46 Fascinating Facts About Dutch History (Find Out Now)

February 1, 2022

The Netherlands is a fascinating nation full of culture. The culture of the Netherlands has been shaped through thousands of years of incredible history, full of war and full of happiness.

Dutch history is a fascinating subject, and that’s why we will take a deeper dive into it today!

So, without further ado, let’s get started on this list of incredible Dutch history facts!

1. The Netherlands has been inhabited for 300.000 years

Dutch history dates back thousands upon thousands of years, all the way back to the early phases of prehistory. Early fossils of human life have been found in Dutch territory dating back 250 to 300 thousand years. 

Humans spread from the heart of Africa further out into the world before eventually reaching the northern regions of Europe, among which the Netherlands.

From these early signs of human life, we evolved into the lovely Dutch people we are today!

2. KLM is the oldest national airline in the world

The Royal Dutch Airline, better known as KLM, was established way back in the year 1919. This makes it the oldest royal airline in the world! Not only that, it is actually the oldest airline still in operation today!

KLM, characterized by its bright blue planes, was founded in 1919 and had its first flight in 1920, competing very closely with Australian airline Qantas!

Since its establishment, KLM has carried millions of passengers. The airline has grown exponentially to be one of the world’s biggest!

3. The Netherlands are one of the founders of the European Union

The European Union was founded way back in 1993 in order to create unity and prosperity amongst the people of Europe, but what many people don’t know is that the Netherlands, along with five other nations, founded the European Union!

The Union was even brought to life in the Netherlands, as the treaty was signed in 1993 in Maastricht, a Dutch city.

4. The Netherlands were the first country to import tea

When you think of tea, your mind may instantly switch towards Great Britain, but not many people know that the Dutch actually got the tea to Europe first!

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Dutch trade to and from Asia was going incredibly well. As a result, tea has come along with Dutch ships into Europe.

Tea has since spread across the continent like a wildfire, with many countries, among which the United Kingdom, adopting tea as a national beverage!

5. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage

Back in 2001, same-sex marriage was a huge topic of debate, as the world was starting to normalize this like no other.

Governments had to act quickly, and the Dutch government did without hesitation. They became the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.

Many other countries followed their example, and soon the world looks like it does today, with many, but sadly not all, countries accepting same-sex marriage.

6. Gin was discovered in the Netherlands

Gin is known as a famous alcoholic beverage, drank at parties and restaurants worldwide, but did you know that gin was originally founded in the Netherlands?

Gin was used in the 16th century as a pain treatment medicine, especially effective for cruel dental procedures and surgeries on ships!

Centuries later, gin started to be used for entertainment purposes rather than medical ones!

7. The Netherlands was first to import lots of coffee

The Netherlands are true pioneers when it comes to drinks like coffee or tea, as they were also among the first countries to import coffee into Europe on a large scale!

In the 17th century, trade with Asia was booming, and coffee quickly gained popularity in the Netherlands and all over Europe.

Therefore, Dutch business people decided to bring the substance to Europe in large quantities!

8. The Dutch have been making cheese for over 1600 years

One thing the Dutch are known explicitly for is, of course, cheese! The country has a large number of cows and farmers, and cheese is a major Dutch export product.

This has been like this for ages, as the first signs of Dutch people making cheese date back to the year 400 AD.

9. Vincent van Gogh painted 2000 paintings in 10 years

Many people know Vincent van Gogh to be one of the world’s best painters and most famous dutch people of all time. He has painted some incredibly famous works.

During the 19th century, Van Gogh managed to paint over 2000 paintings in just ten years! 

These works are all still being found and sold for millions each and every day. Van Gogh truly is a piece of Dutch pride and culture!

10. Rembrandt van Rijn is a famous Dutch painter

Moving on then from one famous painter straight into the other, we’ll look at Rembrandt van Rijn next up!

He is, of course, the godfather of art and one of the most impressive painters this world has ever seen, and we are proud to call him Dutch!

His most famous work has to be “de Nachtwacht.” Rembrandt was known for his incredible use of light and dark to create depth and perception in his paintings!

11. The Dutch National Anthem was written in 1568

The Wilhelmus, better known as the Dutch national anthem, was written back in the year 1568. This makes it one of the oldest national anthems out there to be still used to this very day!

The Wilhelmus didn’t actually become the national anthem of the Netherlands until the year 1932, and it endured some rewrites to its melody in the 17th century to create the beautiful anthem it is now!

12. The Dutch flag is the oldest three colored flag in the world

The Dutch flag is one of the many flags globally that consists of three simple colors. The Netherlands was the first to introduce this trend, though, as way back in 1572, the Dutch flag became the first three colored flag in existence!

