Historically, the Limburg 'appendix' is a geographical quirk left over from the 1839 Treaty of London that solved a nine-year geo-political impasse between the Netherlands and recently independent Belgium. For finally recognising Belgium's existence, the Dutch were rewarded by the return of eastern Limburg Province, ending nearly a decade during which Maastricht had been essentially an isolated Dutch garrison exclave surrounded by Belgian-controlled territory – much like West Berlin in the 1950s.

The term Limburg originates from an ancient duchy based on the small Belgian castle town of Limbourg near Verviers. It had only come to apply to the greater region after 1815 when a complex former patchwork of different territories, amalgamated under French rule in the previous two decades, were declared a Dutch province.