Limburg (Netherlands)

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Province of Limburg
Provincie Limburg
Image:Limburg (Netherlands) Flag.png Image:WapenLimburg.jpg
Flag Coat of Arms
Image:Limburg position.svg
Capital Maastricht
Queen's Commissioner L.J.P.M. (Leon) Frissen
Religion (1999) Roman Catholic 80%
Protestant 3%
 • Land
 • Water
2,153 km² (9th)
56 km²
Population (2005)
 • Total
 • Density

1,135,962 (6th)
528/km² (4th)
Inclusion 1839
Anthem In 't Bronsgroen Eikenhout
Official website
This article deals with a province in the Netherlands. For other uses of Limburg, see: Limburg.

Limburg pronunciation (help·info) is the southern-most of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands, located in the south-east of the country. Its capital is Maastricht. It is bordered by Belgium in the west, Germany in the east, and the provinces of North Brabant and Gelderland in the north.

Limburg has a highly distinct character. The social and economic trends which affected the province in recent decades generated a process of change and renewal which has enabled Limburg to transform the drawbacks of its national peripheral location into advantages inherent in its European settings, linking the Netherlands to Europe.


[edit] History

Limburg's name derives the fortified castle town known as Limbourg, situated on the river Vesdre in the Ardennes, nowadays in the Belgian province of Liège. It was the seat of the medieval Duchy of Limburg which extended into the Meuse region north of the city of Liège. However, most the area of the current Dutch Limburg was not part of this polity but was divided among several states including the Duchy of Brabant, the Duchy of Jülich, and the Bishopric of Liège, as well as the Duchy of Limburg. A result of this division is still evident in the plethora of distinct varieties of the Limburgish language spoken in Limburg municipalities.

Image:Netherlands map large.png
Map of the Netherlands, with red dots marking the capitals of the provinces and black dots marking other notable cities

For centuries, the area of the current Dutch Limburg's strategic location made it a much-coveted region among Europe's major powers. Romans, Spaniards, Prussians, Habsburg Austrians and French have all ruled Limburg.

In 1673, Louis XIV personally commanded the siege of Maastricht by French troops. During the siege, one of his brigadiers, Count Charles d'Artagnan, perished; he subsequently became known as a major character in The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870). Limburg was also the scene of many a bloody battle during the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), in which the Dutch Republic threw off Spanish rule. At the battle of Mookerhei (14 April 1574), two brothers of Prince William of Orange-Nassau and thousands of "Dutch" mercenaries lost their lives. Most Limburgians fought on the Spanish side, being Catholics and hating the Dutch.

Following the Napoleonic Era, the great powers (United Kingdom, Prussia, theAustrian Empire, the Russian Empire and France) united the region with the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815. A new province was formed and was to receive the name "Maastricht," after its capital. The first king, William I, who did not want the name Limburg to be lost, insisted that the name be changed to "Limburg." As such, the name of the new province derived from the old Duchy of Limburg that had existed until 1648 within the triangle of Maastricht, Liège, and Aachen.

When the Catholic and French-speaking Belgians split away from the mainly Calvinist, Dutch Netherlands in the Belgian Revolution of 1830, the Province of Limburg was at first almost entirely under Belgian rule. However, by the 1839 Treaty of London, the province was divided in two, with the eastern part going to the Netherlands and the western part to Belgium, a division that remains today.

With the Treaty of London, what is now the Belgian Province of Luxembourg was handed over to Belgium and removed from the German Confederation. To appease Prussia, which had also lost access to the Meuse after the Congress of Vienna, the Dutch province of Limburg (but not the cities of Maastricht and Venlo), was a joined to the German Confederation between 1839 and 1866 as the Duchy of Limburg, while remaining an integral part of the Dutch territory.

The province used the title of "duchy" until 1906. Another idiosyncrasy survives today: the head of the province, referred to as the "Queen's Commissioner" in other provinces, is addressed as "Governor" in Limburg.

