Dutch Historical Regions

Whereas it might be difficult to split other countries into smaller regions, the Netherlands are neatly split into NUTS 2 regions (provinces) and NUTS 3 regions (COROP areas), which makes it easier for researchers to compare different parts of the country. In other countries such regions are not available, which poses a challenge to researchers: they have to define regions on their own.

In this post I will try to define such historical research myself, based on literature research. This will allow researchers to compare the results of their models in both larger administrative regions, as well as smaller historical regions. As human identity is of interest to many, books are written about the culture in commonly accepted identity areas, which can then be used to find what places belong to that particular identity area. In the following tables I will provide a mapping of those places to Dutch municipalities (in existence in 2016) in 70 different historic identity regions. Most regions are based on work by Abraham Jacob van der Aa (1792 – 1857), citations are provided to other sources used.

In some cases the area of a municipality was originally part of multiple historic regions. In these specific cases I looked at the part of municipality in which the majority of its population resides, and added it to the matching historic region. In other cases municipalities can be considered regions on their own, such as Dordrecht, Gouda, ‘s-Gravenhage and Steenwijkerland. As a solution, these four municipalities were added to the region that was located most close by, and somewhat historically related. This meant Dordrecht was added to Alblasserwaard, Gouda to Rijnland, ‘s-Gravenhage to Delfland and Steenwijkerland to Stellingwerven.

Note: Since 2016 several municipalities have merged together, which means that some regions might only contain one municipality today. In such cases multiple smaller regions will have to be merged to one larger region, like I have done in Drenthe.


Map of the province Drenthe, 1795. Credits: Jan van Jagen, collection Rijksmuseum

Drenthe is a difficulity province to split up into smaller regions – mostly because the historical boundaries within this province do not map well with contemporary boundaries, and the historical areas are rather small. To overcome this problem, some historical areas have been joined together. While not ideal, this still allows comparisons to be made.

First of, the municipalities of Aa en Hunze, Assen, Midden-Drenthe, Noordenveld and Tynaarlo together form Noorden- en Middenveld, Oostermoer en Rolderdingspel (Poortman, 1943). In a similar fashion the municipalities De Wolden, Hoogeveen, Meppel and Westerveld combine to the historical regions Heerlijkheid Echten, Heerlijkheid Ruinen and Dieverdingspel (Poortman, 1943).

The region Zuidenveld can be defined separately, as it’s slightly larger and the municipalities Borger-Odoorn, Coevorden and Emmen can be joined to form the historical region (Poortman, 1943).


Map of the province Flevoland, 2013. Credits: Jan-Willem van Aalst, collection Wikimedia

Flevoland isn’t too exciting – it consists of two parts, the Noordoostpolder and the Flevopolder. Being the newest province, historic regions are not present at all.

In the Noordoostpolder we find two municipalities: Noordoostpolder and Urk, an island embedded into the new polder (de Jong, 2006; Vriend, 2012). The Flevopolder holds all other municipalities: Almere, Dronten, Lelystad, and Zeewolde (Staten-Generaal, 1971; Staten-Generaal, 1979; Staten-Generaal, 1983).


Map of the province Friesland, after 1775. Collection Rijksmuseum

Westergo consists of the western part of Friesland. It was one of the three Frankish shires that form the province of Friesland today. The municipalities het Bildt, Franekeradeel, Harlingen, Littenseradiel, Menameradiel and Súdwest-Fryslân are located in Westergo (Jonkheer de Haan Hettema, 1851).

Oostergo was also a Frankish shire, and is located in the north-eastern part of Friesland. It is formed by the municipalities Achtkarspelen, Dantumadiel, Dongeradeel, Ferwerderadiel, Kollumerland en Nieuwkruisland, Leeuwarden, Leeuwarderadeel, Tytsjerksteradiel and Smallingerland (Jonkheer de Haan Hettema, 1851).

The third Frankish shire is Zevenwouden which contains the following municipalities: De Fryske Marren, Heerenveen and Opsterland (Jonkheer de Haan Hettema, 1840).

