The text below describes the political geography of Limburg, a territory on the Meuse, now divided between the modern states of Belgium and the Netherlands. Extracted and adapted from the entry for Limburg in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain. One thing that this text does not make clear is that the original core of the old county of Limburg is now actually within the Belgium province of Liege.
1. County and Duchy of Limburg
Limburg was one of the many small feudal states into which the duchy of Lower Lorraine was split up in the second half of the 11th century. The first count, Walram of Arlon, married Judith the daughter of Frederick of Luxemburg, duke of Lower Lorraine (d. 1065), who bestowed upon him a portion of his possessions lying upon both sides of the river Meuse. It received its name from the strong castle built by Count Walram on the river Vesdre, where the town of Limburg now stands.
Thereafter ruled by its own line of counts who during the late 12th century became dukes of Limburg, until 1288 when the duchies of Limburg and Brabant passed under the rule of a common sovereign. The duchy comprised during this period the bailiwicks of Herv, Montzen, Baelen, Sprimont and Wallhorn, and the counties of Rolduc, Daelhem and Falkenberg, to which was added in 1530 the town of Maastricht. The provisions and privileges of the famous Charter of Brabant, the Joyeuse Entree, were from the 13th century extended to Limburg and remained in force until the French Revolution.
By the treaty of Westphalia (1648) the duchy was divided into two portions, the counties of Daelhem and Falkenberg with the town of Maastricht being ceded by Spain to the United Provinces, where they formed what was known as a 'Generality-Land'. At the peace of Rastatt (1714) the southern portion passed under the dominion of the Austrian Habsburgs and formed part of the Austrian Netherlands until the French conquest in 1794.
During the period of French rule (1794-1814) Limburg was included in the two French departments of Ourthe and Meuse Inferieure. In 1814 the old name of Limburg was restored to one of the provinces of the newly created kingdom of the Netherlands, but the new Limburg comprised besides the ancient duchy, a piece of Gelderland and the county of Loon.
At the revolution of 1830 Limburg, with the exception of Maastricht, threw in its lot with the Belgians, and during the nine years that King William refused to recognize the existence of the kingdom of Belgium the Limburgers sent representatives to the legislature at Brussels and were treated as Belgians. When in 1839 the Dutch king suddenly announced his intention of accepting the terms of the settlement proposed by the treaty of London, as drawn up by representatives of the great powers in 1831, Belgium found herself compelled to relinquish portions of Limburg and Luxemburg. The part of Limburg that lay on the right bank of the Meuse, together with the town of Maastricht and a number of communes Weert, Haelen, Kepel, Horst, etc. on the left bank of the river, became a sovereign duchy under the rule of the king of Holland.
In exchange for the cession of the rights of the Germanic confederation over the portion of Luxemburg, which was annexed by the treaty to Belgium, the duchy of Limburg (excepting the communes of Maastricht and Venloo) was declared to belong to the Germanic confederation. This somewhat unsatisfactory condition of affairs continued until 1866, when at a conference of the great powers, held in London to consider the Luxemburg question, it was agreed that Limburg should be freed from every political tie with Germany. Limburg became henceforth an integral part of Dutch territory.
2. Province of Belgium
Limburg, or Limbourg, the smallest of the nine provinces of Belgium, occupying the north-east corner of the kingdom. It represents only a portion of the ancient duchy of Limburg (see above). The part east of the Meuse was transferred to Holland by the London conference, and a further portion was attached to the province of Liege including the old capital now called Dolhain. Among the towns are Hasselt, the capital, St Trond and Loon.
3. Province of the Netherlands
Limburg, the south-easternmost and smallest province of the Netherlands, bounded north by Gelderland, north-west by North Brabant, south-west by the Belgian province of Limburg, south by that of Liege, and east by Germany. It is watered by the Meuse (Maas) which forms part of its south-western boundary with Belgium and then flows through its northern portion, and by such tributaries as the Geul and Roer (Ruhr). Its capital is Maastricht, which gives name to one of the two administrative districts into which it is divided, the other being Roermond.