Low Countries or, in the geographic sense of the term, the
Netherlands (Dutch: de Lage Landen or de Nederlanden, French: les Pays
Bas) is a coastal region in northwestern Europe, consisting especially
Netherlands and Belgium, and the low-lying delta of the Rhine,
Meuse, Scheldt, and Ems rivers where much of the land is at or below
sea level. This wide area of Western
Europe roughly stretches
from the French département du Nord at its southwestern point, to
East Frisia at its northeastern point.
Netherlands is often considered to include inland areas with
strong links, such as
Luxembourg today, and historically, parts of the
German Rhineland. Most of the
Low Countries are coastal regions
bounded by the
North Sea or the English Channel. Historically, the
regions without access to the sea have linked themselves politically
and economically to those with access to form various unions of ports
and hinterland. Within the
European Union the region's political
grouping is still referred to as the Benelux.
Roman empire the region contained a militarized frontier
and contact point between Rome and Germany. With the collapse of the
Low Countries were the scene of the early independent
trading centres, that marked the reawakening of
Europe in the 12th
century. In that period, they rivaled northern
Italy as one of the
most densely populated regions of Western Europe. Most of the cities
were governed by guilds and councils along with a figurehead ruler;
interaction with their ruler was regulated by a strict set of rules
describing what the latter could and could not expect from them. All
of the regions mainly depended on trade, manufacturing and the
encouragement of the free flow of goods and craftsmen.
Dutch and French dialects were the main languages used in secular city
2.1 Early history
2.2 Frankish empire
2.3 Duchy of Burgundy
2.4 Seventeen Provinces
2.5 After the Second World War
4 See also
6 External links
Main article: Terminology of the Low Countries
Low Countries from 1556 to 1648.
Southern part of the
Low Countries with bishopry towns and abbeys ca.
7th century. Abbeys were the onset to larger villages and even some
Historically, the term
Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes
of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà (roughly, "the
lands over here") for the
Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par
delà (roughly, "the lands over there") for the
Duchy of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy and
the Free County of Burgundy, which were part of their realm but
geographically disconnected from the Low Countries. Governor
Mary of Hungary used both the expressions les pays de par deça and
Pays d'Embas (roughly, the "lands down here"), which evolved to
Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is typically fitted to
modern political boundaries and used in the same way
as the term Benelux, which also includes Luxembourg.
The name of the modern country the
Netherlands has the same meaning
and origin as the term "low countries" due to "nether" meaning
"lower". The same name of these countries can be found in other
European languages, for example German Niederlande, French, les
Pays-Bas, and so on, which all literally mean "the Low Countries". In
Dutch language itself (known in Dutch as Nederlands, meaning
"Netherlandish") no plural is used for the name of the modern country.
So Nederland (singular) is used for the modern nation and de
Nederlanden (plural) for the 16th century domains of Charles V.
(However, in official use the name of the Dutch kingdom is still
Kingdom of the
Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), a name
deriving from the 19th century origins of the kingdom which originally
included present-day Belgium.)
In Dutch, and to a lesser extent in English, the Low Countries
colloquially means the
Netherlands and Belgium, sometimes the
Netherlands and Flanders—the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium. (This
version does not include Luxembourg.) For example, a "Derby der Lage
Landen" (Derby of the Low Countries), is a sports event between
Belgium and the Netherlands.
"Belgium" was renamed only in 1830, after splitting from the Kingdom
of the Netherlands, in order to distinguish it from its northern
neighbour. It had previously also commonly been referred to as one
part of the geographic "Netherlands", being the part which remained in
the hands of the Habsburg heirs of the Burgundian Dukes until the
French Revolution. Politically, before the Napoleonic wars, it was
referred to as the "Southern", "Spanish" or later "Austrian"
Netherlands. It is still referred to as part of the "low countries".
History of the Low Countries
Gallia Belgica (55 BC – 5th c. AD)
Germania Inferior (83 – 5th c.)
Frankish Kingdom (481–843)—
Carolingian Empire (800–843)
Middle Francia (843–855)
Lotharingia (855– 959)
Lower Lorraine (959–)
Seventeen Provinces after 1543)
(Seven United Netherlands)
United States of Belgium
Batavian Republic (1795–1801)
Batavian Commonwealth (1801–1806)
Kingdom of Holland
Kingdom of Holland (1806–1810)
French First Republic
French First Republic (1795–1804)
First French Empire
First French Empire (1804–1815)
Princip. of the
United Kingdom of the
Kingdom of the
Gr D. L.
Gr D. of
See also: History of urban centers in the Low Countries
The region politically had its origins in Carolingian empire; more
precisely, most of the people in it was within the Duchy of Lower
Lotharingia. After the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia, the
Low Countries were brought under the rule of various lordships until
they came to be in the hands of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. Hence, a
large part of the low countries came to be referred to as the
Netherlands also called the
Seventeen Provinces up to 1581.