Zevenwouden also contained the Stellingwerven, but considering the different history and dialect in this small area, I consider this to be a separater region as well. It only consists of three municipalities: Ooststellingwerf, Weststellingwerf and Steenwijkerland – which contains the major city the Stellingwerven were oriented at (Witkamp, 1877).

As the Dutch Wadden islands have a culture of their own, the municipalities Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling, Texel and Vlieland are grouped as one region as well – be aware, the municipalities are located in Noord-Holland, Friesland and Groningen (Doedens and Houter, 2015).


Map of the province Gelderland, around 1660. The north is located on the right side of the map. Credits: Jacob Aertsz, collection Pieter Simons

One of the most prominent areas in Gelderland is the Veluwe. The Veluwe can be split into multiple parts: the Over-Veluwe (Elburg, Ermelo, Harderwijk, Hattem, Heerde, Nunspeet and Oldebroek) , Middel-Veluwe (Apeldoorn, Epe and Voorst) and the Neder-Veluwe (Barneveld, Ede, Nijkerk, Putten and Scherpenzeel) (van Wijk Roelandszoon, 1842). The border of the Veluwe is called the Veluwezoom, which consists of another six municipalities: Arnhem, Brummen, Renkum, Rheden, Rozendaal and Wageningen (Tirion, 1777).

Another distinctive area is Graafschap Zutphen (known today as the Achterhoek). This region is located next to the German border, and consists of the following municipalities: Aalten, Berkelland, Bronckhorst, Doetinchem, Doesburg, Lochem, Montferland, Oost Gelre, Oude IJsselstreek, Winterswijk and Zutphen (Tirion, 1777).

South of the Achterhoek, near the rivers, we find the Liemers. The municipalities Duiven, Montferland, Rijnwaarden, Westervoort and Zevenaar are located in that region (Baron Sloet, 1852-1855). Following the rivers, we come across the Land van Maas en Waal (Druten and West Maas en Waal) (Manders, 1981), Over-Betuwe (Lingewaard and Overbetuwe) (Nijhoff, 1846), Betuwe (Buren, Culemborg, Geldermalsen, Lingewaal, Neder-Betuwe, Neerijnen and Tiel) (Witkamp, 1877) and Bommelerwaard (Maasdriel and Zaltbommel) (Witkamp, 1877).

Last but not least, the area around Nijmegen is called the Rijk van Nijmegen. In this region we find Beuningen, Berg en Dal, Heumen, Nijmegen and Wijchen (van Schevichaven, 1846).


Map of the province Groningen, after 1719. Credits: Ludolph Tjarda van Starkenburg, collection Rijksmuseum

On the western side of the province of Groningen we find the Westerkwartier region, which was one of the districts of the Groninger Ommelanden between 1594 and 1798. The region is formed by the municipalities Grootegast, Leek, Marum and Zuidhorn (van Aitzema, 1664).

The northern part of Groningen, Hunsingo, is split into four different municipalities: Bedum, De Marne, Eemsmond and Winsum. Hunsingo is an old region, as it has been a Frankish shire (van Aitzema, 1664).

Next to Hunsingo we find the region Fivelingo, which contains five municipalities: Appingedam, Delfzijl, Loppersum, Slochteren and Ten Boer. Like Hunsingo, Fivelingo was a Frankish shire (van Aitzema, 1664).

Te region Westerwolde was split between the municipalities of Bellingwedde, Stadskanaal and Vlagtwedde (Tamis, 2007). It is located on the far east side of Groningen. In 2019 the municipalities have merged to form one municipality. Westerwolde is the only part of Groningen that has been part of the duchy of Saxony (and from a Saxonian perspective, Westerwolde is on the west side of the duchy, not on the east side of Groningen).

The historic region Oldambt is located west of Westerwolde, and consists of the municipalities Menterwolde, Oldambt, Pekela and Veendam. Like Westerkwartier, Oldambt was one of the districts of the Groninger Ommelanden before 1798 (van Aitzema, 1664).

