The Austrian Netherlands (DutchOostenrijkse NederlandenFrenchPays-Bas AutrichiensGermanÖsterreichische NiederlandeLatinBelgium Austriacum) was the larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until its annexation during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont in 1794 and the Peace of Basel in 1795. Austria, however, did not relinquish its claim over the province until 1797 in the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrian Netherlands was a noncontiguous territory that consisted of what is now western Belgiumas well as greater Luxembourg, bisected by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The dominant languages were German (including Luxembourgish), Dutch (Flemish), and French, along with Picard and Walloon.[citation needed]

As a result of the Barrier Treaty, the Holy Roman emperor Charles VI showed little apparent interest in the day-to-day rule of the Austrian Netherlands; yet he insisted on keeping ultimate control of the territories concerned. This caused quite a lot of frustration with Austria’s own inhabitants, especially because the Dutch troops were paid with money that needed to be raised from the Austrian Netherlands themselves. The war of 1740-1748 showed that Austria already had little interest in maintaining the Austrian Netherlands: constant bickering among the Allied commanders meant the French kept the initiative during the campaigns, and the fortifications, manned with mostly Dutch troops, were captured with ease by the French army. Although the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle had stipulated that the Barrier towns should again be manned by Dutch garrisons, Charles’s daughter and successor Maria Theresa, advised by her councelor Kaunitz, refused to pay for those troops any longer, unless there were to be negotiations about new trade agreements. In the end, the Republic refused to pay for the rebuilding of the fortifications and send any troops, but with the Barrier towns in ruins and the Netherlands now open for a new invasion, she had little to offer. When Austria and France entered into an alliance in 1756, there was in effect no purpose in the Barrier treaty any more. In 1781, Emperor Joseph II of Austria unilaterally renounced the treaty.

 

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Brabant Revolution

In the 1780s, opposition emerged to the liberal reforms of Emperor Joseph II, which were perceived as an attack on the Catholic Church and the traditional institutions in the Austrian Netherlands. Resistance, focused in the autonomous and wealthy Estates of Brabant and Flanders, grew. In the aftermath of rioting and disruption, known as the Small Revolution, in 1787, many of opponents took refuge in the neighboring Dutch Republic where they formed a rebel army. Soon after the outbreak of the French and Liège revolutions, the émigré army crossed into the Austrian Netherlands and decisively defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Turnhout in October 1789. The rebels, supported by uprisings across the territory, soon took control over much of the territory and proclaimed independence. Despite the tacit support of Prussia, the independent United Belgian States, established in January 1790, received no foreign recognition and soon became divided along ideological lines. The Vonckists, led by Jan Frans Vonck, advocated progressive and liberal government, whereas the Statists, led by Hendrik Van der Noot, were staunchly conservative and supported by the Church. The Statists, who had a wider base of support, soon drove the Vonckists into exile through a terror[1]

By mid-1790, Habsburg Austria ended its war with the Ottoman Empire and prepared to suppress the rebels. The new Holy Roman EmperorLeopold II, was also a liberal and proposed an amnesty for the rebels. After defeating a Statist army at the Battle of Falmagne, the territory was soon overrun and the revolution was defeated by December. The Austrian reestablishment was short-lived, however, and the territory was soon overrun by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars.

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