Today, Flanders refers to the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. But what about the provinces of East and West Flanders? Why is it that the region took on the name of a County that existed on the western end of the country? To any historian, the name ‘Flemish Brabant’ sounds like an oxymoron, because Brabant was itself a Duchy, a centre of economic prowess and the seat of power of the Duchy of Burgundy. On the same note, for a Limburger or an Antwerper to call himself ‘Flemish’ sounds positively bizarre. Why can they not just call themselves ‘northern Belgians’?
In the search for an answer to this situation, this article will examine the historic and political context in which Flanders was defined over the last two thousand years. At the same time, the article will inadvertently try to untangle the vital differences in the perspectives of the Dutch and French language communities and their societies, which are often clouded in the highly-politicised discourse of the media and politicians here.