The Second World War cost the lives of many civilians in Limburg, and a large number of towns and villages were destroyed by bombings and artillery battles. Various cemeteries, too, bear witness to this dark chapter in Limburg's history. Almost eight and a half thousand United States' soldiers who perished during the liberation of the Netherlands lie buried at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten. Other big war cemeteries are to be found at Overloon (British soldiers) and a cemetery was also constructed in Ysselsteyn in the Municipality of Venray for the 31,000 German soldiers who lost their lives.

In December 1991 the European Community (nowadays European Union) held a summit in Maastricht. At that summit, the so-called Maastricht treaty was signed by the European Community member states. The original name for that treaty was "Treaty of the European Union". With that treaty, the European Union came into existence.

In 't Bronsgroen Eikenhout is the official anthem of both Belgian and Dutch Limburg.

[edit] Languages

Main article: Limburgish language

Limburg has its own language, called Limburgish (Dutch: Limburgs). This is, since 1997, an official regional language, and as such receives moderate protection under Chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is not recognised by the Dutch, German and Belgian governments as an official language. Limburgish is spoken by an estimated 1,6 million people in both Belgian and Dutch Limburg and Germany. There are many different dialects in the Limburgish language. Almost every town and village has its own slightly different dialect. Dialects more toward the German border and in Germany (near Aachen for instance) have a more German influence, while dialects spoken in the Meuse (Dutch: Maas) valley have a more French tone to them. Even within the cities of Venlo and Maastricht, very different dialects separated by major isoglosses continue to exist. These distinctions have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. It also shows signs of Celtic substrates.

The local dialects are preserved thanks to the almost rabid efforts of the native speakers. For example, people from opposite sides of the Meuse within the same city of Maastricht will sometimes feign ignorance of one another's dialect; even going so far as pretending not to know Dutch, which is the official language of the province and the language used to teach in schools. Until the 20th century this was the case in a large part of Limburg. Many Limburgians feel that their language should be the official language and should be taught in schools. However, as long as the countries it is spoken in don't recognise it as an official language, this is not likely to happen apart from isolated lessons in and about the local dialect.

Besides the Limburgish language, all people speak Dutch and most also speak and understand French and German. As with all of the Netherlands, the majority of Limburgers also speak English with varying degrees of fluency.

[edit] Politics

The provincial council (Provinciale Staten) has 63 seats, and is headed by a Governor, rather than a Queen's Commissioner, currently Leon Frissen. While the provincial council is elected by the inhabitants, the Queen's Commissioner (Governor) is appointed by the Queen and the cabinet of the Netherlands. The Christian CDA is currently the largest party in the council.

The daily affairs of the province are taken care of by the Gedeputeerde Staten, which are also headed by the Queen's Commissioner (Governor); its members (gedeputeerden) can be compared with ministers.

[edit] Municipalities

[edit] Geography

The south of the province is remarkable when compared to the rest of the country, as it is one of the few regions that has hills. The highest point in the Netherlands, the Vaalserberg, is situated in Limburg.

The most important river is the Meuse, that passes through the entire length of the province from South to North. Limburg's surface is largely formed by deposits from this Meuse river, consisting of river clay, fertile loessial soil and large deposits of pebblestone, currently being quarried for the construction industry. In northern parts of the province, further away from the river bed, the soil primarily consists of sand and peat.

Major cities are the provincial capital Maastricht in the south, the urban agglomerations of Sittard-Geleen and Heerlen

Limburg makes up one region of the International Organization for Standardization world region code system, having the code ISO 3166-2:NL-LI.

[edit] Economy

In the past peat, gravel and coal were mined in Limburg. The state-owned corporation that used to mine in Limburg, DSM, is currently a major chemical company, still operating in Limburg. Automotive industry (Born) and production of copiers and printers (Océ in Venlo) are also present.

[edit] See also

Another major activity is production of "Weerter Vlaai", a pastry.

[edit] External links

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