The city of Groningen is located within the Gorecht region, which does not only contain the municipality of Groningen, but also the municipalities Haren and Hoogezand-Sappemeer. It is a former jurisdiction around the city of Groningen (Voerman, 2001).


Map of the area that would become the province of Limburg, 1754. Credits: Robert de Vaugondy, collection Pieter Simons

Limburg has the most complicated history of all Dutch provinces. Where most provinces have been united for a long time, Limburg has been a collection of parts of different larger states for most of its history. This means that the area has changed rules numerous times, and it is very difficult to split in historical identity regions.

The easiest region to identify is Opper-Gelre. Originally, this area belonged to Gelre. In Opper-Gelre we find Beesel, Bergen (L), Echt-Susteren, Gennep, Horst aan de Maas, Leudal, Maasgouw, Mook en Middelaar, Nederweert, Peel en Maas, Roerdalen, Roermond, Venlo, Venray and Weert (Berkvens, Venner, and Spijkerboer, 1996).

In the bottom part of Limburg we identify the Land van Valkenburg, which consists of Beek (L), Brunssum, Heerlen, Meerssen, Nuth, Onderbanken, Schinnen, Sittard-Geleen, Stein (L), Valkenburg aan de Geul and Voerendaal (Ubaghs, 1858).

Eijsden-Margraten, Gulpen-Wittem, Kerkrade, Landgraaf, Maastricht, Simpelveld and Vaals are all part of the Land van ‘s-Hertogenrade (Wagenaar, 1740). Historically, Maastricht has not been part of this region, but as Maastricht and the places located within this area shared the same church organisations, this is the most logical combination.


Map of the duchy of Brabant, 1635. The north is located on the right side of the map. Credits: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, collection Pieter Simons

Noord-Brabant consists of numerous smaller regions, a remnant of the the fact this province contained a lot of smaller separate “countries”, even during the time of the Dutch RepublicBommelerwaardNoord-Brabant consists of numerous smaller regions, a remnant of the the fact this province contained a lot of smaller separate “countries”, even during the time of the Dutch Republic

The region around Baronie van Breda is one of the largest areas, which today consists of Alphen-Chaam, Baarle-Nassau, Breda, Dongen, Drimmelen, Etten-Leur, Geertruidenberg, Gilze en Rijen, Oosterhout and Zundert (van Goor, 1744). Both Drimmelen and Geertruidenberg did not originally belong to the Baronie van Breda, but were relocated from South-Holland to Noord-Brabant and interact a lot with Oosterhout since.

Above the Baronie we find the Langstraat which consists of two municipalities: Heusden and Waalwijk (Huizenga, 1985). Slightly more north we find the Land van Altena, which contains the municipalities Aalburg, Werkendam and Woudrichem (Sanders, Ham, and Vriens, 1996).

Left of the Baronie we find the Markiezaat Bergen op Zoom, which contains Bergen op Zoom, Halderberge, Moerdijk, Roosendaal, Rucphen, Steenbergen and Woensdrecht.

On the eastern side of Brabant we find the Meierij of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which was split into four different regions. The first of those regions is Peelland, which contains the following municipalities: Asten, Cranendonck, Deurne, Geldrop-Mierlo, Gemert-Bakel, Heeze-Leende, Helmond, Laarbeek, “Nuenen, Gerwen en Nederwetten”, Schijndel, Sint-Oedenrode, Someren, Son en Breugel and Veghel (Sanders, Ham, and Vriens, 1996).

The second region is Maasland, which contains the municipalities Bernheze, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Oss (Sanders, Ham, and Vriens, 1996). The Kwartier van Oisterwijk contains Boxtel, Goirle, Haaren, Hilvarenbeek, Loon op Zand, Oisterwijk, Sint-Michielsgestel, Tilburg and Vught, the Kempen Bergeijk, Best, Bladel, Eersel, Eindhoven, Oirschot, Reusel-De Mierden, Valkenswaard, Veldhoven and Waalre (Wagenaar, 1740).

