During the period of the Roman Empire, areas south of the Rhine were included in the province of Gallia Belgica, and later of Germania Inferior. The country was inhabited at the time by various Germanic tribes, and the south was inhabited by Gauls, who merged with newcomers from other Germanic tribes during the migration period. The Salian Franks migrated to Gaul from this region, establishing by the 5th century the powerful Merovingian dynasty.

In the medieval period, the Low Countries along the North Sea, from Calais up to and including parts of Germany (Ost-Fryslan), consisted of various counties and dioceses belonging to the Dukes of Brabant and Burgundy and to the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V's predecessors never were able to conquer or subdue the Frisians and Geldersen. This was left to said Western Successor to the Holy Roman Empire and so unification into one state took place under Habsburg rule, in 1540. Following a revolt against Charles' son, Philip II of Spain, the North seceded from the South and the Habsburg King in Spain on 26 July 1581, independence was declared and finally recognised internationally after the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The war years marked the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age, a period of great commercial and cultural prosperity roughly spanning the 17th century and driven by great migrations from the South to the North.

Beginning in 1795, the North was again under foreign rule, this time French, ending after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The old Netherlands were restored by the Vienna Congress, this time as a monarchy governed by the House of Orange. However, after a conservative period, strong liberal sentiments could no longer be ignored, and the country became a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch from 1840 - 1848. Once again, the country was split between the seafaring, colonial North and the industrial South. Belgium was created by international intervention and became an independent monarchy....