A chronology of key events:
1914-1918 - The Netherlands maintains its neutrality during World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany goes into exile in the Netherlands at the end of the war.
Canals, dykes stop water from encroaching on Amsterdam
Originated as fishing village of Amsteldam
1922 - Dutch women get the vote.
1932 - A 31-km dam is completed across the Zuider Zee forming a freshwater lake known as the IJsselmeer. Part of the lake has since been drained and the reclaimed land used to grow crops.
1939 - At the outbreak of World War II, the Netherlands declares its neutrality.
1940 - Nazi Germany invades on 10 May. The Dutch Royal Family flees to England, accompanied by the Dutch cabinet. The Germans bombard Rotterdam from the air, destroying tens of thousands of buildings in a few hours. The Dutch army is overwhelmed and the Netherlands surrenders.
1940 onwards - The Netherlands suffers greatly under German occupation. There is political repression, Dutch workers are forced to labour in German factories, Dutch Jews are deported to the death camps. Some go into hiding, including Anne Frank, whose posthumous diaries make her world-famous. The Dutch resistance movement draws its members from all social groupings. The Germans execute Dutch hostages in retaliation for acts of resistance.
1944-5 - As the Allied forces advance towards Germany, the Netherlands becomes the site of bitter fighting. There is further destruction through bombardment of German positions. The food supply is severely disrupted with many Dutch civilians suffering near-starvation.
1945 - The occupation ends with the surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May.
Reconstruction and integration
1945 - The Netherlands becomes a charter member of the United Nations. The leader of the Dutch Nazis is sentenced to death in December.
1949 - The Dutch East Indies, which had been occupied by Japan during World War II, receives its independence as Indonesia.
1949 - The Netherlands abandons its policy of neutrality and joins Nato.
1952 - The Netherlands is a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community, which is to become the European Economic Community five years later.
1953 - Nearly 2,000 people die when dykes are breached by storms.
1963 - Colony of Netherlands New Guinea is ceded to Indonesia.
Dealing with the past
1965 - Princess Beatrix, the heiress to the throne, arouses controversy when she announces her engagement to a German diplomat. Former Dutch resistance fighters protest. The Dutch parliament eventually approves the marriage, which takes place in 1966.
1975 - Dutch colony of Surinam achieves independence. Hundreds of thousands of Surinamese emigrate to the Netherlands.
1980 - Queen Juliana abdicates; Beatrix becomes queen.
1985 - Government decides, despite widespread opposition, to site nearly 50 US cruise missiles in the country within three years. The controversy is subsequently dissolved by the ending of the Cold War.
1993 - Netherlands regulates euthanasia by doctors. Official estimates suggest that 2% of all deaths in the Netherlands each year are assisted.
1994 - Labour party leader Wim Kok becomes prime minister at the head of a three-party coalition.
1995 - Serious flooding leads to a state of emergency, with a quarter-of-a-million people evacuated from their homes.
1998 - Wim Kok re-elected as prime minister.
2000 - Parliament legalises euthanasia, setting strict conditions for doctors.
2001 April - In the first official ceremony of its kind, four homosexual couples are married in Amsterdam under new legislation. The new laws also allow homosexual couples to adopt children.
2002 January - Euro replaces the Dutch guilder.
2002 April - Wim Kok's government resigns following official report criticising its role in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 when just over 100 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop Bosnian Serb forces from murdering thousands of Muslims.
2002 May - Widespread shock as anti-immigration party leader Pim Fortuyn is killed by gunman. His party, formed three months earlier, comes second in elections. Moderately conservative Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) led by Jan Peter Balkenende tops poll.
2002 July - Balkenende becomes prime minister in centre-right coalition with List Pim Fortuyn Party and liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
2002 October - Balkenende's government collapses, brought down by infighting in List Pim Fortuyn Party.
2003 January - Narrow win in general election for Christian Democratic Appeal. Coalition talks begin.
2003 April - Animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf sentenced to 18 years for Fortuyn killing. He said he saw Fortuyn as a threat to democracy. His subsequent appeal is rejected.
2003 May - Centre-right coalition sworn in with Balkenende as premier for second term. New coalition involves Balkenende's Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Democrats-66.
2004 March - Queen mother Juliana dies, aged 94. Juliana reigned for 32 years from 1948.
2004 November - Film-maker Theo Van Gogh is murdered. He was reported to have received death threats after his controversial film about the position of women in Islamic society. A radical Islamist is jailed for life for the murder in July 2005.
2005 June - Dutch voters reject a proposed EU constitution, days after a French referendum goes against the treaty.
2006 February - Parliament agrees to send an additional 1,400 Dutch troops to join Nato-led forces in southern Afghanistan. The decision comes after weeks of wrangling and international pressure.
2006 June-July - Prime Minister Balkenende forms a temporary, minority government after his coalition collapses in a row over immigration, precipitating early elections in November.
Cabinet backs plans to ban the burqa - the full body and face covering - in public places.
2007 February - Jan Peter Balkenende is sworn in as head of a three-party centrist coalition, three months after general elections.
2009 January - Court orders right-wing politician Geert Wilders should stand trial for inciting hatred against Muslims for a film linking radical Islamists' actions to the Koran.
2009 May - Seven people are killed at a parade in a failed attack on the royal family.
2009 June - The far-right Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, comes second in European elections in the Netherlands, winning 15% of the vote.
2010 February - Coalition government collapses following dispute over troops in Afghanistan.
2010 June - Centre-right Liberal Party emerges as largest party in parliamentary election.
2010 August - The Netherlands withdraws its 1,900 soldiers from Afghanistan, ending a four-year mission that had grown increasingly unpopular at home.
2010 October - After months of coalition talks, Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Appeal agree to form minority government with parliamentary support from Geert Wilders' far-right Freedom Party.
Netherlands Antilles dissolved. Curacao, St Maarten become nations in Netherlands Kingdom. Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, became autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands.
2011 June - Populist politician Geert Wilders is acquitted of all charges in a hate speech trial in Amsterdam. Judges find his comments comparing Islam to Nazism might be offensive but fall within the scope of protected speech.
2011 July - A court rules the Dutch state responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Dutch trrops were in charge of the UN "safe area" when Bosnian Serb forces overran it in 1995 and killed 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. The court in The Hague ruled that Dutch troops should not have handed the three men over to Bosnian Serb forces.