The Land van Ravenstein was an independent territory within the Netherlands, up until 1798. The territory is currently covered by the municipalities Boekel, Landerd and Uden (Bachiene, 1777). The same applies to the Land van Cuijk, which is currently covered by the municipalities Boxmeer, Cuijk, Grave, Mill en Sint Hubert and Sint Anthonis (Bachiene, 1777).


Map of the provinces Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht, 1635. The North is located on the right side of the map. Credits: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, collection Erfgoed Leiden

The top part of Noord-Holland is called Kennemerland. It consists of many municipalities: Aalsmeer, Alkmaar, Bergen (NH), Bloemendaal, Castricum, Haarlem, Haarlemmerliede en Spaarnwoude, Haarlemmermeer, Heemskerk, Heemstede, Heerhugowaard, Heiloo, Langedijk and Uitgeest (de Cock, 1980). Historically, Den Helder and Schagen were not a part of Kennemerland, but because of their strong ties with the area it is only logical to include those municipalities as well.

A little further south, alongside the coast, we find the Land van Brederode. This regions is made up of three municipalities: Beverwijk, Velsen and Zandvoort (Baardman, 1965).

On the eastern side of Noord-Holland we find West-Friesland. West-Friesland is also quite a large area, which embeds the following municipalities: Drechterland, Enkhuizen, Hollands Kroon, Hoorn, Koggenland, Medemblik, Opmeer and Stede Broec (Dekker et al., 2000). Near West-Friesland we find two smaller regions: the Purmer, containing Edam-Volendam and Purmerend (Kok, 1790), and Waterland, containing Beemster, Landsmeer and Waterland (Huurdeman and Josselet, 1980). We could also have made the decision to combine both regions, but this split seems to more accurately represent small differences in the way of living.

Slightly above Amsterdam we also find the Zaanstreek, which consists of Oostzaan, Wormerland and Zaanstad (Vis, 1948). Amsterdam, along with Amstelveen, Diemen, Ouder-Amstel and Uithoorn, belongs to Amstelland (van Ollefen, 1795).

Near the border with Utrecht we find Gooiland (or “het Gooi”). Gooiland contains Blaricum, Gooise Meren, Hilversum, Huizen, Laren (Noord-Holland) and Weesp (van Ollefen, 1795; Backer, 1838). While one could notice Weesp was not technically a part of the Gooiland, it was a part of the bailiwick of Stad en Lande, and could therefore be included in this area.


Map of the province Overijssel, between 1721 and 1774. Collection Rijksmuseum

Overijssel can be split into three separate areas: Drostambt Vollenhove, Salland and Twente. Salland and Twente are both quite large, whereas the municipality Steenwijkerland contains the whole drostambt Vollenhove. As Steenwijk had connections with the Stellingwerven, I decided to add Steenwijkerland to that area.

The municipalities Dalfsen, Deventer, Hardenberg, Hellendoorn, Kampen, Olst-Wijhe, Ommen, Raalte, Staphorst, Zwartewaterland and Zwolle make up Salland (Kokhuis, 1992), whereas the municipalities Almelo, Borne, Dinkelland, Enschede, Haaksbergen, Hellendoorn, Hengelo (Overijssel), Hof van Twente, Losser, Oldenzaal, Rijssen-Holten, Tubbergen, Twenterand and Wierden form Twente (Witkamp, 1877).


A map of Utrecht can be found in the Noord-Holland section.

The most northern region in Utrecht is Eemland. In Eemland you can find Amersfoort, Baarn, Bunschoten, Eemnes, Leusden, Renswoude, Soest and Woudenberg (van Bemmel, 1760).

To the south-west of Eemland we find the Nederkwartier, which contains De Ronde Venen, Stichtse Vecht and the municipality Utrecht (Bachiene, 1775). While the municipality of Utrecht was not a part of the Nederkwartier, the Nederkwartier was later incorporated in the arrondissement of Utrecht.

