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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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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.

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo; A Great History of Western European Country

By Demetrius Boulger

New Creative
Released: 2011-11-19
Kindle Edition (557 pages)

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo; A Great History of Western European Country
 
Product Description:
PREFACE.
The following pages represent the research and work of more than three years, during the greater portion of which period I resided in Belgium.
This volume concludes with the battle of Waterloo, and is mainly intended as a preliminary study to the history of Belgium in the 19th century, first as a portion of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and secondly as an independent state.
It is for this reason that I have employed the name Belgium as applying to the Low Countries or Netherlands before the name came into use at the Waterloo period when projects of independence were freely entertained, and before it was formally adopted for the country after the revolution of 1830. In its adjectival form Belgic or Belgian, the name goes back to early mediaeval history, which thus handed on the language of Caesar to modern times. If a final reason is needed for the use of the term Belgium before it was coined, the plea of convenience must be urged. It is short, and concise as separating the ten (now nine) Provinces of the South from the seven Provinces of the North that constitute the present Kingdom of the Netherlands, which we call Holland.


CONTENTS.
PREFACE.
CHAPTER I. The Roman Occupation.
CHAPTER II. The Franks to the Death of Charlemagne.
CHAPTER III. The Early Feudal Period.
CHAPTER IV. The Crusades.
CHAPTER V. The Decline of Feudalism.
CHAPTER VI. The Growth of the Communes.
CHAPTER VII The Communes lose Political Power.
CHAPTER VIII. The House of Burgundy.
CHAPTER IX. The First Union of Belgium.
CHAPTER X. The Transition to Spanish Rule.
CHAPTER XI The Spanish Rule.
CHAPTER XII. The Last Century of Spanish Rule.
CHAPTER XIII. Austrian Rule.
CHAPTER XIV. The Brabant Revolution.
CHAPTER XV. French Rule in Belgium.
CHAPTER XVI. The Waterloo Campaign.

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo; A Great History of Western European Country is a kindle edition from the paperback which is already corrected the strange character and also includes all illustrations from the original book. You will enjoy reading the history of Western European country with your kindle device.

The Spell of Flanders: An Outline of the History, Legends and Art of Belgium's Famous Northern Provinces

By Edward Neville Vose

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (332 pages)

The Spell of Flanders: An Outline of the History, Legends and Art of Belgium s Famous Northern Provinces
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Lord Beaconsfield once said: “Flanders has been trodden by the feet and watered by the blood of countless generations of British soldiers.” This famous passage—which has received a new confirmation to-day—is typical of many references among English writers and statesmen to Flanders as a general term covering all of what is now known as Belgium. Among the citizens of that brave little Kingdom, however, and among most Continental writers, Flanders is recognised as being the name of only the northern part of Belgium. Small as that country is, it has for centuries been bi-lingual, the northern portion speaking Flemish, the southern French; and for centuries the history of the Flemish provinces was as distinct from that of the Walloon province to the southward as the early history of California or Texas was from that of New England. Although eventually united under one Government with the Walloons and with what is now Holland, it was during the long period of their semi-independence that the Flemings achieved many of the artistic and architectural monuments that have made Flanders for all time one of the most interesting regions in the world. While this book, therefore, does not attempt to describe the whole of Belgium, it does present a pen picture of the northern part of the country as it existed almost at the moment when the devastating scourge of the Great War swept across it.

