Maastricht, capital of the province of Limburg, is situated on the Meuse River
south of the Netherlands, between Belgium and Germany, and takes its name from
a Roman Bridge built to cross the river. There were settlements in the area
long before Roman times, however, as evidenced by stone age remains found to
the west of the city and dated at between 80,000 and 250,000 years old. There
is also evidence of a nearby Celtic settlement.
Until the 8th century the city was an important Christian bishopric, when nearby Liège took over that role. In the middle ages, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and the Duchy of Brabant held joint sovereignty over the city, and in 1204, it was granted city rights. The city was taken from the Spanish in 1632 by Frederik Hendrik, and continued as a city of dual authority, with the Dutch States General taking over the role of the Dukes until the French annexed the city in 1794.
Maastricht became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, remaining loyal to the Dutch king even when other southern provinces sought independence. Maastricht was the first Dutch city to be liberated by allied troops in World War II. The city has been an important meeting point for European nations ever since, and in 1992, was host to the signing of the Maastricht treaty, which led to the creation of the European Union.
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