Bustling liberal cities, Windmills, flowers, fish, cafés, cheese - and tall people
Julius Caesar conquered the Germanic Nervii, Frisii, and Batavi tribes, which occupied the Netherlands, in 52BC. Then, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Franks controlled the region from the 4th to the 8th century, becoming part of Charlemagne's empire until his death in 814AD. The Netherlands were first ruled by Burgundy, then the Hapsburgs until the 16th century, when they came under Spanish rule. Spain's Philip II suppressed political liberties and the growing Protestant movement in the Netherlands, causing a revolt in 1568 led by William of Orange.
In 1579, the seven northern provinces proclaimed themselves the United Provinces of the Netherlands. War between them and Spain continued into the 17th century, when in 1648, Spain finally recognised Dutch independence. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602, and by the end of the 17th century, the Netherlands were established amongst Europe's great sea and colonial powers.
However, Dutch independence was not completely established until after the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). In 1688, the English Parliament invited William of Orange, Stadtholder, and his wife, Mary Stuart, to reign in England as William III and Mary II. William then used the combined forces of England and the Netherlands to wage war on France. In 1814, all of the provinces of Holland and Belgium were merged into one kingdom, but this did not last long and by 1830, the south broke away to form the Kingdom of Belgium.
The Netherlands adopted a liberal constitution in 1848 and this lasted until the start of the 20th century when country remained neutral during World War I. This tradition of neutrality did not stop the Netherlands being invaded by the Nazis in May 1940, whilst the Dutch East Indies were later taken by the Japanese soon after.
The nation was finally liberated in May 1945 from the Nazis. After 50 year reign, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 and was succeeded by her daughter Juliana. The post-war period saw the end of Dutch colonialism and the Dutch East Indies were granted their independence after a four-year war, becoming the Republic of Indonesia. The same year saw the Netherlands joining NATO. Less than a decade later, Netherlands joined the European Economic Community (later the EU) in 1958. The Netherlands participation in the EU was completed in 1999 when the single European currency, the Euro, was adopted.