The history of Belgium as an independent state has less than two centuries – it appeared on the map of Europe only in 1831. However, the territory on which the country is located has been known and inhabited since ancient times – back in 57 BC, Julius Caesar, having annexed it to the Roman Empire, called his new province Gallia Belgica. After the collapse of the Great Empire, power over the territory passed to the Germanic tribes, who owned it until the 8th century.
After the weakening of German influence, in the 9th-10th centuries, a period of feudal fragmentation began on the Belgian lands, notable, however, for the fact that it was at this time that the main cities of the country – Ghent, Bruges, Brussels and some others – were founded.
The next milestone was the formation of the Burgundian Empire on the site of modern Belgium at the turn of the 14th-15th centuries due to the support of the local population of England in the Hundred Years War against France. The heyday of this small state lasted for a century and a half and was accompanied by a noticeable cultural upsurge – painting reached new heights in the works of many masters such as Robert Campin and the van Eyck brothers. In the middle of the 16th century, the golden times of the Empire ended – due to the clash of Spanish Catholicism with Protestantism traditional in the north of Europe, it split into two states – the Spanish Netherlands in the south and the United Provinces in the north. The economic consequences were even more deplorable – the ports of Antwerp and Ghent were excluded from industrial trade for a long time, losing their role to the Dutch Amsterdam. Check a2zdirectory for old history of Belgium.
Until the thirties of the 19th century, the territory of Belgium was mainly the arena of hostilities – the strengthened France was very interested in these lands, however, like its neighbors. Napoleon suffered his last military defeat here – in the Battle of Waterloo, located near Brussels, after which Belgium was included in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
However, this did not last long. In 1830, an uprising rises in Brussels, which quickly covers the whole country, and already on January 20, 1831, Belgium becomes an independent state. Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg from Gotha becomes the national symbol of Belgium. He was an acceptable figure for the French and British and became King of the Belgians on July 21, 1831 under the name of Leopold I. According to the plan of the leading European powers, Belgium was to become “an independent and forever neutral state.”
Until the beginning of the 20th century, the newly-made state noticeably strengthened its economy – trade routes through Antwerp were opened again, and Belgium also had its own colony in Africa – the Belgian Congo. In addition, the national question was also resolved – In 1898, a law was passed confirming the principle of “bilingualism”, after which the texts of laws, inscriptions on postage and revenue stamps, banknotes and coins appeared in two languages – Walloon and French.
In the First World War, Belgium was quickly captured by the Germans, refusing to obey the terms of the ultimatum, according to which it was required to let the Kaiser’s army to the French borders. After the defeat of Germany, according to the Treaty of Versailles, the eastern districts of Eupen and Malmedy were returned to Belgium,
The Second World War began for Belgium in a similar way – the country’s territory was completely occupied in less than a month. However, unlike the First World War, during the four years of occupation, the Belgian economy suffered less damage – and after the end of the war it was quickly restored with the help of American and Canadian loans. A much stronger blow was struck in 1960 – the declaration of independence by Zaire (Belgian Congo) severely undermined the country’s economy.
This crisis aggravated the contradictions between the Flemings and the Walloons so much that the leaders of the socialists proposed that the unitary state of Belgium should be replaced by a free federation of three regions – Flanders, Wallonia and the area around Brussels. And so it happened, but national tension did not subside completely.
At present, Belgium is the political center of the united Europe (European Union), in addition, the headquarters of NATO is located here, which determines the image of the country – the “capital of Europe”.