Low Countries

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The Low Countries (Dutch: De Lage Landen) are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany. The term is more appropriate to the era of the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe when strong centrally governed nations were slowly forming and territorial governance was in the hands of a noble or of a noble house.

Historically the region has its origins in Middle Francia, more precisely its northern part which became the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia. After the disintegration of Lower Lotharingia the Low Countries were brought under the rule of various stronger neighbours. Their possessions can be renamed into the Burgundian Netherlands and their succeeding Habsburg Netherlands, also called the United Seventeen Provinces (up to 1581), and later for the Southern parts as the Spanish Netherlands and Austrian Netherlands, whereas the northern parts formed the autonomous Dutch Republic. At times they reached a form of unity as the United Seventeen Provinces in the 16th Century, and later the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 19th Century.

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Geo-political situation

The term is not particularly current in modern contexts because the region does not exactly correspond to the sovereign states of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, for which an alternative term, Benelux, was employed after the Second World War, but only to describe them as a trading union.

Before early modern nation building, the Low Countries referred to a wide area of northern Europe as a low-lying triangular river delta for the rivers Rhine, the Meuse (river), the Scheldt, and the Ems (river). This area roughly stretches from French Gravelines and Dunkirk at its southwestern point, to the area of Dutch Delfzijl and German Eastern Frisia at its northeastern point, and to Luxembourg and French Thionville in the southeast.

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