Before, nations like France or Germany later adopted very similar flag designs to the Dutch flag!

13. The Netherlands has been declared the most bicycle-friendly country in the world

For this next one, we’re moving more into modern history, 2013, to be precise. During this year, the Netherlands was declared, along with Denmark, to be the most bicycle-friendly country in the world!

The Netherlands has more bikes than people, and cycling is just as much a means of transport here as a car is. The bike has gained incredible popularity, and the country is built to suit that!

14. The Microscope was invented in the Netherlands

The microscope has been an important aspect of modern science as we know it today, but did you know that it was invented in the Netherlands? It was by inventor Anthony van Leeuwenhoek in the 16th century.

He then went on to change biology forever as he discovered sperm cells using his new invention! The microscope has since played a huge role in many significant scientific discoveries!

15. The Netherlands has been a democracy since 1848

When you think of the Netherlands, you probably think of a well-developed western country, and you would be perfectly right!

The Netherlands became a parliamentary democracy in 1848. Ever since the people have had a way to influence the nation. 

The Netherlands wasn’t the first to introduce democracy, nor were they the last. Many countries followed them, and some are yet to do so to this very day!

16. The Telescope has been invented in the Netherlands

You might not believe it, but the telescope was also a Dutch invention, just like the microscope! A telescope is used to look at the stars above to make scientific discoveries about our solar system.

It was first created and used in the Netherlands somewhere in the 17th century, right after discovering the microscope! 

The Netherlands has well and truly set the tone for scientific exploration with these two incredible inventions!

17. New York was originally called New Amsterdam

Not many people seem to know this, but the famous city that never sleeps, also known as New York City, used to be Dutch territory!

It used to go by the name of New Amsterdam before it was traded with England in 1664. The English then renamed it to the name we’ve come to love, New York!

18. The Dutch have discovered Australia and New Zeeland

Another great discovery by the Dutch happened on the opposite of the globe. As an explorer known as Willem Janszoon discovered the huge island we now know to be Australia!

New Zealand was also discovered by a Dutchman, namely Abel Tasman. The Tasmanian sea was actually named after him, and New Zeeland was named after a Dutch province known as Zeeland.

Since its initial discovery 1606, Australia has been through a lot. The East coast was only discovered about a century later by British explorers, who then proceeded to claim the land to ship their prisoners there!

19. Julius Caesar lived in the Netherlands for a little while

We all know famous Roman general Julius Caesar; he represents strength and brains like no other. But did you know that he actually inhabited the Netherlands in the year 55 BC?

When he was off to conquer Gaul, he stayed in our little country and completely destroyed the native tribes that came before him, just like he did with the rest of mainland Europe! 

20. The border of the vast Roman Empire was in the Netherlands

We’ve all learned about the incredible Roman empire in our history lessons. This empire covered the entirety of mainland Europe and much more!

However, even great empires like the Roman empire had their borders, and they just so happened to be in the Netherlands!

The Roman border was marked by the river Rhine, which runs right across the Netherlands. Remains of old Roman settlements can still be found and seen in many places along the river banks.

21. The 80-year war lasted from 1568 to 1648

Different wars play a significant role throughout Dutch history. The potentially longest and most influential war in Dutch history is known as the 80-year war.

This name was, of course, chosen due to the length of the war, as it lasted a whopping 80 years, from 1568 to 1648.

The war was fought between Spain and the Netherlands, and religion played a large role. Many people died during the war, and it serves an important purpose in Dutch culture to teach people about religion!

22. The Dutch Currency “Gulden” entered circulation in 1378

Before the Netherlands entered the European Union, the country used its own currency known as Gulden. This coin entered circulation way back in the year 1378, and it has been used throughout the centuries of Dutch history.

The Gulden was an incredibly old currency. It has played a large role throughout Dutch history before being replaced by the Euro in 2002.

23. Leiden was freed on the 3rd of October 1578

A major event that took place during the 80-year war was the liberation of Dutch city Leiden. Leiden had been surrounded by Spanish soldiers, slowly starving the people in the city as no one was allowed in or out.

This misery ended on the 3rd of October 1578 when the city was finally besieged.

The 3rd of October is a holiday in Leiden now, and the entire city gathers to celebrate the anniversary of their liberation.

24. William of Orange was killed in 1584

William of Orange is an essential character from Dutch history. Everyone knows him. He is better known as the father of our country and its history!

He is known for his courage in the war, as he led the revolution against Spain, and he was an influential figure in Dutch society at the time.

That fame also got him killed on that faithful day in 1584. He was killed during a dinner in his home by Baltasar Gerards.