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo No. 2; The Decline of Feudalism, The Growth of the Communes, The Communes lose Political Power, The House of Burgundy

By Demetrius C. Boulger

New Creative
Released: 2011-11-19
Kindle Edition (137 pages)

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo No. 2; The Decline of Feudalism, The Growth of the Communes, The Communes lose Political Power, The House of Burgundy
 
Product Description:
PREFACE.
The following pages represent the research and work of more than three years, during the greater portion of which period I resided in Belgium.
This volume concludes with the battle of Waterloo, and is mainly intended as a preliminary study to the history of Belgium in the 19th century, first as a portion of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and secondly as an independent state.
It is for this reason that I have employed the name Belgium as applying to the Low Countries or Netherlands before the name came into use at the Waterloo period when projects of independence were freely entertained, and before it was formally adopted for the country after the revolution of 1830. In its adjectival form Belgic or Belgian, the name goes back to early mediaeval history, which thus handed on the language of Caesar to modern times. If a final reason is needed for the use of the term Belgium before it was coined, the plea of convenience must be urged. It is short, and concise as separating the ten (now nine) Provinces of the South from the seven Provinces of the North that constitute the present Kingdom of the Netherlands, which we call Holland.

This Book contains;

CHAPTER V. The Decline of Feudalism.
CHAPTER VI. The Growth of the Communes.
CHAPTER VII The Communes lose Political Power.
CHAPTER VIII. The House of Burgundy.

The History of Belgium, Part I Caesar to Waterloo No. 2 already corrected the strange character from OCR document. You will enjoy reading this Western European Story in Kindle edition

The Congo Free State: The History and Legacy of the Colony Established by King Leopold II of Belgium

By Charles River Editors

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (48 pages)

The Congo Free State: The History and Legacy of the Colony Established by King Leopold II of Belgium
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*Includes pictures
*Includes contemporary accounts of the Congo Free State
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
"I do not want to risk...losing a fine chance to secure for ourselves a slice of this magnificent African cake." - King Leopold II of Belgium
King Leopold II of Belgium emerges from the pages of history as a curious character. He was a member of a privileged clique of European monarchs, bereft of power but rich, indulgent, and indolent. Leopold certainly availed himself of all the pleasures of court life, but he was also shrewd, astonishingly competent, and avaricious to an almost unimaginable degree. His initial interest in foreign real estate was imperial, insofar as he desired on behalf of Belgium the main accoutrements of a first-rate power, which were, of course, foreign estates and colonies. He was, however, unable to move the Belgian parliament to act in accordance, the conservative belief perhaps being that Belgium could not afford to compete on that level. Belgium was a small European nation, existing between major and, at times, belligerent powers, and as such, it quietly went about its business with a determination not to rock the European boat.
Displaying enormous ability and a masterful grasp of diplomatic maneuver, Leopold was able to secure primary rights over the territory of the Congo River catchment, a portion of the globe more than three times the size of France. By any standards, this was a monumental coup, and by the time the other European powers woke up to precisely what was underway, it was too late the arrest the momentum.
Of all the issues on the agenda as delegates gathered in Berlin in 1884, foremost was the Congo question. The matter was debated, and although deeply troubled by the potential consequences, recognition was eventually afforded to Leopold’s claim to the Congo. And so, the Congo Free State came into being, a private fiefdom of Leopold II of Belgium and arguably one of the most cynical and exploitative colonial regimes across the European spectrum. The truth of this would not immediately come to light, and the high-minded proclamations that accompanied the formation of Leopold’s colony were taken at face value. However, it was of profound importance was to ensure that nothing like it could happen again, and central to the agenda of the conference, which lasted almost a year, was to establish certain ground rules governing the future European partition of Africa.
Of these, three are most noteworthy. The first was that the annexation of any territory in Africa by any European power would not be formally recognized without a clear display of effective occupation and administration. Second, no such annexation could proceed without a formal request for protection on the part of an indigenous leader or monarch responsible for that territory. Such a plea for protection would be required to be submitted to treaty and be ascribed with the seal, mark, or signature of that king. The third rule, which could perhaps be better described as a convention, required that in the event of a European war, the territories, protectorates, and colonies acquired under the terms of the conference’s General Act would remain neutral.
The Congo Free State: The History and Legacy of the Colony Established by King Leopold II of Belgium chronicles the turbulent history of the Belgian colony. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Congo Free State like never before.

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.


 
 
 

 
 
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