East of the Nederkwartier we find the Overkwartier. Overkwartier contains more municipalities: De Bilt, Bunnik, Houten, Nieuwegein, Rhenen, Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Veenendaal, Wijk bij Duurstede and Zeist (Bachiene, 1775).

The Land van Woerden is located in the western part of Utrecht. It consists of Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, Wijdemeren and Woerden (Haartsen, 2003). We could also choose to assign Stichtse Vecht to the Land van Woerden, but due to more recent connections between that area and the city of Utrecht, we have chosen to assign Stichtse Vecht to Nederkwartier instead. South of the Land van Woerden we find the Lopikerwaard. In the Lopikerwaard we find the following municipalities: Lopik, Montfoort, Oudewater and IJsselstein (van der Aa, 1847b).

Finally, the Vijfherenlanden are located in the south-eastern part of Utrecht. Only two municipalities are located within this region: Leerdam and Vianen (Scholten, 1850).


Map of the province Zeeland, 1635. Credits: Willem Janszoon Blaeu, collection Erfgoed Leiden

The province of Zeeland consists of many islands, which makes it relatively easy to defined identity regions. For example, on Beveland we find the muncipalities Borsele, Goes, Kapelle, Noord-Beveland and Reimerswaal (Laarman, 1841). Similarly, we find Middelburg, Veere and Vlissingen on Walcheren (Roth, 2007).

Brielle, Goeree-Overflakkee, Hellevoetsluis, Nissewaard and Westvoorne in the Land van Voorne en Putten (Roth, 2007). Schouwen-Duivenland and Tholen are located in Zeeland beoosten Schelde (Roth, 2007).

Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is located in the southern part of the Zeeland. In Zeeuws-Vlaanderen we find Hulst, Sluis and Terneuzen (Steigenga-Kouwe, 1948).


A map of Zuid-Holland can be found in the Noord-Holland section.

Along the northern part of the Zuid-Holland coast we also find the Baljuwschap Noordwijkerhout, which today contains Hillegom, Lisse, Noordwijkerhout and Teylingen (Lantink and Temminck, 2017).

Rijnland is located along the coast as well, and contains quite some municipalities: Alphen aan den Rijn, Kaag en Braassem, Katwijk, Leiden, Leiderdorp, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Nieuwkoop, Noordwijk, Oegstgeest, Voorschoten, Waddinxveen, Wassenaar, Zoetermeer and Zoeterwoude (Busching, 1773). Even though Gouda has not historically been a part of Rijnland, we include Gouda in Rijnland because today it’s considered to be a part of the water board of Rijnland.

Near Rijnland we find Delfland, a former bailwick which contains Delft, Maassluis, Midden-Delfland, Pijnacker-Nootdorp, Rijswijk, Vlaardingen and Westland (Busching, 1773). ‘s-Gravenhage was not a part of Delfland, but is considered to be a part of the water board Delfland today, and therefore included as well.

Schieland is another former bailwick which contains the other large city of Zuid-Holland, Rotterdam, as well as Capelle aan den IJssel, Lansingerland, Schiedam and Zuidplas (Busching, 1773).

In the southern part of Zuid-Holland, near the rivers, we find some aits that are rather large. The Zwijndrechtse waard contains two municipalities: Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht and Zwijndrecht (van Ollefen, 1793). For the Krimpenerwaard (Krimpenerwaard, Krimpen aan den IJssel) this is no different (van der Aa, 1847b). The Hoeksche Waard contains slightly more municipalities: Binnenmaas, Cromstrijen, Korendijk, Oud-Beijerland and Strijen (van Ollefen, 1793).

The Alblasserwaard contains the following municipalities: Alblasserdam, Giessenlanden, Gorinchem, Hardinxveld-Giessendam, Molenwaard, Papendrecht, Sliedrecht and Zederik (Scholten, 1850). While Dordrecht is located on it’s own island, it had the most ties with the Alblasserwaard in recent history.

Last but not least, the island of IJsselmonde contains the Albrandswaard, Barendrecht and Ridderkerk (Bachiene, 1773).



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