25. The Netherlands was gifted as a wedding gift in 1598

Dutch history is full of random fun facts, as can be seen throughout this list, but this next one steals the show.

Did you know that the entire country was given as a wedding gift in 1598?

During this time, the Netherlands was a part of Spain, and the Spanish king, Fillips II, decided to give the entire country as a wedding gift for his son!

In practice, this only included the southern part of the Netherlands, now known as Belgium.

26. The VOC was founded in 1602

The Dutch East Indi Company, better known as the famous VOC, was founded on the 20th of March in the year 1602.

The company was focused on trade with Asia and India. It brought incredible wealth and prosperity to the Netherlands during its golden days.

The company is known for being the first to ship coffee and tea to Europe. They are to this day one of the most profitable businesses in the history of the world!

27. There was a truce in the war between 1609 and 1621

The 80-year war is, of course, a prominent part of Dutch history, but not many people know that the war didn’t actually last a full 80 years!

The war lasted a mere 68 years, as there was a 12-year truce from 1609 to 1621 in which there was no fighting. 

Tensions started to rise again, though, and the truce abruptly ended, resulting in a further 27 years of fighting!

28. Hugo de Groot escaped prison in a book’s chest

Hugo de Groot was another significant person in the 80-year war. He was imprisoned in a large, well-secured castle in the Netherlands for expressing his opinion.

He was an intellectual and was therefore allowed to read books in prison. He, however, climbed in the empty chest used to bring in the books and escaped prison as the guard went to refresh his books!

29. The Netherlands have traded New York for Surinam

As we’ve previously mentioned in this article, the Netherlands used to be the proud owner of the territory that is now known as the famous New York City.

Not many people know that the Dutch traded it for Surinam, a country in southern America! At the time, it seemed like a great deal due to the resources on Surinam, but now the Dutch surely regret it like no other!

30. The Munster Peace Treaty ended the 80-year war

In the year 1648, the 80-year war was finally put to an end. This was done when both fighting parties signed the Munster Peace Treaty.

The signing marked a new age in Dutch history and an end to the constant fighting lasting a lifetime for some!

The signing also recognized the Republic of the Netherlands as an international country, essentially placing the tiny country on the world map!

31. The Dutch have waged multiple wars with England throughout the 17th century

Sadly, the end of the 80-year war didn’t mark the end of the Dutch war, as the country got into multiple conflicts with its overseas neighbor throughout the 17th century.

These wars mainly were fought at sea, as it was really a test to see which country had the strongest naval power out of the two. These wars were known as the English wars, and there were three of them during the 17th century!

32. 1672 is known as a year of disaster for the Netherlands

Say the word 1672 to someone that knows Dutch history, and shivers will run down their spine in no time. This year is known to be the disaster year in Dutch history, but why?

The Netherlands was attacked from four sides in this year, essentially ambushing the entire nation.

This made the people and the government clueless, leading to rising tensions within the country. Everything that could go wrong went wrong in 1672!

33. The Netherlands adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1700

The calendar we know today consisting of 365 days divided over 12 months may seem like an age-old system, but it hasn’t been around for too long.

The Netherlands adopted the Gregorian Calendar, still used today by the western world, in 1700!

Since then, many countries around the world have adopted the calendar too, allowing for a united calendar around the globe! Some people still use religious calendars on the side, though.

34. The Dutch language was introduced in 1804

The Netherlands has long been a divided country regarding language and spelling. However, that all changed when in 1804, the universal Dutch language was adopted.

This meant that the spelling of the Dutch language would be the same everywhere, therefore ending the many subcategories of the language and further uniting the country!

The Dutch language still holds plenty of dialects, most notably Frisian, which is a completely different language to the regular Dutch.

35. First Dutch railway opened in 1839

During the 19th century, the invention of the steam train and the railway system took the world by storm, and the Netherlands was no exception!

In 1839 the first Dutch railway was officially opened. The railway connected the cities Haarlem and Amsterdam. 

Since then, the Dutch railway system has evolved to connect all major cities, with train stations being available everywhere you look. We have said goodbye to the steam train, but its heritage lives on!

36. The first Dutch telephone network was set up in 1881

Technology advanced rapidly during the 19th century, and of course, the Netherlands could not lack behind in this major revolution.

That’s why the first telephone network was set up in 1881. This allowed Dutch citizens to communicate at a distance in real-time for the first time ever. 

This was a surreal experience for many and look how normal it has become in modern times! Technology will keep on advancing through the years.

37. Compulsory education in the Netherlands was introduced in 1900

The beginning of the 20th century marked a great revolution in Dutch education, as 1900 was when school and education were made compulsory for all Dutch children.