Even after the political secession of the autonomous Dutch Republic
(or "United Provinces") in the north, the term "low countries"
continued to be used to refer collectively to the region. The region
was temporarily united politically between 1815 and 1839, as the
United Kingdom of the Netherlands, before this split into the three
modern countries of the Netherlands,
Belgium and Luxembourg.
Low Countries were part of the Roman provinces of Gallia Belgica,
Germania Inferior and Germania Superior. They were inhabited by Belgic
and Germanic tribes. In the 4th and 5th century, Frankish tribes had
entered this Roman region and came to run it increasingly
independently. They came to be ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, under
which dynasty the southern part (below the Rhine) was
By the end of the 8th century, the
Low Countries formed a core part of
a much expanded
Francia and the Merovingians were replaced by the
Carolingian dynasty. In 800 the Pope crowned and appointed Charlemagne
Emperor of the re-established Roman Empire.
After the death of Charlemagne,
Francia was divided in three parts
among his three grandsons. The middle slice, Middle Francia, was ruled
by Lothair I, and thereby also came to be referred to as "Lotharingia"
or "Lorraine". Apart from the original coastal County of Flanders,
which was within West Francia, the rest of the
Low Countries were
within the lowland part of this, "Lower Lorraine".
After the death of Lothair, the
Low Countries were coveted by the
rulers of both
West Francia and East Francia. Each tried to swallow
the region and to merge it with their spheres of influence. Thus, the
Low Countries consisted of fiefs whose sovereignty resided with either
Kingdom of France (987–1498)
Kingdom of France (987–1498) or the Holy Roman Empire. While the
further history the
Low Countries can be seen as the object of a
continual struggle between these two powers, the title of Duke of
Lothier was coveted in the low countries for centuries.
Duchy of Burgundy
See also: Renaissance in the Low Countries
Gradually, separate fiefs came to be ruled by a single family through
royal intermarriage. This process culminated in the rule of the House
of Valois, who were the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy. In 1477 the
Burgundian holdings in the area, the Burgundian
through an heiress—Mary of Burgundy—to the Habsburgs.
In the following century the "Low Countries" corresponded roughly to
Seventeen Provinces covered by the
Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 of
Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, which freed the provinces from their
archaic feudal obligations.
After the northern
Seven United Provinces
Seven United Provinces of the seventeen declared
their independence from
Habsburg Spain in 1581, the ten provinces of
Netherlands remained occupied by the Army of Flanders
under Spanish service and are therefore sometimes called the Spanish
Netherlands. In 1713, under the
Treaty of Utrecht
Treaty of Utrecht following the War of
the Spanish Succession, what was left of the Spanish
Austria and thus became known as the Austrian Netherlands.
The United Kingdom of the
Netherlands (1815–1830) temporarily united
Low Countries again.
After the Second World War
After the Second World War,
Benelux was the name used for the trading
region of the sovereign states of Belgium, the
One of the Low Countries' earliest literary figures is the blind poet
Bernlef, from c. 800, who sang both Christian psalms and pagan
verses. Bernlef is representative of the coexistence of Christianity
and Germanic polytheism in this time period.:1–2
The earliest examples of written literature include the Wachtendonck
Psalms, a collection of twenty five psalms that originated in the
Moselle-Frankish region around the middle of the 9th century.:3
Early Netherlandish painting
^ "Low Countries". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica,
Inc. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
Low Countries - definition of
Low Countries by the Free Online
Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 26
^ "1. De landen van herwaarts over" (in Dutch). Vre.leidenuniv.nl.
^ Alastair Duke. "The Elusive Netherlands. The question of national
identity in the Early Modern
Low Countries on the Eve of the Revolt".
^ "Franks". Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 2013.
Retrieved 1 February 2014.
Lotharingia / Lorraine ( Lothringen )". 5 September 2013. Retrieved
1 February 2014.
^ a b Hermans, edited by Theo (2009). A literary history of the Low
Countries. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House.
ISBN 1-57113-293-7. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Paul Arblaster. A History of the Low Countries. Palgrave Essential
Histories Series New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 298
pp. ISBN 1-4039-4828-3.
J. C. H. Blom and E. Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries
B. A. Cook. Belgium: A History (2002)
Jonathan Israel. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall
Oscar Gelderblom. Cities of Commerce: The Institutional Foundations of
International Trade in the Low Countries, 1250–1650 (Princeton
University Press, 2013) 293 pp
J. A. Kossmann-Putto and E. H. Kossmann. The Low Countries: History of
the Northern and Southern
The Cinema of the Low Countries
Early Modern Women in the Low Countries
The Reformation and Revolt in the Low Countries
Media related to
Low Countries at