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Travel Guide 2   >   Europe   >   Belgium   >   History

   
 

Belgian History


Although Belgium has been inhabited for many thousands of years, its written history begins in 54 BC when Julius Caesar conquered the area as part of his campaigns in Gaul, as described in his Commentaries on the Gallic War (Latin: Commentarii de Bello Gallico). As a result, for the next several centuries, Belgium and the surrounding areas were incorporated in the Roman Empire as the province of Gallia Belgica.

When the Roman Empire eventually collapsed in the 5th century CE, and Belgium then became part of the area ruled by the Merovingian Frankish dynasty. Eventually the Merovingian dynasty was replaced by the Carolingians, and Belgium found itself on the border between the successor states of France and the Holy Roman Empire. It was during this period in the Middle Ages that the more northerly parts of the country became Germanized, whereas southern parts did not, thus giving rise to the Flemish and Walloon language regions that are still found in Belgium today.

In the mid 16th century, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all came under Habsburg rule. In the reformation, northern parts of this region turned to Protestantism, whereas southern parts remained Catholic. When the Spanish Habsburgs tried to reimpose Catholicism across the entire region, this led to the 80 years war (1568 to 1648), but ultimately this effort largely failed - the northern parts of the region becoming the new country of the United Provinces (the precursor of the Netherlands), although the southern parts remained under Habsburg rule as the Spanish Netherlands.

The area that is Belgium was ruled by the Habsburg for more than 300 years, first as the Spanish Netherlands, and later as the Austrian Netherlands. During this period, it was a frequent site of battles during the Habsburg's many wars with France.

During the French Revolutionary Wars, the Austrian Netherlands were overran and then annexed by France. However, following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the area was removed from French control, and united with the Netherlands as part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

In 1830, revolution broke out in Belgium, which led to independence from the Netherlands. Leopold I became king, and the new country became an independent Catholic parliamentary democracy, The major powers of the Concert of Europe sanctioned the new country's existence on acceptance of it being permanently neutral, a status that Belgium retained until after World War I.

In 1885, King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the Congo Free State as a personal possession, although in 1908 it became a Belgian colony. Other Belgian colonial possessions included a concession in Tietsin, China (occupied until 1930 as a result of Belgian forces' role in surpressing the Boxer Rebellion), and Ruanda-Urundi (gained from Germany during World War I).

Durig the 20th century, Belgium has twice been invaded by Germany - in World War I in 1914, and in World War II in 1940. As a result of World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, Belgium gained several border towns from Germany, which is the origin of the German-speaking community in the East of the country.

After World War II, Belgium joined NATO, formed the Benelux group of countries (with Luxembourg and the Netherlands), and was a founder member of the European Coal and Steel Community and subsequent European Economic Community (which eventually led to today's European Union). Belgium's remaining colonial possessions were granted independence in the post-war period; the Congo in 1960, and Ruanda-Urundi (as the two new countries of Rwanda and Burundi) in 1962.

Here are some books about the history of Belgium:


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Books about Belgian History


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Belgium: Long United, Long Divided

By Samuel Humes

Hurst
Paperback (256 pages)

Belgium: Long United, Long Divided
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Product Description:
This concise history describes the traditions and transitions that over two thousand years have developed in Belgium in a sense of shared identity, common government, and a centralized nation-state - and then over a few recent decades paved the way for Flemish-Walloon schism that now threatens to break up Belgium. It responds to the question: Why does a government, unified for more than 600 years, no longer seem capable of holding together a linguistically divided country

In tracing the evolution of Belgian governance, Humes describes why and how the dominance of French-speaking propertied elite eroded after having monopolized the land's governance for centuries. The extension of suffrage, combined with the rise of literacy and schooling enabled labor and Flemish movements to gather sufficient momentum to fracture the Belgian polity, splitting its parties and frustrating its politics. The presence of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has, in a tangential way, enable the Belgian separatists to discount the merit of a national government that is no longer needed to defend the country militarily and economically.

Belgium: A History (Studies in Modern European History)

By Bernard A. Cook

Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers
Paperback (205 pages)

Belgium: A History (Studies in Modern European History)
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Although Belgium has only been an independent state since the 1830s, it has a long and complex past. This history is essential for understanding the complexities of issues that led to a devolution of the unitary Belgian state into a federation of linguistically based regions. In addition to the elements that contributed to Belgium’s particular political evolution, the history which is traced in this book is a composite of many themes of broad historical interest and importance. Belgium: A History covers the gamut of Belgian history through dramas of religious and cultural conflict, intense localism, state building, uneven development, divergent class interests, war and domination, and finally, integration into a larger European community.

Brussels - A Travel Guide of Art and History: A comprehensive guide to the historic architecture and art in the capital of Belgium

By Maxime Jensens

Jensens Maxime
Paperback (148 pages)

Brussels - A Travel Guide of Art and History: A comprehensive guide to the historic architecture and art in the capital of Belgium
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  • Brussels A Travel Guide of Art and History A Comprehensive Guide to the Historic Architecture and Art in the Capital of Belgium
Product Description:
The architecture, artwork and religious structures of Brussels are breathtaking, their combined majesty placing visitors in awe year after year.

Tragically, many travel guides simply brush over the capital's beautiful historic and artistic attractions as mere items to check off a list during sightseeing, in what is actually the very heart of Flemish culture.

In stark contrast, Brussels - A Travel Guide of Art and History is designed for tourists wanting to achieve an in-depth understanding during their perusals of the wondrous achievements in painting, sculpture and design pioneered and advanced in Brussels. The Baroque majesty of the Grand Place, the breathtaking Gothic spires of St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral are just two of the culturally significant attractions described in this book.

