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From the 14th century on, the 'boermarke', also called 'buurschap' formed the most important institution of life in Drenthe. These boermarken were autonomous and handled all their own affairs. On a regional level, the 'Drost (reeve) of Drenthe' governed the land. Not until the early 19th century did the self-rule of the people of Drenthe come to an end.
From Boermarke to Etstoel
A 'boermarke' was led by the farmer who owned the most land, the 'boerrigter'. If something needed to be discussed, he would call together all the members of the 'boermarke' using the 'boerhoorn', farmer's horn. For administrative and legal matters that went beyond their own territory, there was the 'Etstoel'. This administrative and legal court was led by the Drost, appointed by the count of Drenthe.
Drost of Drenthe
The Drost was not just the chairman of the 'Etstoel', but also served as steward of the episcopal goods and other sources of income. From the merchant city of Coevoorden, then the only city in Drenthe, he, as the local lord, ran the day-to-day business of the local government and ensured the defence of the realm.
It took until 1603, over two centuries later, for the independence of Drenthe to change. That was the year that the States General founded the 'Landschap'. In this new administrative body, the Drost remained the most important functionary, but a number Deputies were appointed as well. The college of the Drost and Deputies reported to the 'Eigenerfden', the landed farmers, and the 'Ridderschap', the nobility in Drenthe. The new college was housed in the monastery Mariënkamp in Assen.
Until the founding of the Ridderschap, the nobility in Drenthe, unlike in other regions in the Netherlands, did not have much of a say in matters. Now they were recognised as a separate class. In order to be admitted to the noble circles, a nobleman had to own a large manor, also called a 'havezate'.
Starting in the early 19th century, the boermarken slowly give up their independence. A big factor in this was the creation of the municipalities in 1811, during the French-Batavian period. This led to new administrative and legal arrangements. Socio-economic developments and better accessibility also impacted the independence of the villages of Drenthe. After Napoleon was defeated in 1813, the Dutch constitution was ratified in 1814. It contained the first mention of the term 'province'. The Kingdom of the United Netherlands was founded a year later.