Belgium is an independent nation in Western Europe. With the capital city of Brussels, Belgium 2020 population is estimated at 11,589,634 according to countryaah. The cultural and linguistic boundary that still exists today in Belgium was created from the 400s, between Germanic people who came from the north and Celtic groups in the south who spoke Latin dialects. The area obeyed over the centuries during various European dynasties. It was not until 1830 that the state of Belgium was formed. The main focus was on Wallonia, where industrialization began early, while Flanders ended up in the backwater. During both world wars, Belgium was occupied by the Germans, and once again the country became a battlefield for foreign armies.
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The area that makes up Belgium became part of the Roman Empire and the province of Gallia Belgica in the 50s BC, which is believed to have got its name from Celtic people called Belgians. Eventually the Romans were pushed back by Franks from the north. For several hundred years the area was part of various Frankish kingdoms. The King Charles the Great, who was crowned Roman Emperor in 800 and whose kingdom included large parts of Western and Central Europe, was born in the region around Liège. For Belgium political system, please check computerminus.
Already in the 700s Flemish merchants made contact with trading houses in the Mediterranean and in the 1000s began to develop a tissue industry (with wool from England) which became very extensive. During the late Middle Ages, Flanders was Northern Europe’s most developed part with a thriving cultural life in rich commercial cities such as Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. At the end of the 15th century, Belgium came to belong to the German prince Habsburg, who taxed these rich provinces severely. When the Habsburg Empire was divided in the middle of the 16th century, the area fell to the Spanish branch of the dynasty (“the Spanish Netherlands”).
During the Reformation, which began in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Calvinist church won many followers in the areas that are today Belgium and the Netherlands. However, the Spanish counter-Reformation made the southern parts (Belgium) a homogeneous Catholic area. The Spanish dominion meant a period of stagnation, decline and devastating wars. The area was repeatedly subjected to French conquest attempts. After the Spanish war of succession, Belgium came under the Austrian Habsburgs (“Austrian Netherlands”) in 1713.
When the French Revolutionary Armies, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, marched in, hardly any resistance could be offered. From 1795 to 1814 the area was incorporated with France. It contributed to a French-speaking dominance that aroused resistance among Flemish people. A Flemish peasant uprising that broke out in 1798 is sometimes regarded as the birth of Flemish nationalism. Since Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo in 1815 just south of Brussels – with the support of other European great powers – the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) was proclaimed under the Protestant Kingdom of Orania.
The July Revolution in Paris in 1830 inspired the Belgians, who in August rebelled against the Dutch king. In October a provisional Belgian government was formed and on November 10, 1830 Belgium’s independence was declared. The great powers recognized Belgium as a sovereign state and guaranteed the country “constant neutrality”. In connection with the liberation from the Netherlands, the Belgians occupied the whole of Luxembourg except for the capital. In 1831, Prince Leopold was elected by Saxony-Coburg (prince’s house in present-day Germany) as Belgian King by the name of Leopold I.
The Dutch continued the armed struggle to regain influence over Belgium. However, they were forced to recognize the existence of the new state in 1839. At that time, the current boundary between the two countries was established; Belgium was awarded the Walloon part of Luxembourg, while the rest of the Grand Duchy remained under the Dutch king.
In the middle of the 19th century, an economic boom began. With the help of British engineers, Belgium became the first country on the European continent to be industrialized. The country’s economic center of gravity came to the Wallonia coal district, where the iron industry was located. Between the industrialized French-speaking Wallonia and the poor agricultural Flanders, there was a gap that widened due to the dominant position of the French language in the administration.
King Leopold II, son of Leopold I, was involved in the colonization of Africa by the European great powers. During the 1880s, he succeeded in gaining personal sovereignty over today’s Congo-Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo). King Leopold’s unusually brutal exploitation of the area aroused international criticism, and in 1908 he was forced to surrender Congo to the Belgian state as a colony. After the First World War (1914-1918), Belgium was given the mandate to administer Rwanda-Urundi, which had previously belonged to Germany. In 1960, Congo (named Zaire from 1971 to 1997) became independent and in 1962 the states of Rwanda and Burundi were formed.
Leopold II died in 1909 and was succeeded by his nephew Albert.
German occupation in two world wars
During the First World War, Belgium’s neutrality was violated by Germany and almost the whole country was occupied. A large part of the Bloody Front’s bloody trench warfare was fought in Flanders. After the war, Germany was forced to resign from Eupen-Malmedy to Belgium. The economic difficulties of the war were reinforced by the international depression of the 1930s. The linguistic contradictions were also sharpened and a particular Flemish party received increased support and representation in Parliament.
During World War II, Belgium was again occupied by the Germans, between 1940 and 1944. King Leopold III (son of Albert I) chose to stay in the country and was held in German captivity, while the government went into exile in London. Most of the population opposed the occupation, but the Germans sought and received some support from the Flemish nationalists.