Netherlands in TIME magazine

Articles on Holland (Nederland) in TIME (1923 – )

The Netherlands in TIME: Findings and Conclusions

“Perhaps on the theory that only three kinds of Dutch stories are news (bursting dikes, sly yarns of the fat Prince Consort, heartthrobs about Crown Princess Juliana), 99% of the U.S. Press and all three major U.S. news services made no mention whatever last week of […]”
Time magazine, 13 April 1930[1]

Netherlands in Time
The study ‘The Netherlands in 85 years of TIME magazine (1923-2008)’ has shed a comprehensive light on the representation and perception of the Netherlands in the American newsweekly Time Magazine. Using the magazine’s full online archive, the study identified a total of 751 articles that discusses the Netherlands and all its constituents (as in citizens, culture, politics, etc.) in the domestic (U.S.) print edition of the magazine, from the first ever issue in March 1923 until March 2008, marking a time period of 85 years and covering an extensive part of the Twentieth Century.

Time magazine was founded in 1923 by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden on the notion that no publication had adapted to the busy life of men. Although newspapers printed all the news and weeklies and monthlies commented adequately on the news, still people were poorly informed they argued. To fill this void, Time would organize all the week’s news that mattered, from the United States and all around the world, in a concise manner and on a wide range of topics with a strong focus on personalities as ‘names make news’. The newsmagazine turned to be highly successful especially among the middle class from rural areas and smaller cities who did not have access to high quality metropolitan dailies. Many were depended on the magazine to tell them what was going on in the world.

A story in Time was a group effort, written by a skilled writer who relied on contributions from reporters, fact checkers and editors. Group journalism gave the magazine a consistent appearance across time, in style and in viewpoint. Time Inc. possessed the world’s largest magazine news-gathering operation with correspondents and foreign bureaus throughout the world. In the Netherlands Time depended only on stringers: journalists who closely follow developments in a country and upon request of the editorial staff researched and gathered information for a story. Raw copy was then sent back to chief bureau in Paris and New York. As the writer only used parts of his contributions little of his work was eventually to be found in the story.

The stringer worked for the European edition of the magazine. If an article on the Netherlands was publicized in the domestic version as well, it often appeared later in time and was more condensed and shorter than the European version. The first stringer for the Netherlands was assigned after World War II. Time stringers for the Netherlands Friso Endt (1958-1973) and Wibo van de Linde (1976-1992) speak very highly of their years working for the magazine. They both awarded their colleagues for being highly competent and having so many different and vibrant story ideas and hailed the magazine for its strong emphasis on fact checking and thorough research for each and every story.

The narrative structured, factual driven and adjective-laden articles gave the magazine its all-knowing style and herewith reliability. The magazine aimed to present the facts and evaluate the news for its readers as well. It defined the credibility of foreign statesmen for example and stated which side it believed was right. With this Time conveyed convictions of the founders. The magazine was staunchly anti-Communist and favored big business, the Republican Party and American globalism. After Luce’s death in 1967 the magazine’s editorial formula changed. It restored its integrity problem and shifted more from personalities to trends. Due to the dominance of television’s nightly news, Time lost its authoritative identity but remained a publication of significance. Throughout its life-span and predominantly during its first fifty years, the magazine has been an influential factor in shaping America’s view of the world, including the Netherlands.

Article analysis
To know what has been written on the Netherlands the study developed a method for systematically retrieving and indexing articles from the magazine’s full online archive on With a scope of 85 years, from the initial issue in 1923 till 2008, the Netherlands played and active role in 751 articles of which 500 only or predominantly dealt with the Netherlands. Its presence in the magazine fluctuated over the years and decades. Until the 1940s there was an increase in the number of articles published every decade and a gradual decline materialized afterwards with especially low attention in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The three most dominant years were 1940, 1945 and 1962, which marks the start of World War II in the Netherlands, the end of the war and the end of the decolonization of the East Indies respectively. The study identified a correlation between the decolonization of the Dutch East Indies and the magnitude of the Netherlands in the magazine. From the moment the Netherlands was no longer a significant colonial power and lost its political and economic importance on the world stage, Time also lost interest in the country.

