Belgium Brief History

Over the past two millennia, the area that Belgium now occupies has undergone significant demographic, political and cultural changes. The first well-documented population movement was the conquest of the region by the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, followed in the 5th century by the Germanic Franks.

These established the Merovingian Kingdom, which became the Carolingian Empire in the 8th century. During the Middle Ages, the Netherlands was fragmented into small feudal states. Most of them were united during the 14th and 15th centuries with the House of Burgundy, forming the Burgundian Netherlands. These states gained the statute of autonomy in the 15th century and were known since then as the Seventeen Provinces. On January 14, 1526 by the Treaty of Madrid, France renounced its rights over Flanders, in favor of the Hispanics.

According to localcollegeexplorer, the history of Belgium can be distinguished from that of the Netherlands since the 16th century. The Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648) led to the division of the Seventeen Provinces into the United Provinces to the north and the South Netherlands to the south. The southern provinces were successively ruled by the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs.

Until the independence of Belgium, the Southern Netherlands was a territory highly coveted by the conquerors, and was the backdrop for most of the Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Following the 1794 Campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Netherlands – which included territories that had never been under Habsburg rule, such as the Bishopric of Liege – were invaded by France, ending Spanish and Austrian rule in the region. The reunification of the Netherlands as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands took place at the end of the French Empire, in 1815.

The Belgian Revolution of 1830 led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic and neutral Belgium, under a provisional government. Since the installation of Leopold I as king in 1831, Belgium has been a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Between independence and World War II, the democratic system evolved from an oligarchy characterized by two main parties, the Catholics and the Liberals, to a universal suffrage system that has included a third, the Labor Party, and a strong role for the unions.

Originally, French, which was the language of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, was the official language. Since then, the country has developed a bilingual system in Dutch and French.

At the Berlin Conference of 1885 it was agreed to hand over the Congo to King Leopold II as a private possession, called the Congo Free State.

In 1908 it was ceded to Belgium as a colony, and was renamed the Belgian Congo. Belgium’s neutrality was broken in 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium as part of the Schlieffen Plan. The former German colonies of Rwanda and Urundi – which are now Rwanda and Burundi – were occupied by the Belgian Congo in 1916.

The League of Nations transferred them to Belgium in 1924. Belgium was invaded again by Germany in 1940, during the Blitzkrieg. It was occupied until the winter of 1944 – 1945, when it was liberated by the Allied troops.

The Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960, during the Congo Crisis, while Rwanda – Urundi gained independence in 1962.

During the 20th century, and especially since the Second World War, the history of Belgium has been increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main communities. This period has seen an increase in intercommunal tensions, and the Belgian state union has come under scrutiny.

Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, the regionalization of the unitary state led to the establishment of a federal system structured in three levels, the creation of language communities and regional governments, and the ratification of an agreement designed to minimize linguistic tensions. Today these federated entities hold more legislative power than the national bicameral parliament, while the national government still controls almost all tax collection, about 80% of the finances of community and regional governments, and 100% of social security..


The 18 of February of 2011 they gathered in front of the museum devoted to René Magritte in Brussels, a thousand Flemish students and francophones to protest 250 days without government (which was a world record), the result of the division existing in higher political spheres of the country. The same situation occurred in other regions of the kingdom.

The protests of political content in Belgium emerged under an extravagant tone with the practice of stripteases and calls for sexual abstinence or the interruption of male shaving, until the Francophone and Flemish parties agreed on institutional reform. Young people who participated in the demonstrations called the movement the French fry revolution [1] .

Terrorist attacks

The 22 of March of 2016 occur a series of terrorist attacks in Belgium when their capital Brussels was shaken by two coordinated attacks that included two explosions at Zaventem airport, and an hour later another explosion occurred in the central station Metro Maalbeek, also in the Belgian capital. The terrorist attacks left 35 dead and 270 wounded [2] .

Belgium Brief History

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