The landscape evolution of the southern North Sea basin is complex and has left a geographically varying record of marine, lacustrine, fluvial and glacial sedimentation and erosion. Quaternary climatic history, which importantly included glaciation, combined with tectonics gave rise to cyclic and non-cyclic changes of sedimentation and erosion patterns. Large-scale landscape reorganisations left strong imprints in the preserved record, and are important for the detail that palaeogeographical reconstructions for the North Sea area can achieve. In the spirit of the North Sea Prehistory Research and Management Framework (NSPRMF; Peeters et al., 2009), this paper provides background geological information regarding the North Sea. It summarises current stratigraphical and chronological frameworks and provides an overview of sedimentary environments. As we go back in time, the understanding of Quaternary palaeo-environmental evolution in the North Sea basin during the last 1 million years becomes decreasingly accurate, with degree of preservation and accuracy of age control equally important controls. Comparing palaeogeographical reconstructions for the Middle Pleistocene, the last interglacial-glacial cycle and the period following the Last Glacial Maximum illustrates this. More importantly, a series of palaeogeographical maps provide an account of basin-scale landscape change, which provides an overall framework for comparing landscape situations through time.