History of Belgium

Brief history of Belgium summarized

A brief and pleasant walk through the history of Belgium, a country without its own language, adopting Flemish and French.

Ancient Belgium

The Romans conquered Belgium in 57 BC and it became part of the Roman Empire as Gallia Belgica. However, in the 5th century AD, Roman rule collapsed and the Franks conquered Belgium. Its first capital was at Tournai. In the 9th century the Franks ruled most of Western Europe. However, his empire was also broken.

Then, in the 11th century, Flanders (roughly modern Belgium) emerged as a powerful semi-independent kingdom. It also became prosperous. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the woolen industry in Belgium boomed (the cloth was made using wool imported from England).

Trade with France, Germany, Spain and Italy has also continued. Flemish (Belgian) cities like Bruges, Ghent and Ypres flourished.

However, the rich and powerful cities of Belgium came into conflict with the kings of France. The counts of Belgium were vassals of the French king and were often at war with England. However, Belgium was dependent on English wool, and merchants were unwilling to side with the French against the English. Furthermore, the French king hoped to integrate Belgium into his kingdom.

The situation reached its climax in 1302 when the craftsmen of Bruges refused to pay a new tax. The French king sent soldiers to garrison the city. However, Pieter De Coninck, a weaver, and Jan Breydel, a butcher, led a rebellion on May 18, 1302.

They killed anyone who couldn’t pronounce the Flemish words schild end vriend. The Bruges uprising spread to the rest of Belgium and a French army was sent to crush it.

However, Belgian peasants and artisans crushed the French at the Battle of the Golden Spurs on July 11, 1302. (The Belgians disguised a swamp with thickets, and the French knights fell for it.) Later, the Belgians collected 600 gold spurs. After the battle, France was forced to recognize the independence of Flanders.

In the 14th century, an area of ​​what is now called Burgundy was a powerful kingdom. In 1377 the Duke of Burgundy married Margaret of Flanders, the heiress of the Count of Flanders. After the count’s death in 1385, Flanders became part of the Burgundian territory.

Under Burgundian rule, trade continued to flourish. It was also a great time of achievement in art with such famous artists as Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441) and Hans Memling (1440-1494). Also, the University of Leuven was founded in 1425.

Belgium in the Modern Age

Then, in 1477, Maria, heir to the Duke of Burgundy, married Maximilian of Austria. So Belgium came under Austrian rule. Maximilian’s grandson Charles I became ruler of Spain, as well as Austria and Belgium. However, in 1566 that huge kingdom was divided. Charles’s son Philip became king of Spain and Belgium. So Belgium came under Spanish rule.

Meanwhile, in the 16th century, all of Europe was shaken by the Protestant Reformation, but most people in Belgium remained Catholic. Then, at the end of the 17th century, the European powers fought over Belgium. In 1714, at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, Austria received Belgium.

However, in 1794 the French army occupied Belgium. In 1795 Belgium was annexed by France. The French revolutionaries introduced a series of reforms, but in 1797 they also introduced compulsory military service. The result was a rebellion in 1798, but the French crushed it and remained in control.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Belgium began to industrialize. Coal mining boomed. So did the textiles and metallurgical industries. However, in 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. Later, the great powers redrew the map of Europe. Belgium and the Netherlands were united as one country.

However, the union was never going to work, as Belgium and the Netherlands were too different economically and culturally. On August 25, 1830, the rebellion broke out and at a conference in January 1831 the great powers agreed to recognize Belgian independence.

Modern Belgium

On July 21, 1831 Leopold of Saxe-Coburg became King of Belgium and reigned until 1865. During his reign, Belgium continued to industrialize, but tension between two linguistic groups, the Flemish and the Walloons, increased.

Leopold II reigned from 1865 to 1909. He hoped to make Belgium more powerful, and in 1885 he took control of an area called the Belgian Congo. However, the Africans were treated with appalling cruelty and in 1908 the Belgian government took control away from Leopold. He died in 1909, but Belgium ruled the Congo until 1960.

Belgium suffered greatly during the two world wars. In 1914 Belgium was neutral, but the Germans invaded anyway. The Belgians resisted valiantly, but almost all of their country was overrun and brutalized by the Germans.

Belgium was neutral again in 1940, but once again the Germans invaded the country. However, the Allies liberated Brussels on September 3, 1944. After the war, Belgium was devastated.

However, Belgium soon recovered from World War II and in 1957 was one of the founding members of the EU. Brussels is now the seat of the EU. Furthermore, Belgium joined the euro in 1999. At the end of the 20th century, Belgium became a prosperous society. Television began in Belgium in 1953.

Today Belgium is a prosperous country, although unemployment was 7.3% in 2017. Currently, the population of Belgium is 11.5 million.

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