One of the 12 province
s of the Netherlands
, with over 2 million
As the name indicates, the area was the Northern part of the duchy of Brabant in medieval times. It was conquered by the Holland-based state fighting for indepencence from 1568 to 1648, and governed as occupied territory until it obtained full rights as a province under French rule in 1795.
Its capital, 's-Hertogenbosch, is its 4th town in size, after Eindhoven, Tilburg, and Breda.
Most of Noord-Brabant is covered with layers of sand deposited there by the ice ages; most of it was covered with woodland and moorland until recently, and farming was never very profitable. Owing to the cheap labour a local industry developed that, after the industrial revolution, caused the major towns to grow considerably. The agricultural sector found prosperity in the intensive, industrial scale farming techniques developed after World War II. Today, Noord-Brabant is among the most prosperous areas of the country.
After the predominant religion, Roman Catholicism, was legalized in 1856, a strong 'catholic emancipation' movement arose that put the catholic south Noord-Brabant and Limburg) back on the political map. The catholic party became the largest in national politics, acting as a balancing power in the centre of the political spectrum, and continuously in government from 1917 until the 1990s.
Catholicism remained a very dominant force in public life until the 1960s, when most catholics either tried to liberalize the church or turned their backs on it. (This also happened in the protestant churches, but to a lesser extent.)
The religious, cultural and political differences with 'the North' have largely vanished today.