are located in the city, both are often referred to in news programs around the world.

History of The Hague
The first recorded historical reference to The Hague is circa 1230 when a lodge, for hunting, was built there by Count Floris the fourth. This was rebuilt as a castle in 1248 by his son William the 2nd. The name, The Hague, is based on the word for hedge as an enclosure where the building was set. More buildings, such as the Knights Hall, were built close to the castle and it eventually came to be the home of the Counts of Holland. These buildings can now be found in the old quarter, Binnenhof. A lake was built close by this area in 1350 and is still there today.

The Modern era
The building of The Hague as a large city really started in 1850 with new residential areas being built to house government employees and also employees of the Dutch East India Company.

The city encompassed the area of Looseduinen in 1923 as it grew even further beyond it’s boundaries. During the 2nd world war large parts of the city were demolished to make way for the “Atlantic wall” and in 1945 a residential area was accidentally bombed by the British who were attempting to bomb the V2 rocket site in a nearby park.

After the war there was a massive building programs, both to repair the damage and to accommodate the growing population. Today the city is still expanding beyond it’s borders with new areas being annexed and new residential areas being built.

Home of Justice
The Hague has been the center for international law for centuries. It was once referred to as the “legal capital of the world” by then United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Known as the City of Peace and Justice, The Hague is home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. It is also one of the major cities hosting the United Nations; along with New York, Nairobi, Geneva, Vienna and Tokyo.

Here is a list of important dates in the political history of The Hague:

  • Late 16th Century – The government of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was founded.
  • 1838 – Since this date the Supreme Court of the Netherlands has been based in The Hague.
  • 1893 – The Hague Conference on Private International Law was founded by Nobel Prize winner by Tobias Asser.
  • 1903 – Construction of the Peace Palace was completed and housed the Court of Permanent Court International Justice: the legal branch of the League of Nations.
  • 1946 – Court of International Justice is founded following WWII and is housed in the Peace Palace.
  • 1981 – The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal was founded.
  • 1990 – An explosion of the founding international bodies in The Hague, resulting in 160 such bodies in the city and surrounding area.