The Dutch territory has attracted man since very remote times, as evidenced by the numerous remains of human activity dating back to the Upper Paleolithic (in Drenthe, Overijssel, etc.). Starting from the second millennium a. C., due to its position of convergence within Europe, the cultural contributions that the country received were different: they came both from Celtic peoples from S, and from Germanic populations (Frisoni, Batavi) from N and by E. These tribes were only marginally influenced by Roman culture and civilization; during the decline of Rome there were invasions by Franchi Salii and a first cultural homogenization, especially in the southern part of the country, while in the North the Frisians, who had no contact with the newcomers, preserved their identity and still stand out today for their Nordic type, tall and blond, and the use of one’s own language. From the synthesis of the Franco-Germanic element, the Netherlands acquired their definitive characteristics which were expressed, as well as on the political and cultural level (including the fundamental language: Dutch, in fact, which is a variety of Dutch, is essentially based on Lower Franconian dialects with influences of Germanic dialects), in the great medieval agricultural conquest. In the following centuries there were only modest external contributions; the population has grown in practice independently of these immigrations, Flanders and from France. Meanwhile, the percentage of the urban population increased. Although there is no lack of cities of Roman foundation, such as Utrecht, they mostly date back to the Middle Ages, often rising (as is the case in Amsterdam) where a dam was erected to block waterways.
The subsequent developments of the country had as promoters the most favored centers from the commercial point of view, in particular the large ports, to whose rich bourgeoisie those great movements that led to independence from Spain, the birth of a powerful seafaring nation are linked (it is estimated that in the seventeenth century from 16,000 to 20,000 ships flew the Dutch flag), to the construction of the vast colonial empire. The prosperity achieved by the country between the century. XVII (the golden age of the Netherlands, also expressed by an extraordinary artistic and cultural flowering in general) and the century. XIX caused considerable demographic increases: at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were already 2 million residents, which became 2.6 million in 1830, when the first census was held; a hundred years later, in 1930, this population had risen to 7.9 million, that is, it had more than tripled, thanks to the high birth rate and low mortality. The invasion of the German armies, at the beginning of the Second World War, and the subsequent harsh occupation of the country caused very serious damage to the nation and heavy demographic losses (the population of Jewish origin was almost totally exterminated). In the postwar years, parallel to the economic recovery, the demographic one began: the birth rate, although much lower than in the nineteenth century, however, it remains quite high for a Western European country (9.9 ‰ in 2017), while the mortality rate is among the lowest in the continent (8.8 ‰ in 2017).
According to iamhigher, the demographic growth rate is 0.3%, while the population has now exceeded 17 million residents. The presence of foreigners is considerable: in 2017 there were 2,079,320, mostly of Moroccan, Turkish and German origin. With an average density of 414.57 residents / km², the Netherlands is the most densely populated state in Western Europe: the distribution is however rather uneven, especially in relation to the different developments in urbanization and industrialization, more than to the environmental conditions, in front of which the tenacious Dutch people have never given up. The most densely populated provinces are those of North and South Holland which together house almost 2/5 of the total population; a place to itself occupies the Randstad, the city “ring” formed by the merger of the main Dutch urban areas, vital center of the country that concentrates all executive activities of the various sectors of economic, political and financial of the country, and that includes, in less of a fifth of the total area, almost 40% of the population. The provinces of Utrecht and Limburg also have higher than average densities, thanks to the growing development of industrialization. All other provinces (except North Brabant) have a density lower than the national average: in relation to the rest of the country, the peat bogs and moors that still remain in Friesland, Drenthe and Zeeland appear sparsely populated.
The distribution of rural settlements is closely related to the characteristics of the natural environment, the historical events and the evolution that agriculture has undergone over the last century. In the sandy terraces of the eastern regions (Drenthe), where the natural environment was unfavorable and the arable land was cleared inch by inch, the villages are made up of houses grouped in no particular order and are separated by woodland and pasture areas, once jointly exploited by the residents. In Limburg and North Brabant, on the other hand, there is a type of village consisting of a compact central nucleus and a series of offshoots formed by more sparse houses that branch off along the streets in all directions.