After beginning life as a small trading commune, the Dutch Empire exploded in activity during the early 1600s to become the great maritime power for several decades, bringing about a golden age of Dutch culture and influence. However, the empire would go into decline in the 18th century, as it was supplanted by Britain. Further setbacks came about during the French Revolution, and it would be relegated to a second-rate power by 1815. Despite this, it continued to expand in its remaining colonies, most notably the East Indies, which became amnogst Europe's most valuable by the late 19th century. The loss of the East Indies during and after the Second World War would end the empire, with all remaing territory either being incorporated into the Netherlands proper, or becoming a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.