- Download our Moving to the Netherlands Guide (PDF)
- The area now known as the Netherlands is inhabited by various Germanic tribes, including the Frisians, Saxons and Batavians.
- 4th and 5th centuries: The Netherlands is conquered by the Franks, a powerful tribe from what is now France.
Middle Ages and growing independence
- 13th and 14th centuries: The Netherlands experiences significant economic growth and urbanisation, with the rise of trade, commerce and crafts.
- 1579: The Netherlands sees the consolidation of the Dutch provinces into larger political entities, including the Duchy of Burgundy and the Habsburg Netherlands, which are ruled by powerful European dynasties.
- 16th century: The Netherlands gains independence from Spain after a long struggle known as the Eighty Years' War.
The Golden Age
- 17th century: The Netherlands becomes a major colonial power, establishing trading posts and colonies worldwide, including in Brazil, the Caribbean and the East and West Indies. This colonial expansion leads to the exploitation of people from Africa and Asia, and the Netherlands becomes a major player in the transatlantic slave trade.
- 1602: The Dutch East India Company is established, becoming one of the world's first multinational corporations. The Netherlands becomes a major maritime and economic power, with a flourishing arts and culture scene.
- 1618: The Thirty Years' War begins, a war fought across most of Europe in response to Ferdinand II's attempt to make Christianity absolute, with the Dutch Republic playing a vital role in the conflict.
- 1648: The Treaty of Westphalia is signed and ends The Thirty Years' War, recognising the sovereignty of the Dutch Republic.
- 1689: William of Orange becomes king of England, consolidating the ties between the Netherlands and England.
- 1652: The Dutch establish a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, laying the groundwork for the future colonisation of South Africa.
- The Dutch Republic declines in power and influence, losing territory to its neighbours and facing economic and political instability. At the same time, the country experiences a period of cultural flourishing, with the rise of the Dutch Enlightenment and notable figures such as Spinoza and Huygens.
- 1795–1813: The French invade the Netherlands and establish the Batavian Republic, which modernises the Dutch political systems and lasts until 1813.
- 1815: The Netherlands become part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands after the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, which also includes Belgium and Luxembourg.
- 1830: Belgium declares independence from the Netherlands owing to religious differences and a general lack of autonomy. After a brief war, the Netherlands recognises Belgium's independence in 1831.
- 1848: A series of political and social upheavals across Europe known as the 'Spring of Nations' lead to constitutional reforms in the Netherlands, including expanding the right to vote. The Netherlands also becomes increasingly involved in global trade and colonialism, establishing colonies in the East and West Indies, Suriname and the Caribbean.
- 1863: The Netherlands abolishes slavery in its colonies, although the legacy of slavery and colonialism continues to have significant social and economic impacts.
- 1890: Wilhelmina becomes the queen of the Netherlands at age 10, marking the beginning of a new era of royal leadership that will last for more than 50 years.
- 1860–1890: The end of the 19th century also sees the rise of new artistic and cultural movements in the Netherlands, including The Hague School of Painting and the Amsterdam School of Architecture.
- 1919: The Netherlands adopts a new constitution expanding the right to vote and establishing a parliamentary system of government.
- 1914–1918: During World War I, the Netherlands remains neutral but experiences shortages and economic difficulties.
- 1920s and 30s: The Netherlands experiences a period of economic growth and cultural flourishing known as the 'Roaring Twenties'.
- 1940: During World War II, the Netherlands is invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, resulting in significant loss of life and destruction, including the deportation and murder of more than 100,000 Dutch Jews.
- 1944–1945: Food supplies are disrupted as the fighting between German and Allied forces continues, leading to what is now known as the 'Hunger Winter'.
- 1945: After the War, the Netherlands participates in rebuilding Europe and becomes a founding member of the United Nations.
- 1949: Previously occupied by Japan during World War II, The Dutch East Indies gains independence as Indonesia after a four-year struggle against Dutch colonial authorities.
- 1949: The Dutch abandon their neutrality policy and become official members of NATO.
- 1957: The Netherlands becomes a founding member of the European Union, along with Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Italy.
- 1963: The Netherlands experiences significant social and cultural changes, with the rise of the Provo movement and the legalisation of contraception and abortion.
- 1975: Suriname, a former Dutch colony, gains independence.
- 1980s–1990s: The Netherlands undergoes a period of economic restructuring and liberalisation. Political and social changes, including the legalisation of prostitution and the establishment of same-sex civil partnerships, also mark this period.
- 1995: The Netherlands hosts the signing of the Dayton Accords, which ends the Bosnian War.
- 2000: The Dutch Parliament legalises euthanasia, setting strict conditions for doctors to operate under.
- 2001: The Netherlands legalises same-sex marriage and permits homosexual couples to adopt children.
- 2002: The Netherlands adopts the euro as its official currency.
- 2006: The Dutch send troops to join NATO-led forces in southern Afghanistan.
- 2009: Seven are killed as the royal family survives an attempt on their lives at a parade.
- 2010: After four years, the Netherlands withdraw their troops from Afghanistan following growing public discontent.
- 2014: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is shot down over Ukraine, with 193 Dutch citizens among the victims. The Netherlands takes a leading role in the investigation, concluding in 2016 that a missile fired from Russia downed the plane.
- 2020: The Covid-19 pandemic affects the Netherlands' economy and results in the death of more than 22,000 people.
- 2021: Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party wins the election again, and he forms his fourth coalition government since coming into power in 2010.
►For a take on modern day life in the country, check out Moving to the Netherlands
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