Southern Netherlands  

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"Antwerp's decline began during the Spanish régime. The terrors of the Inquisition banished thousands of the industrious citizens, many of whom sought refuge in England, where they established silk-factories, and contributed greatly to stimulate English commerce. Fearful havoc was committed by the cruel Spanish soldiery in 1576, when the city was unscrupulously pillaged, and lost 7000 of its inhabitants by fire and sword ; it afterwards suffered severely during a siege of fourteen months followed by its capture by Duke Alexander of Parma in 1585, when the population was reduced to 85,000 ; and in 1589 the population had further dwindled to 55,000. In addition to these disasters, the citizens were deprived of the greater part of their commerce by the intrigues of their Dutch rivals, who during the siege of the city by the Duke of Parma used secret means to prevent assistance being rendered to the besieged, and afterwards erected forts at the mouth of the Schelde to prevent its navigation by Antwerp vessels . The maritime trade of the city received its death-blow from the Treaty of Münster in 1648, by which Holland was declared independent of Spain, and it was agreed that no sea-going vessel should be permitted to ascend to Antwerp, but should unload at a Dutch port, whence merchandise should be forwarded to Antwerp by river-barges only."--Belgium and Holland: Handbook for Travellers (1891) by Baedeker

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The Southern Netherlands, also called the Catholic Netherlands, was the part of the Low Countries largely controlled by Spain (1556–1714), later Austria (1714–1794), and occupied then annexed by France (1794–1815). The region also included a number of smaller states that were never ruled by Spain or Austria: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, the Imperial Abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, the County of Bouillon, the County of Horne and the Princely Abbey of Thorn. The Southern Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire until the whole area was annexed by Revolutionary France.

The Southern Netherlands comprised most of modern-day Belgium and Luxembourg, some parts of the Netherlands and Germany (the region of Upper-Gueldres, now divided between Germany and the modern Dutch Province of Limburg and in 1713 largely ceded to Prussia and the Bitburg area in Germany, then part of Luxembourg) as well as, until 1678, most of the present Nord-Pas-de-Calais region and the Longwy area in northern France.

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