Throughout 85 years nine Dutchmen were on the cover of the Magazine. Queen Wilhelmina appeared 3 three times (1935; 1939; 1946) and Queen Juliana once (1948). Three men covered the magazine related to World War II in the East Indies: Economic negotiator Van Mook (1941), Army Commander Ter Poorten and Navy Commander Helfrich (both 1942). Two captains of industry were on the cover as well: In 1923 aircraft manufacturer Mr. Fokker and in 1960 Mr. Loudon, managing director of Royal Dutch Shell.

The magazine wrote about the Netherlands on a high variety of topics such as business, religion, royal affairs, and (international) politics to new just a few. There are also many articles, classified in our category society, which contributes to the understanding of the Dutch community, its members and/or their culture. In some cases articles confirm the notion of the Netherlands as an open-minded and tolerant country. This is mostly rendered by Time’s reporting on the progressive trend within the Dutch Catholic Church and the Dutch lenient stance on euthanasia but not – as the Dutch themselves might expect – the liberal policies towards drugs, same-sex marriage, prostitution and abortion since Time barely reports on these issues. Although it requires further research, this study assumes that these topics have not been debated on a substantial level in the United States itself (national politics, public agenda) and therefore did not surface in the magazine given that that foreign news often mirrors domestic (U.S.) issues. Throughout the years Time has overall been highly positive/friendly in reporting on the Netherlands especially compared to the findings on foreign news documented by Herbert J. Gans (1979), which holds a more darker and dramatic coverage of foreign, but worldwide, news.

Most evidently in the first fifty years generalizations and stereotypes about the Netherlands appeared occasionally in the magazine because prior to World War II the magazine could not yet rely on its extensive international network of correspondents and due to its use of its distinct Time-style formula of adding background information, multiple adjectives and metaphors, all within a narrative (storytelling) structure. The following excerpt of a 1938 report on Wilhelmina’s fortieth anniversary as Queen illustrates this notion: “Outside the Palace in the tidy, central square, The Dam, thousands of broadfaced Dutchmen, big-bosomed matrons and holiday-garbed children, faces scrubbed red as Edam cheeses, milled about shouting the famed cheer for the House of Orange: ‘Orange Boven’ (‘Orange Up!’).”[2] Explicit judgments and generalizations became less apparent after editorial changes in the late 1960s.

Recurring themes
From the repository a total of seven recurring themes (distinct topics that reappear throughout several years) were identified, which were the Dutch Royal Family (1923-1980), the Dutch East Indies & Decolonization (1923-1970), Keeping the Gold Standard (1931-1935), World War II (1939-1945), the Progressive Dutch Catholic Church (1956-1985), (Opposing) Nuclear Missile Deployment (1979-1985) and Euthanasia (1973-2001).

Because of their remarkable recurring prominence ‘The Progressive Dutch Catholic Church’, ‘the Dutch East Indies & Decolonization’ and ‘the Dutch Royal Family’ have been critically assessed through framing analysis. Framing, in short, is the process of journalists, editors and publishers or any other communicator to provide a structured representation of parts of reality (events, issues, actors) by emphasizing certain aspects through selecting, omitting and highlighting information as to make that reality comprehensible. Since the reader is usually less informed, due to restrictions in time and access to sources, the reader is induced to accept the proposed or dominant frame. The framing analysis of each theme offered insight to how Time has written about these topics and was preceded by an introductory section providing the context as well as the motives for Time to cover these themes.

Time and Dutch Catholicism
In its reporting on the Netherlands, the progressive trend within the Dutch Catholic Church was a recurring topic in the magazine between 1956 and 1985 and Time wrote consistently and similarly on the issue. In thirty-five articles Time covered the openly discussed movement within the Dutch Catholic Church to modernize church doctrine and has done so by focusing throughout the years on the conflict between the Dutch Catholic Church in the Netherlands and the international Church in Rome, who tried especially from 1970s onwards to disband the changes by appointing conservative bishops. The Dutch were continuously portrayed as progressive in superlative terms such as avant-garde, radical, revolutionary, innovative and rebellious.

The reason for Time to cover the Progressive Dutch Catholic Church rested in the editorial decision to carry a religion section in the ‘back of the book’-section of the magazine, which itself can be traced to the founder Henry Luce who had a deeply rooted curiosity for religion. Furthermore the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and the contradictory developments were a practical motive for a news story. Contributing factors were the target audience’s appeal to religion and the magazine’s approach to spot and report on trends.