Before that, many children never went to school as they helped their parents bring in money by working.

Compulsory education marked the beginning of making the well-educated society we see today. Therefore, compulsory education is still in place and will for a long time to come!

38. The Netherlands was neutral during World War I

1914 marked the start of turbulent times for the entirety of Europe and the world as a whole as the first World War started. The Netherlands chose the easy way out, as they declared themselves to be neutral in the conflict!

This attitude wasn’t perceived well by the rest of Europe, as they saw it as a cowardly act, and they thought the Netherlands was trying to benefit from the war. Which, to be fair, they did!

39. The Netherlands adopted Daylight Saving Time in 1916

Amidst the chaos of World War I, the Netherlands went back to business as usual as they adopted Daylight Saving Time in the year 1916.

During Daylight Saving Time the clock is placed an hour forward compared to the regular ‘winter time.’ This is done to save energy as there is no need to turn on lights etc. 

The Daylight Saving Time rule is still used to this day, and it has proven its worth as we now see it as a regular part of our daily lives.

40. Women gained the right to vote in the Netherlands in 1919

One year after the end of World War I, the Netherlands went through a significant change regarding the democratic system.

Women gained the right to vote in the Netherlands in the year 1919, this marked a great day in the fight for equal rights, and it evolved the Dutch political landscape like no other.

Many countries did the same thing around this time, bringing the world a giant step closer to overall equality on all sides!

41. The Netherlands hosted the Olympics in 1928

The Netherlands also has a rich history when it comes to sports. We actually wrote a separate article on the topic. Still, it is worth noting that the Netherlands has hosted the 1928 Olympic Games!

The games were held in Amsterdam, and it was the first, and so far only, time that the Netherlands has hosted the games.

The athletics stadium is still in use today, and it is well known as the Olympic stadium in the Netherlands!

42. Germany conquered the Netherlands in WWII

After a short quiet period following the first World War, World War II soon came along!

At first, the Netherlands tried being neutral again. However, Germany totally ignored this, and the Netherlands was conquered in no time.

German oppression became the norm between 1940 and 1945 before the Netherlands was later freed. 

Just like in the rest of Europe, Germany systematically murdered Jewish people and other minorities in the Netherlands.

43. The Netherlands was liberated on the 5th of May 1945

This incredible misery of German occupation lasted a long five years until it was finally ended when the Allies liberated the Netherlands on the 5th of May 1945.

The Allied troops were greeted like heroes as they put the Dutch out of their misery after a long and hard war.

The 5th of May is still a national holiday in the Netherlands. People come together to celebrate the anniversary of freedom in our country.

44. The Netherlands co-founded the NATO Alliance

The Netherlands has played a prominent role in many huge international events, especially for a country of its size.

This can also be seen when NATO was founded, as the Netherlands was one of the founding countries of the alliance.

The NATO alliance is a treaty between most western countries to defend and support one another in war and armed conflicts.

This alliance is a clear force to be reckoned with when it comes to armed forces worldwide!

45. The first tv broadcast in the Netherlands was in 1951

TV is something we can hardly imagine a life without these days, it has taken the world by storm, and it’s crazy to imagine that it‘s only 70 years old!

The first TV broadcast in the Netherlands happened in 1951, and it marked the start of a new era.

The broadcast was in a poor quality black and white, yet everyone who owned a TV at the time was mesmerized by it and its tremendous potential!

46. The Euro currency was introduced in the Netherlands in 2002

The beginning of the 21st century marked an important time for the European Union.

In the Netherlands, the original currency, the Gulden that had been around for over 600 years, was replaced with the Euro we still use today.

Most European countries have since adopted the Euro as their currency. It has created a united Europe without the need for currency exchange at every border!

MORE FACTS ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS!
Do you like facts? Then please check out our other articles with interesting facts about the Netherlands!

- 19 Interesting Dutch Windmill Facts (Fully Explained)
- 15 Interesting Facts About Dutch Food (Fully Explained)
- 12 Best Amsterdam Canals Facts You Didn’t Know

- 54 Interesting Facts About The Netherlands (Fully Explained)
- 45 Interesting Facts About Amsterdam (Fully Explained)
- 38 Interesting Facts About Utrecht (Facts Fully Explained)
- 30 Facts About Sports In The Netherlands (Find Out Now)
- 52 Amazing Facts About Rotterdam (Facts Fully Explained)

Conclusion

There you have it! 46 facts on Dutch history. As we’ve seen throughout this article, Dutch history has a lot of fun facts to offer that you most likely didn’t know yet.

The Netherlands has played an influential role in global history, and its history is fascinating!

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did making it!

 

 

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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