Rich yet accessible descriptions of the most significant artworks and guidance through the hidden gems and the breathtaking old town districts likewise abound. The reader is spurred to sublime comprehension and a high degree of appreciation and enjoyment during their trip, ending it satisfied with the reams of cultural succour encountered and absorbed.

Designed as a companion to a more general city guide, this guide is ideally read as you tour and take in the many breathtaking works of art and ancient designs that Brussels, the mighty capital of Belgium and seat of the European Union, has to offer.

In reading this book composed by lecturer of art and heritage architecture Maxime Jensens, your journey through the capital's landmarks and streets will be imbued with enlightenment.

You will conclude your trip to Brussels not simply with happy memories of the gorgeous culture, cuisine and fine hospitality - but a thorough, intense understanding of how inseparable the country's art and architecture are from Brussels' very essence and fabric of being.

Cities of Belgium - A Travel Guide of Art and History: A Comprehensive Guide to the Belgian Cathedrals, Churches and Art Galleries - Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp

By Maxime Jensens

Jensens Maxime
Paperback (382 pages)

Cities of Belgium - A Travel Guide of Art and History: A Comprehensive Guide to the Belgian Cathedrals, Churches and Art Galleries - Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp
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  • Cities of Belgium A Travel Guide of Art and History A Comprehensive Guide to the Belgian Cathedrals Churches and Art Galleries Bruges Ghent Br
Product Description:
The Renaissance and Baroque architecture, artwork and religious buildings of Belgium are treasures to behold, rich in significance and beauty.

Tragically, many travel guides simply brush over these beautiful creations as mere items to check off a list during sightseeing in cities which together constitute the rich, centuries old essence of Flemish culture.

By contrast, Belgian Cities - A Travel Guide of Art and History is designed for tourists who wish to achieve an in-depth understanding during perusals of the wondrous achievements in painting, sculpture and architectural design pioneered and proliferated in the Belgian cities. Rich yet accessible descriptions of the most significant works, guidance through the hidden gems, old town districts and standout attractions abound. As a result, the curious reader is spurred to understanding of a culture whose history and art can so often be overwhelming or mysterious to the visitor.

This book is designed as a cultural companion to a more general city and tour guide, to be read as you wander amidst the many breathtaking works of art and ancient designs that the cities of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and the capital Brussels contain. The many cathedrals, churches and art galleries are a fine highlight of the Belgian nation, with the period art and architecture dating between 1300 and 1700 a particular focus within this book.

In reading this guide composed by lecturer of art and heritage architecture Maxime Jensens, you will imbue your journey with comprehension and enlightenment.

Concluding your journey to Belgium, you will not simply carry happy memories of having seen and enjoyed the gorgeous culture, cuisine and fine hospitality - but a vivid, intense understanding of how significant and inseparable the country's art and architecture are from its very fabric and core of Belgian identity.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp

By DK Travel

DK Eyewitness Travel
Released: 2017-07-18
Paperback (200 pages)

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp
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Your in-depth guide to the very best of Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp. Make the most of your trip to this beautiful destination with our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide.

Packed with insider tips to make your trip a success, you'll find a guide to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp's stunning architecture and its scenic drives that let you experience the best hotels, bars, and shops that this region has to offer. Try local delicacies at fantastic restaurants, bars, and clubs, and enjoy the great views in spots that will take your breath away. We have the best hotels for every budget, plus fun activities for the solitary traveler or for families and children visiting Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp:

   • Detailed itineraries and "don't-miss" destination highlights at a glance.
   • Illustrated cutaway 3-D drawings of important sights.
   • Floor plans and guided visitor information for major museums.
   • Guided walking tours, local drink and dining specialties to try, things to do, and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.
   • Area maps marked with sights.
   • Detailed city maps include street finder indexes for easy navigation.
   • Insights into history and culture to help you understand the stories behind the sights.
   • Hotel and restaurant listings highlight DK Choice special recommendations.

With hundreds of full-color photographs, hand-drawn illustrations, and custom maps that illuminate every page, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp truly shows you these places as no one else can.

Recommended: For a pocket guidebook to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Brussels, Bruges, Ghent & Antwerp, which is packed with dozens of top 10 lists, ensuring you make the most of your time and experience the best of everything.

Series Overview: For more than two decades, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides have helped travelers experience the world through the history, art, architecture, and culture of their destinations. Expert travel writers and researchers provide independent editorial advice, recommendations, and reviews. With guidebooks to hundreds of places around the globe available in print and digital formats, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides show travelers how they can discover more.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: the most maps, photographs, and illustrations of any guide. Visit TravelDK.com to learn more.

Bruges: The Story of a City

By Paul Van Damme

Stichting Kunstboak (Acc)
Paperback (144 pages)

Bruges: The Story of a City
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  • A riveting narrative history
  • Sumptuous color photographs enhance Van Damme's chronical of Bruges
  • Of interest to long-term residents, prospective tourists, and more
Bruges is a city with a fascinating history. Bruges is a city full of people and stories. Bruges is a city like those in the fairy tales...

Historian Paul Van Damme's book is an ode to the city, its inhabitants and its heritage. This history book reads like a page-turner: city views act as backdrops for wondrous events, homes and squares become the decors for true stories.
Paul Van Damme proves that historical ac
curacy and engaging storytelling can go hand in hand. This accessible, intriguing book is an ideal introduction for those who visit Bruges for the first time. But it is also a great read for those who frequent the city; even lifelong residents will find charming stories and anecdotes they may never have heard before.


 
 
 

 
 
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