In regard to the Dutch break with traditional doctrine, the issues mentioned the most were the acceptance of birth control methods, the opposition to compulsory celibacy for priests and the ecumenical dialogue with other religions (mixed marriages). Actors that Time cited or discussed were authorities in the upper levels of the Catholic hierarchy. The term Pope was mentioned the most (224 times in total). Second was liberal theologian Schillebeeckx (38 times), followed by the Archbishops Alfrink (25) and Willebrands (23) and the appointed conservative bishops Simonis (21) and Gijsen (20 times).

Time focused especially on those events that highlighted the contrast between progressive and conservative the most and in this framed the Dutch Catholic Church as one of continuously rebellious and the Vatican as static and inflexible. Furthermore by enhancing the salience of the progressive developments within the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, Time has encouraged readers to favor the progressive Dutch policies opposed to those of the ‘static’ Vatican and implied that the Vatican needs to adjust its position or it will lose members in the Netherlands (and around the world).

Time and Dutch Colonialism/Decolonization
The second recurring theme the study examined was the ‘Dutch East Indies & Decolonization’. The fruitful exploitation and export of the island’s riches in the former colony of the Netherlands (modern Indonesia) made the Dutch a significant economic and colonial power in the world. Due to the impasse in power as a result of World War II, a strong nationalist movement emerged among Indonesians which led to a diplomatic and armed conflict until independence was recognized to Indonesia in late 1949 and to Western New Guinea in 1962. With 115 articles Time showed a particularly strong interest in the Indies/Indonesia from its initial year 1923 till 1970.

Time’s international orientation of covering the most important world wide events was the principal motive to report on the Dutch East Indies which was further strengthened by editorial convictions stressing the importance of the relationship between Asia and the West and its deep-seated distrust in Communism. The vast economic importance of the area for the United States and the magazine’s focus on conflict illustrates why the Dutch East Indies gained its exceptionally strong prominence. It also explains why very few articles surfaced on the smaller and relatively calm Dutch colonies in the West (Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles).

Throughout the years the economic interests of America in the archipelago and not colonialism was the key issue in framing the Dutch East Indies. Until the end of World War II Time stressed the importance of the area and hailed the Dutch for supplying America’s high needs of strategic materials such as rubber, tin and oil. As American allies, Time strongly sympathized with the Dutch during the war. Until 1945 the magazine disregarded Indonesian nationalism and Dutch colonial rule was hardly criticized and even marked as healthier than other colonial powers.

During the conflict that emerged right after the War Time remained neutral, recognizing and accepting the Republican’s claim for self-rule, although the magazine focused more on a Dutch proposed idea of a Netherlands-Indonesian partnership rather than full independence. After 1950 under the supposed threat of growing communist influence in Indonesia and the inability of its leaders to govern a viable state, the magazine exposed a continued strong pro-Dutch lenience in the dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding Western New Guinea. In framing the conflict, Time implied that full independence for former colonies can only be instituted when natives have proven they are able and ready for self-rule and as long as they ally with the West as they can properly assist the new nation. Throughout the years Time’s coverage of the Dutch East Indies ran parallel with America’s foreign policy on first principles.

Of all persons Sukarno, nationalist leader and first president of Indonesia gained the most magnitude (311 times), followed by Queen Wilhelmina (61) and Mr. Van Mook, economic negotiator and Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies (60).

Time and Dutch Royalty
The Dutch Royal Family was the final recurring theme that was critically assessed through framing analysis. As a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, the Netherlands has been headed by a hereditary monarch of the House of Orange Nassau. During this study Queen Wilhelmina (1890-1948), Queen Juliana (1948-1980) and Queen Beatrix (1980-present) reigned over the Netherlands although their powers have been strictly limited by the Dutch constitution. From 1923 till 1980 Time extensively reported on the Royal Family in 130 articles. No articles appeared in the magazine during Beatrix reign.

