The Meierij van 's-Hertogenbosch (Bailiwick of Bois le Duc) was one of the four parts of the former duchy of Brabant, the others being the areas of Leuven, Brussels and Antwerp. It got its name from the Bailiff of 's-Hertogenbosch, who ruled the area in the name of the Dukes of Brabant. Nowadays the Meierij is formed out of the eastern part of the Dutch province of North Brabant.
The capital city of North Brabant and the most important city of the Bailiwick is 's-Hertogenbosch. Other parts of the Bailiwick are the so-called "Vier Kwartieren"
In the northeast of the bailiwick there were some free lands which were also connected to the Meierij:
In the south the nowadays Belgian town of Lommel belonged to the bailiwick, while the village Luijksgestel belonged to the prince-bishopric of Liège. In 1807 these areas were exchanged.
The Bailiwick of 's-Hertogenbosch consists mainly of the poor sandy grounds of the Peel and Kempen. Those areas, which in old times were not densely populated, consisted of enormous heaths and marshlands, interrupted by woods and fenlands. In the north and east the area is surrounded by the river Maas. Numerous little rivers rise in the high sandareas and find their way to the rivers Aa and Dommel. Both rivers come together in the marshlands around 's-Hertogenbosch where they form the river Dieze that ends up in the Maas.
Since the Middle Ages the waste lands of Peel and Kempen have been cultivated. Only small parts of the once enormous heaths and marshlands have survived until modern times. In the first part of the 19th century the rivers Aa and Dommel were cultivated but nowadays they have gone back to their old run for the purpose of nature development. Legal re-division of land forms a major threat for the cultural and historical aspects of landscape at the moment.
Historically the Meierij is the descendant of Taxandria, when that area comes under the rule of the dukes of Brabant in the 12th century. To protect the area from the counts of Gelre, the dukes founded a new ring of cities. Hendrik I of Brabant founded 's-Hertogenbosch (ca. 1185), Oisterwijk (1213), Sint Oedenrode and Eindhoven (1232). However, despite these foundings, the Meierij often suffered from conflicts and wars between Brabant and Gelre.
The bailiwick was prosperous in the 15th and first part of the 16th century. In these times many new monumental buildings were built (like the famous gothic style St. Jan's Cathedral of 's-Hertogenbosch), the activities of well-known painter Hieronymus Bosch (also called Jeroen Bosch) and the Latin school of 's-Hertogenbosch. In the Eighty Years' War, times turned bad for the Meierij. The area was literally a battlefield and was heavily plagued by continuous raids. Around 1590 the area was solidly in Spanish hands. Like other southern Dutch states as Flanders and Hainaut, the Duchy Brabant-Limburg had chosen the side of the catholic kings of Spain. The strong catholic Counter-Reformation had had much influence on the populations mentality and culture; the Bailiwick remained Catholic.
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