Ninove is a city and municipality located in Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium, and in the Flemish province of East Flanders in the Denderstreek. It is situated on the river Dender. The municipality comprises the city of Ninove proper and since the 1976 merger of the towns of Appelterre-Eichem, Aspelare, Denderwindeke, Lieferinge, Meerbeke, Nederhasselt, Neigem, Okegem, Outer, Pollare and Voorde. On January 1, 2012 Ninove had a total population of 37.289. The total area is 72.57 km² which gives a population density of 514 inhabitants per km².
The oldest version of the name "Ninove", Neonifus dates from the 9th century. Later versions of the city name were Ninive and Nineve. The current version of the city name dates from the 14th century. The origin of the city name is not clear. There are two theories about the origin. One states that name is from Roman origin, the other states that it is of Frankish origin. The meaning of the name, however, is known. Ninove means "nieuw weiland" or in English, "new pasture".
During the Roman rule, Ninove was a small settlement located in the current "Nederwijk". With the arrival of the Franks in the 4th century AD, the settlement grew to a small agricultural town. The area on which Ninove is located was from 843 on part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 11th century this area was conquered by the Count of Flanders, Boudewijn V and the whole area between the rivers Scheldt and Dender became part of the Flanders.
From the 11th century on, the medieval castrum was fortified into a castle stronghold. Because it lay on the trade route between Flanders and Brabant, the town prospered and grew into a city. In 1137, Norbertine monks founded the Saint Cornelius Abbey, adjacent to the city. Because of its large landholdings, the abbey soon became one of the biggest grain producers in Flanders. In 1295 the town and lands were bought by the count of Flanders Guy of Dampierre. His grandson Henry awarded the town a city charter in 1339.
The 15th to 17th century was a bad time for the city as the region was plagued with war and religious and political strife. The abbey was plundered by the French in 1578 during the reformation. In 1658, Ninove was occupied by the French army. After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the French returned the area back to Spain but the area was to change hands many times during the wars of Louis XIV and Louis XV of France.
During the 17th century, Ninove was crippled under the indemnities laid on it by the warring parties and the town faced a big economic crisis as its cloth industry went into decline. The big abbey was closed by the French in 1796, after Flanders was annexed to France.
During the 19th century, Ninove became industrialized and by the time of the First World War, the city became the centre of the Flemish match industry. This industry however declined in importance until the last match factory closed during the late 1970s.
The population of Ninove has steadily grown and the city has become an attractive centre for commercial, recreational and economical activities in the area, and plays host to a popular annual Volkswagen show every March, specifically for air-cooled vehicles, i.e. Beetles, Camper-vans, Type 3's, 4's etc. The opening of a shopping mall in the centre of the city, as well as new sport and cultural infrastructure, and the construction of many residential apartment buildings have made Ninove a growing competitor for nearby Aalst and an ideal living-place for many commuters who work in nearby Brussels.