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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: From the Roman Invasion to the Present Day

By Emile Cammaerts

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (172 pages)

Belgium: From the Roman Invasion to the Present Day
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A History of the Low Countries (Palgrave Essential Histories Series)

By Paul Arblaster

Brand: Palgrave Macmillan
Released: 2012-07-17
Paperback (344 pages)

A History of the Low Countries (Palgrave Essential Histories Series)
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This successful text remains the sole historical survey of the Benelux area to be written in English. Arblaster describes the full sweep of the history of the Low Countries, from Roman frontier provinces to the present day. The new edition has been revised and updated in the light of recent events and scholarship, and brings the story up to 2011.

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.

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

By Bernard Cornwell

Harper Paperbacks
Released: 2016-05-10
Paperback (368 pages)

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles
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#1 Bestseller in the U.K.

From the New York Times bestselling author and master of martial fiction comes the definitive, illustrated history of one of the greatest battles ever fought—a riveting nonfiction chronicle published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s last stand.

On June 18, 1815 the armies of France, Britain and Prussia descended upon a quiet valley south of Brussels. In the previous three days, the French army had beaten the Prussians at Ligny and fought the British to a standstill at Quatre-Bras. The Allies were in retreat. The little village north of where they turned to fight the French army was called Waterloo. The blood-soaked battle to which it gave its name would become a landmark in European history.

In his first work of nonfiction, Bernard Cornwell combines his storytelling skills with a meticulously researched history to give a riveting chronicle of every dramatic moment, from Napoleon’s daring escape from Elba to the smoke and gore of the three battlefields and their aftermath. Through quotes from the letters and diaries of Emperor Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, and the ordinary officers and soldiers, he brings to life how it actually felt to fight those famous battles—as well as the moments of amazing bravery on both sides that left the actual outcome hanging in the balance until the bitter end.

Published to coincide with the battle’s bicentennial in 2015, Waterloo is a tense and gripping story of heroism and tragedy—and of the final battle that determined the fate of nineteenth-century Europe.

History of the Low Countries

Berghahn Books
Released: 2006-06-30
Paperback (536 pages)

History of the Low Countries
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The history of the smaller European countries is rather neglected in the teaching of European history at university level. We are therefore pleased to announce the publication of the first comprehensive history of the Low Countries - in English - from Roman Times to the present. Remaining politically and culturally fragmented, with its inhabitants speaking Dutch, French, Frisian, and German, the Low Countries offer a fascinating picture of European history en miniature. For historical reasons, parts of northern France and western Germany also have to be included in the "Low Countries," a term that must remain both broad and fluid, a convenient label for a region which has seldom, if ever, composed a unified whole. In earlier ages it as even more difficult to the region set parameters, again reflecting Europe as a whole, when tribes and kingdoms stretched across expanses not limited to the present states of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Nevertheless, its parts did demonstrate many common traits and similar developments that differentiated them from surrounding countries and lent them a distinct character. Internationally, the region often served both as a mediator for and a buffer to the surrounding great powers, France, Britain, and Germany; an important role still played today as Belgium and the Netherlands have increasingly become involved in the broader process of European integration, in which they often share the same interest and follow parallel policies. This highly illustrated volume serves as an ideal introduction to the rich history of the Low Countries for students and the generally interested reader alike.

Belgium History, and Tourism: Information on Belgium, Early history, Government, Politics, Culture and Tourism

By Evan Adams

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (156 pages)

Belgium History, and Tourism: Information on Belgium, Early history, Government, Politics, Culture and Tourism
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The Belgian landscape has been a major European battleground for centuries, notably in modern times during the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the 20th century’s two world wars. Given its area and population, Belgium today is one of the most heavily industrialized and urbanized countries in Europe. Culture Any attempt at a general overview of Belgian culture will fall short of the reality, due to the division of the little country into three linguistic groups and the cultural influxes seeping across its borders from the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxembourg

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

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
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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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.


 
 
 

 
 
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