Drenthe, unlike many other parts of the Netherlands, has been a sparsely populated rural area since medieval times. Except for some industry in Assen and Emmen, the lands in Drenthe are mainly used for farming.
Drenthe has been populated by people since prehistory . Artifacts from the Wolstonian Stage (150.000 years ago) are among the oldest found in the Netherlands. In fact it was one of the most densely populated areas of the Netherlands until the Bronze Age. Most tangible evidence of this are the dolmens (hunebedden) built around 3500 BC, 53 of the 54 dolmens in the Netherlands can be found in Drenthe, concentrated in the northeast of the province.
Drenthe was first mentioned in a document from the year 820, it was called Pago Treanth (district Drenthe). In archives from "Het Drents Archief" from 1024 to 1025 the "county Drenthe" is mentioned.
After long being subject to the bishops of Utrecht, Drenthe came under the control of Charles V in the 16th century. When the Republic of the Seven United Provinces was declared, Drenthe became part of it, although it did not gain provincial status until January 1, 1796.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Dutch government built a camp near the town of Westerbork to accommodate German (Jewish) refugees. Ironically, during the Second World War, the German occupiers used the camp (which they named KZ Westerbork) as a "Durchgangslager". Many Dutch Jews, Sinti, Roma, resistance combatants and political adversaries were imprisoned before being transferred to other camps in Germany and Poland. Anne Frank was deported on the last train from Westerbork.
The name of this region is said to stem from *thrija-hantja "three lands".
Taken from: History of Drenthe