Collins English Dictionary
1. a former duchy of W Europe: divided when Belgium became independent (1830), the south forming the Belgian provinces of Antwerp and Brabant and the north forming the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands.
2. a former province of central Belgium; replaced in 1995 by the provinces of Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant.
During the Middle Ages, a duchy which developed from the county of Louvain, whose count was given the title of duke in 1106 by Emperor Henry V. His successors expanded the duchy in the 12th Century by incorporating the marquisate of Antwerp and various seigneuries as far as the Nether Rhine, and controlling the important trade route from Bruges to Cologne. In the E they came up against the prince-bishops of Liège, but gained Maastricht in 1204, and after the Battle of Woeringen Duke John (Jan) I (1268–94) annexed Limburg. The 14th Century was marked by the granting of charters and further expansion. John II gained Holland S of the Maas (1304) and John III conquered Heerlen and Sittard, but had to yield them to Gelre by the Treaty of Amiens in 1334. The war of Brabant succession after the death of Duke John III (1355) between Louis of Male of Flanders, who had married Margaretha, John III’s daughter, and his sister-in-law Johanna, who had married Wenzel of Luxemburg, led to the loss of Malines and Antwerp to Flanders in 1357. Johanna, after the death of her husband, faced popular risings in Louvain and Brussels, and spent many years fighting Gelre, but was supported by Philip the Bold of Burgundy who had married her niece Margaret de Male, Countess of Flanders. Johanna, who was childless, handed Limburg in 1396 and Brabant in 1399 to Margaret, retaining only their revenues for the rest of her life, and abdicated in favour of Philip’s second son, Antony of Burgundy, who succeeded her in 1406, thereby restoring Antwerp and Malines to Brabant. His successor was John IV (1415–27), who married Jacqueline of Bavaria, acquiring Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland to add to his duchy. He was followed briefly by his brother Philip of St Pol, after whom Philip the Good inherited all his lands and Brabant became part of Burgundy. The Peace of Westphalia left the N part of the duchy, the present-day North Brabant, to the Netherlands, while the S part remained in the Austrian Netherlands, eventually to be split into the Belgian provinces of Brabant and Antwerp.