History – Overview
40 BC – 4th century AD – Areas south of the river Rhine are part of the Roman Empire. To the north are tribal areas.
5th – 8th century – The southern part of the Netherlands is part of the Frankish, Merovingian and Carolingian empires.
8th – 10th century – Charlemagne conquers the Frisians; from 870 the Low Countries (including Belgium and Luxembourg) form part of the East Frankish Empire, and from 962, the Holy Roman Empire.
10th – 11th century – Feudalism reigns.
12th and 13th century . As the population grows, low-lying marshlands in the west come under cultivation. Peasants and fishermen build dykes to protect their property and lives, creating ‘waterschappen’, organizations for the construction, maintenance and repair of dykes and sluices; many of the Dutch provinces were first established in these centuries.
l5th and 16th century – Through inheritance, the Low Countries become part of the Burgundian empire, later of Habsburg Spain. Hanseatic cities develop maritime trade with West European lands.
16th century – Reformation gains many followers in the Low Countries. Reacting to oppression by Catholic Spain, the Protestants rise up and declare independence: the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, a federation of seven northern provinces with Holland province in control. The Princes of Orange-Nassau are in power but not royal. The Calvinist religion comes to dominate, Catholics have to go into hiding. The revolt is won around 1590, but formally lasts until 1648. The south remains Catholic, partly occupied by the Dutch Republic, partly Spanish (Belgium).
17th century – Pursuing the Spanish enemy and its ally Portugal, the Dutch Republic develops a highly successful and worldwide maritime trade empire, focusing on the East Indian Archipelago, present day Indonesia. The republic enters its Golden Age, with prosperity for many, city building, flourishing art, vast land reclamations and international prestige. Gradually, a national identity develops.
18th century – Stagnation of Holland’s maritime trade in the face of British competition.
1795-1813 – Anti-Orangist regime based on French revolutionary principles, followed by French occupation. Napoleon’s brother Louis becomes the first king of this vassal state (1806). Catholicism becomes accepted once again.
1813 – Restoration of independence, reunited with Belgium. The Prince of Orange becomes King (see illustration). Belgium industrializes, the north remains mostly agrarian. North-south antagonisms increase. The word ‘Netherlands’ is used more often. Belgium separates in 1830.
1880 – After a period of stagnation, the Dutch economy starts industrializing and modernizing. In Indonesia, colonial rule and exploitation are intensified, bringing the Netherlands great profit. Various religious and political groups set up their own political parties, organizations and education systems, leading to social compartmentalization.
1914-1918 – The Netherlands remains neutral in World War I. The 1916 floods lead to the closing off and reclaiming of the Zuiderzee.
1920s – Modest prosperity, increasing industrialization and modernization. Radio is introduced, organized into separate socio-religious broadcasting organizations.
1930s – Severe economic crisis, government increases its grip on the economy in an attempt to solve massive unemployment.
1940 – 1945 – Nazi occupation, 100,000 Dutch, Jews killed in concentration camps, another 100,000 people in acts of war and repression. Enormous economic damage ensues. In the face of fighting the enemy, social compartmentalization is temporarily overcome.
1945 – Liberation by Allied armies. After Japan’s occupation of the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia declares independence. Dutch forces unsuccessfully try to suppress this for 4 years. Colonial functionaries and the military, including some Indonesian citizens, are expelled by Indonesia.
1950s – With US aid (‘marshall-aid’), the Netherlands slowly recovers its prosperity. Hard work, savings and obedience to leadership are emphasized. The 1953 flood in the southwest, killing 1850 people, leads to the Delta project, closing out the sea from between the islands.
1960s – Beginning of the welfare state, made possible also by the discovery and exploitation of large quantities of natural gas. Student protest against the authoritarian education system leads to a youth revolt and vast social changes after 1965, resulting in more democratic relations and loosening of religious bonds. Gradually, the social compartmentalization starts breaking up.
1970s – More prosperous than ever before. Under strong social-democratic influence, social benefits and taxes grow to the highest levels in the world. Labor immigration from Turkey and Morocco, and people from former Caribbean colonies create ethnic minorities.
1980s – Under liberal/Christian-democratic government prosperity continues but does not grow. Economic recession, growing unemployment and persistent state budget deficit. Attempts at economizing on welfare and other state expenses. Some ethnic tensions emerge in the cities.
1990s – The second half of this decade shows a remarkable decrease of unemployment and a booming economy. The ‘purple government’, a successful coalition in which conservative liberals (VVD), progressive liberals (D’66) and social democrats (PvdA) participate, are leading the country into the 21st century.