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area on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula between the Eider and Elbe rivers, now included in the Land (state) of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, but down to 1866 a semi-independent territory under the king of Denmark. First mentioned in the 9th century, Dithmarschen was then one of the three Saxon districts north of the Elbe. In 1144 the ruling count was killed in a popular rising, and, after a dispute between the Duke of Saxony and the Archbishop of Bremen, Dithmarschen passed to the latter.