Time’s interest in those with power was a strong motive to cover the Royal family (a feature that the United States itself lacks). Since Wilhelmina and Juliana ruled over the third colonial empire in the world and were the richest women on earth, the House of Orange was unquestionably powerful and wealthy. Additionally, the common man’s interest in Royalty was also a contributing factor to report on the House of Orange, since circulation numbers also indicate: Royalty sells. Furthermore, as a relatively small and distant country for Americans, the Queen and her House was used as a symbol for the Netherlands which enhanced readers’ recognition with the nation.

Juliana received the most magnitude in the magazine as her name was mentioned 307 times. She was followed by Wilhelmina (255) and on a distant third Prince Bernhard (155). The fourth most often person mentioned was Beatrix, but she gained very little prominence opposed to her mother and grandmother as her name appeared only 57 times.

The magazine focused on the Queens’ (political) work but predominantly on their personal lives. Articles on Wilhelmina’s personal life served to explain how she (politically) functions as a Queen in contrast to the reports on her daughter Juliana, which concentrates on the relational sphere (marriage, birth, scandal). Due to Time’s terminology and because Wilhelmina is included in articles on Dutch politics she has been portrayed as a politically meddling Queen. Reports on Juliana’s constitutional role or her functioning related to domestic or international politics were marginal during her years as Queen. Time reported neutral but elaborately on the affairs and scandals that inflicted upon the Dutch court during Juliana’s reign.

The study distinguished a correlation between the decline of the Netherlands as a significant colonial power and the decline in reporting on the reigning family of the Netherlands. As the economic and strategic importance of the Dutch empire for the United States weakened, Time also lost its interest in those who ruled it. However Queen Juliana was not associated with the downfall of the Dutch empire and it is thus neither considered as her loss nor is it sensationalized by the magazine. It is the absence of stories relating to her constitutional role that bears the declining importance of Royal House of Orange to Time.

Throughout the years Time was unequivocally favorable of the Dutch Royal Family. Time implied that they embody Dutch character and culture and both Wilhelmina and Juliana were identically and repeatedly portrayed with having desirable features to rule the Netherlands. Time marked both Queens as beloved, common, committed, thrifty and dependable, and in appearance as plump and motherly/protective. Time stressed that the Dutch Royal Family has been a strong asset for the Netherlands.

All in All
The study provided a comprehensive insight to Time magazine’s representation and perception of the Netherlands and reached the following conclusions regarding the central question: How has the Netherlands been framed in 85 years of Time Magazine (1923-2008).

Time framed the Netherlands most dominantly during the time it was a key economic and political player on world stage, i.e. the Netherlands as a colonial empire. During this time the magazine repeatedly emphasized the importance of the nation, stressing it was larger than just “little Holland.” After the decolonization of Indonesia in 1949, which supplied the United States of many (strategic) products, a gradual and steep decline materialized in the number of articles that were published.

Particularly during this dominant era, the magazine had a strong interest in those who ruled the empire by elaborately reporting on the work and personal life of Wilhelmina and Juliana of the Royal House of Orange.

Time wrote on a high variety of topics in a wide range of categories but it focused especially on conflict: In times and in terms of conflict (World War II, Indonesian independence struggle; Progressive Dutch Catholic Church). As the largest category International Politics demonstrates, the magazine concentrated primarily on the dynamic of the Netherlands within the global community. It additionally showed interest in events, policies, people and companies that were outstanding.

There were a substantial number of articles on the Netherlands that contribute to the understanding of the Dutch community, its members and/or their culture. If there is one thing that exposes the Netherlands as a liberal and tolerant society the most, it is the open-minded elements found through the prism of the Progressive Dutch Catholic Church and certainly not the Dutch policies towards drugs, same-sex marriage or prostitution.

As a consequence of the magazine’s editorial formula, Time has used stereotypes and clichés to flavor its stories and herewith reinforced existing conventional images about the Netherlands and the Dutch.

To conclude Time has overall been highly positive and sympathetic towards the Netherlands which originates from America’s fruitful economic relations with the Netherlands, World War II and the Cold War (dependable allies) and because of the admirable nature of the Dutch.

Heerink, Mark J. (2009) The Netherlands in 85 years of TIME magazine (1923-2008) Available: <> ()

[1] “Waterler [sic] Prize,” Time Magazine, 13 April 1930 (51).
[2] “Double Anniversary,” Time Magazine, 12 September 1938 (99).

Lees alle artikelen over Nederland die verschenen zijn in Time Magazine


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