Low Countries

The Low Countries as seen from space

The Low Countries, the Low Lands (Dutch: de Lage Landen, French: les Pays Bas), or historically also the Netherlands (Dutch: de Nederlanden), is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.[1][2]

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,[3] stretching inland as far as parts of the German Rhineland. It is why that nowadays some parts of the Low Countries are actually hilly, like Luxembourg and the south of Belgium. Within the European Union the region's political grouping is still referred to as the Benelux (short for Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg).

During the Roman empire the region contained a militarised frontier and contact point between Rome and Germanic tribes.[4] With the collapse of the empire, 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 rivalled 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.[5]

Dutch and French dialects were the main languages used in secular city life.

Terminology

The 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 towns.

Historically, the term Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà ("the lands over here") for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà ("the lands over there") for the Duchy of Burgundy and the Free County of Burgundy, which were part of their realm but geographically disconnected from the Low Countries.[6][7] Governor Mary of Hungary used both the expressions les pays de par deça and Pays d'Embas ("lands down here"), which evolved to Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is typically fitted to modern political boundaries[8][9] and used in the same way as the term Benelux.

The name of the country of the Netherlands has the same etymology and origin as the name for the region Low Countries, due to "nether" meaning "low".[10] In the Dutch language itself De Lage Landen is the modern term for Low Countries, and De Nederlanden (plural) is in use for the 16th century domains of Charles V, the historic Low Countries, while Nederland (singular) is in use for the country of the Netherlands. However, in official use, the name of the Dutch kingdom is still Kingdom of the Netherlands, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (plural). This name derives 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. For example, a Low Countries derby (Derby der Lage Landen), is a sports event between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Belgium separated in 1830 from the (northern) Netherlands. The new country took its name from Belgica, the Latinised name for the Low Countries, as it was known during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648). The Low Countries were in that war divided in two parts. On one hand, the northern Federated Netherlands or Belgica Foederata rebelled against the Spanish king; on the other, the southern Royal Netherlands or Belgica Regia remained loyal to the Spanish king.[11] This divide laid the early foundation for the later modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Lae Lande
Bân-lâm-gú: Kē-tē Chu-kok
eesti: Madalmaad
Esperanto: Malaltaj Landoj
한국어: 저지대 국가
hrvatski: Niske Zemlje
íslenska: Niðurlönd
Bahasa Melayu: Negeri-Negeri Pamah
Nederlands: Nederlanden
norsk nynorsk: Nederlanda
Simple English: Low Countries
slovenčina: Nizozemsko
српски / srpski: Низоземске
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Nizozemske
Türkçe: Felemenk
українська: Нижні країни
West-Vlams: Lêge Landn
中文: 低地国家