The Austrian Netherlands was the larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the Austrian acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until Revolutionary France annexed the territory 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 formed a non-contiguous territory that consisted of what is now western and central Belgium as 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.
As a result of the Barrier Treaties of 1709 - 1715, 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 much 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 Dutch garrisons should again man the Barrier towns, Charles's daughter and successor Maria Theresa, advised by her counsellor 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 or to 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 the Austrian archduke, Emperor Joseph II, unilaterally renounced the treaty.