West Friesland (historical region)

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The historical region of West Friesland, mixed map, old map overlaid on a modern geographic map

West Friesland (also West Frisia; Dutch: West-Friesland; West Frisian language: West-Fryslân) is a historical region in the northern part of the Netherlands. It was located in parts of what now is Noord-Holland and the Wadden Sea.


Its exact location is not clearly defined but it has been suggested that West Friesland comprised the area north of an imaginary line through Hoorn and Alkmaar.[1] Within this historical region is the contemporary region of West Friesland, which is a smaller area based on the Westfriese Omringdijk, a dyke system within the West Friesian district (gouw) of Westflinge.

The area between the rivers Vlie and IJ consists of the present-day municipalities of Alkmaar, Amsterdam (Landelijk Noord), Andijk, Anna Paulowna, Beemster, Bergen, Castricum, Den Helder, Drechterland, Edam-Volendam, Enkhuizen, Graft-De Rijp, Harenkarspel, Heerhugowaard, Heiloo, Hoorn, Landsmeer, Langedijk, Medemblik, Niedorp, Noorder-Koggenland, Purmerend, Obdam, Oostzaan, Opmeer, Schagen, Schermer, Stede Broec, Texel, Uitgeest, Vlieland, Waterland, Wervershoof, Wester-Koggenland, Wieringen, Wieringermeer, Wognum Wormerland, Zaanstad, Zeevang and Zijpe.


The river Vlie (or Fli), an extension of the IJssel branch of the Rhine, divided the northern Netherlands, which at the time was part of Western Frisia, into a western and eastern part. In the eleventh century, after heavy rainfalls, the river flooded and inundated large parts of the land. Not long after, the Zuider Zee bay (previously a lake) was formed, separating West Friesland from the contemporary Province of Friesland.[2] In the Middle Ages, the Westflinge area of West Friesland practically became an island, bordered on the north by the Medem and Zijpe inlets, and to the south by various interconnecting lakes (now polder land) that were connected with the Zuider Zee. Because of this, the toponym "West Friesland" was applied more to the Westflinge area than the original West Friesland.

For about 300 years, West Friesland operated as an autonomous area as the West Frisians did not want to be subjected to authorities from Holland. Floris V, Count of Holland attempted to unite Holland and West Friesland during his reign, and he succeeded in annexing West Frisia.[3] But it was his successor John I who finally defeated the West Frisians in 1297. However, even though West Friesland formed a united province with Holland in the Dutch Republic, it was recognized a separate region and the parliament of said province, commonly known as Holland, was formally known as the States of Holland and West Friesland, showing that West Friesland was still recognized in its own right. During the time of the United Provinces, West Friesland had its own independent Admiralty of the Northern Quarter and any admiral serving with that admiralty or the two other Hollandic admiralties, those of Amsterdam and the Admiralty of de Maze), had the title of Admiral of Holland and West Frisia.

The West Frisian language has disappeared from the region[2] and the later West Frisian dialects are now slowly disappearing. Although these dialects are subdialects of Hollandic Dutch, they were strongly influenced in vocabulary and grammar by a West Frisian substratum.

The historical region of West Friesland

See also[edit]


  1. ^ van Nierop, Henk (2009). Treason in the Northern Quarter: War, Terror, and the Rule of Law in the Dutch Revolt. Princeton University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780691135649. 
  2. ^ a b Reinhardt, Andreas, ed. (1984). Die erschreckliche Wasser-Fluth 1634 (in German). Husum: Husum Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft. p. 189. ISBN 3-88042-257-5. 
  3. ^ Delaissé, L. M. J. (1968). A Century of Dutch Manuscript Illumination. California Studies in the History of Art. University of California Press and Cambridge University Press. p. 5.