Archaeological discoveries have dated the first settlement in the Sittard area around 5000 B.C. Present day Sittard is assumed to have been founded around 850 A.D. and to have been built around a motte. Sittard was first mentioned in 1157. It was granted city rights by the Duke of Limburg in 1243. In 1400 it was sold to the Duchy of Jülich, and remained in its possession until 1794. The city was destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly, due to fires and various conflicts during the 15th-17th century. It was a stronghold until it was largely destroyed in 1677, during the Franco-Dutch War. Under French occupation , Sittard was part of the Roer department. Since 1814, it has been part of the Netherlands, except for the years 1830-1839, when it joined the Belgian Revolution. During the Second World War, it was occupied by the Germans, who incorporated several small municipalities, like Broeksittard, into Sittard. The city was liberated September 18–19, 1944 by the 2nd Armored Division. The historic town was mostly spared destruction, despite lying in the frontline for over four months, in which over 4000 shells and rockets struck the city.
After World War II, Sittard expanded rapidly and many new neighbourhoods were built. The coal mines in the region were the driving force of a booming economy, until closed in the 1960s and 70s. It now has large industrial zones and office premises.
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