Low Countries

The term Low Countries known as the Low Lands and called the Netherlands, Flanders, or Belgica, refers to a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe forming the lower basin of the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta and consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg. Geographically and the area includes parts of France and Germany such as the French Flanders and the German regions of East Frisia and Cleves. During the Middle Ages, the Low Countries were divided in numerous semi-independent principalities; 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, stretching inland as far as parts of the German Rhineland. That is why nowadays some parts of the Low Countries are hilly, like Luxembourg and the south of Belgium. Within the European Union, the region's political grouping is still referred to as the Benelux. During the Roman empire the region contained a militarised frontier and contact point between Rome and Germanic tribes.

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 councils along with a figurehead ruler. All of the regions depended on trade and the encouragement of the free flow of goods and craftsmen. Dutch and French dialects were the main languages used in secular city life; the term Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà for the 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, which evolved to Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is fitted to modern political boundaries 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". In the Dutch language itself De Lage Landen is the modern term for Low Countries, De Nederlanden is in use for the 16th century domains of Charles V, the historic Low Countries, while Nederland 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; this name derives from the 19th-century origins of the kingdom which included present-day Belgium. In Dutch, 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, is a sports event between Belgium and the Netherlands. Belgium separated in 1830 from the 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.

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; this divide laid the early foundation for the modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands. The region politically had its origins in the Carolingian empire. 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 Burgundian Netherlands. After the reign of the Valois Dukes ended, much of the Low Countries were controlled by the House of Habsburg; this area was referred to as the Habsburg Netherlands, called the Seventeen Provinces up to 1581. After the political secession of the autonomous Dutch Republic 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 and Luxembourg.

The Low Countries were part of the Roman provinces of Germania Inferior. They were inhabited by Germanic tribes. In the 4th and 5th century, Frankish tribes had entered this Roman region and came to run it independently, they came to be ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, under which dynasty the southern part was re-Christianised. 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 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, thereby came to be referred to as "Lotharingia" or "Lorraine". Apart from the

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