Belgium History

Belgium History


Around the 6th century BC. Celtic and Germanic tribes immigrated to the area of ​​what is now Belgium, which was used by the Romans in the so-called Gallic Wars until 51 BC. have been subjected. The area belongs together with today’s Netherlands and parts of France and Germany to the Roman province “Gallia Belgica”. After the rule of the Romans, the area belongs to the great Frankish empire, in which it held an important position. Even then there was a clear linguistic separation between the Walloons in the south of the country and the Franconian Salians who had immigrated to the northern regions (Flanders).

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Middle ages

After the division of the Franconian Empire in the 9th century, Belgium was divided along the Scheldt, with the greater eastern part of the country falling to the East Franconian and the smaller western part to the West Franconian Empire.

According to AbbreviationFinder, a number of regional power centers emerged, in which the counties of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant stood out due to their lucrative trade in cloth and textiles. In the second half of the 14th century, Flanders came under the rule of the Burgundian Duke Philip the Bold. The cities of Flanders and Brabant became, through their prosperity, political, cultural and economic centers of Burgundy (Burgundian Empire). In 1477 the areas (as well as the neighboring Netherlands) fell to the Habsburgs after the death of Charlemagne.

Modern times

When the sphere of influence of the Habsburgs split into an Austrian and a Spanish line in the mid-16th century, Belgium (together with Luxembourg, parts of northwestern France and the Netherlands) fell to King Philip II of Spain. The independence of the United Netherlands formed out of the northern border of today’s Belgium.

After the extinction of the Spanish line of the Habsburgs, the French King Louis XIV made claims to the territories. After the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713 / 14), the Belgian territories fell to the Austrian Habsburgs. The (still today) border between Belgium and France was created. At the end of the 18th century, under the influence of the French Revolution, the Belgians rebelled against the Habsburg rule (Brabant Revolution 1790), which ended when French troops occupied the Belgian territory. In 1815, the Belgian Waterloo (near Brussels) was the site of the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and his armies against the troops of the Austrians, Prussians and English.

The conflicts between the predominantly Catholic Belgian areas and the Protestant north led to numerous unrest and uprisings, which culminated in a major uprising in Brussels in 1830 against the domination of the Netherlands. In the same year, Belgium separated from the Netherlands and became an independent kingdom with a liberal constitution and a national congress under King Leopold I of Saxony-Coburg. Initially, only a part of the wealthy population of the country was eligible to vote (introduction of universal suffrage also for women in 1907). The great European powers recognized the new state (London Conference 1830, London Protocol 1839) and assigned it a neutral status.

Industrialization progressed rapidly in Belgium in the 19th century, especially in the Walloon areas in the south of the country, where heavy industry developed. In contrast, the textile industry in Flanders lost importance. The imbalance between south and north again broke the language dispute between the two parts of the country, in which the Flemish from the north fought for the recognition of their language alongside French. In 1898, Flemish was recognized as the official, judicial and school language in the relevant areas.


At the end of the 1970s, Belgium and King Leopold II of Belgium became active in colonial politics: he took possession of areas along the Congo River (in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in which appropriate protection contracts were concluded with the residents tribes had been closed. With unprecedented ruthlessness, the mineral resources there were exploited by black slave laborers over the next few decades. In 1885, the area of ​​what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo was recognized at the Berlin “Congo Conference” by the competing European powers as a state in the personal possession of the Belgian king. After the mistreatment of black slave labor in the Congo led to an international scandal in 1908, the Belgian parliament took over the administration of the colony.

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First and Second World War

When World War I broke out, the country was occupied by German troops, despite its neutral status, after the Belgian king refused to allow German troops to march through the country towards France. After the occupation, the Belgian government and the king fled to the French city of Le Havre, from where they took part in the Allied actions. After the end of the war in 1918, the formerly German colonial areas (Rwanda-Urundi, today:Rwanda , Burundi) fell) to Belgium, as well as the German areas Eupen, Malm¨¦dy and Sankt Vith. Belgium was again occupied by the troops of the German Wehrmacht during World War II (in 1936 the country had once again reaffirmed its neutral status). This time the Belgian King Leopold III, the son of Albert I, remained in the country and surrendered to the occupiers. The government fled again, this time to London. Belgium was again placed under a German military administration. There were various groups within the Belgian population that cooperated with the German National Socialists, including Flemish nationalists and a fascist movement under L¨¦on Degrelle, a Walloon. After the liberation of the country in September 1944, the Belgian king was accused by the returning government in exile, he had not participated in the resistance against the Germans.

Post was period

Since the end of the Second World War, the changing Belgian governments have followed a strict Europe course, and the country has been instrumental in the creation of the various European treaties. Belgium had been planning a customs union together with the Netherlands and Luxembourg since 1944, which was realized in 1960 with the economic union of the Benelux countries. In June 1945, the country was one of the founding members of the UN. Belgium gave up its neutrality after the Second World War in favor of joining the Brussels Pact in 1948 and NATO in 1949. Between 1960 and 1962 the former Belgian colonies of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi were released into independence.

In 1950 Baudouin became the new regent of Belgium after Leopold III. had been forced to abdicate. The new king tried to alleviate the still simmering language conflict. In 1963, the language areas were reorganized by law: in the north there should be a Flemish, in the south a Walloon and in the east a German language region. The capital Brussels had a special status. However, the disputes between Walloons and Flemish led to frequent changes of government in the years that followed. In 1980 the regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels were given their own regional parliaments with decision-making powers in the areas of business and culture, four years later the German-speaking minority in the east of the country was also granted this. In 1993 Belgium was finally transformed into a federally structured federal state with three autonomous regions (Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels-Capital). In favor of regional parliaments, competences were restricted at the federal level. In the same year Albert II became the new king of the Belgians. So in 1993, the European Parliament moved into the specially built new building in Brussels.

The tensions in the Flemish-Walloon conflict culminated in 2007 and 2008 in a state crisis in which even the unity of the Belgian state was at risk. The disputes between the two parts of the country are greater independence of the regions in labor market and tax policy as well as the status of the bilingual region of Brussels.

In 2013 Philippe replaced his father Albert as King of the Belgians.

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