country in western Europe
(Redirected from History of Belgium)

Belgium (officially the Kingdom of Belgium; Dutch: Koninkrijk België, German: Königreich Belgien, French: Royaume de Belgique) is a country in Western Europe. Its capital, Brussels, is the home of many organizations including the European Union and NATO. Belgium is bordered by The Netherlands in the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast and France to the south.

Kingdom of Belgium
  • Koninkrijk België  (Dutch)
  • Royaume de Belgique  (French)
  • Königreich Belgien  (German)
Motto: "Eendracht maakt macht" (Dutch)
"L'union fait la force" (French)
"Einigkeit macht stark" (German)
"Unity makes Strength"
Anthem: "La Brabançonne"

Location of  Belgium  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)

Location of Belgium
and largest city
50°51′N 4°21′E / 50.850°N 4.350°E / 50.850; 4.350
Official languagesDutch
Ethnic groups
see Demographics
GovernmentFederal parliamentary
constitutional monarchy[1]
• Monarch
Alexander De Croo
LegislatureFederal Parliament
Chamber of Representatives
(from the Netherlands)
• Declared
October 4, 1830
April 19, 1839
• Total
30,689[2] km2 (11,849 sq mi) (136th)
• Water (%)
0.64 [2]
• January 1, 2022 census
11,584,008 Increase [3] (75th)
• Density
377/km2 (976.4/sq mi) (36th)
GDP (PPP)2016 estimate
• Total
$508.598 billion[4] (38th)
• Per capita
$44,881[4] (20th)
GDP (nominal)2016 estimate
• Total
$470.179 billion[4] (23rd)
• Per capita
$41,491[4] (17th)
Gini (2011)26.3[5]
HDI (2014)Increase 0.890[6]
very high · 21st
CurrencyEuro () (EUR)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+32
ISO 3166 codeBE
  1. The flag's official proportions of 13:15 are rarely seen; proportions of 2:3 or similar are more common.
  2. The Brussels region is the de facto capital, but the City of Brussels municipality is the de jure capital.[7]
  3. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Belgium has an area of 30,689 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi). Around 11.6 million people live in Belgium. It is a founding member of the European Union and is home to its headquarters.

Regions change

There are three regions in Belgium. The regions are mainly based on language and culture. Flanders and Wallonia are both split up into five provinces each.

  • Flanders is the name of the northern half of Belgium, just south of the Netherlands. Most of the people in this region, called the Flemish people, speak Dutch.
  • Wallonia is the name of the southern half of Belgium, just north of France. Here, most of the people, the Walloons, speak French. There is a small part of Wallonia next to the border with Germany where the people speak German.
  • The Brussels-Capital Region, where the capital of Brussels is found, is in the middle of the country, but surrounded by Flanders on all sides. It used to be Dutch-speaking, but today French is mostly spoken, with some Dutch.

The population is about 60% Dutch-speaking, 39% French-speaking, and 1% German-speaking (the so-called Deutschbelgier). To look after all these groups, Belgium has a complex system of government with highly autonomous regions.

History change

The Seventeen Provinces (orange, brown and yellow areas) and the Bishopric of Liège (green)

The name 'Belgium' comes from Gallia Belgica. This was a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul. Before Roman invasion in 100 BC, the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples, lived there.[8] The Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A slow shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to change into the Carolingian Empire.[9] The Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia. They were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor.[9] Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 14th and 15th centuries.[10]

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands. Southern Netherlands were ruled by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs. This made up most of modern Belgium.

After the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries were added into the French First Republic. This ended Austrian rule in the area. Adding back the Low Countries formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. This happened at the end of the First French Empire in 1815.

The Belgian Revolution was in 1830.[11] Leopold became king on July 21 1831. This is now celebrated as Belgium's National Day.[12]

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (1834), by Egide Charles Gustave Wappers, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels
Civil ensign of belgium

The Berlin Conference of 1885 gave control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II. Millions of Congolese people were hurt or killed, mostly to make rubber, and Leopold became very wealthy. In 1908 the Belgian state took control of the colony after a scandal about the deaths.[13][14]

Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. This was part of World War I. The opening months of the war were very bad in Belgium. During the war Belgium took over Ruanda-Urundi (modern-day Rwanda and Burundi). After the War, the Prussian districts of Eupen and Malmedy were added into Belgium in 1925. The country was again invaded by Germany in 1940 and under German control until 1944. After World War II, the people made king Leopold III leave his throne in 1951. This is because they thought he helped the Germans. Belgium joined NATO as a founding member.

In 1960 the Belgian Congo stopped being under Belgian rule.[15] Two years later Ruanda-Urundi also became free.

Geography change

Belgium is next to France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Its total area is 34,143 square kilometers (including sea area).[2] The land area alone is 30,689 km², of which 195 km² or 0.64% are inland and coastal waters.[2] Belgium has three main geographical regions. The coastal plain is in the north-west. The central plateau are part of the Anglo-Belgian Basin. The Ardennes uplands are in the south-east. The Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area at Belgium's southernmost tip, Belgian Lorraine.

The coastal plain is mostly sand dunes and polders. Further inland is a smooth, slowly rising landscape. There are fertile valleys. The hills have many forests. The plateaus of the Ardennes are more rough and rocky. They have caves and small, narrow valleys. Signal de Botrange is the country's highest point at 694 metres (2,277 ft).

Regions change

Belgium is divided into three regions: Flemish Region (Flanders), Walloon Region (Wallonia), and Brussels-Capital Region (Brussels Region or Brussels - also the name of the city):

Region Dutch name French name Capital Largest city Area
(km²) [16]
(2022) [3]
Brussels-Capital Region Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest Région de Bruxelles-Capitale Brussels
(Dutch: Brussel)
(French: Bruxelles)
(German: Brüssel)
Brussels 162 1,222,637
Flanders Vlaanderen Flandre Brussels ¹ Antwerp ¹
(Dutch/German: Antwerpen)
(French: Anvers)
13,626 6,698,876
Wallonia ² Wallonië Wallonie Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
Charleroi 16,901 3,662,495

¹ The city of Brussels does not lie in Flanders Region and therefore cannot be the largest city of this region.

² German name: Wallonie(n): the very eastern part of the Walloon Region is officially German-speaking, the so-called German-speaking Community of Belgium.

Provinces change

Flanders and Wallonia are divided into provinces. Brussels (Region) is not part of any province.

Province Region Dutch name French name Capital Largest city Area
(km²) [16]
(2022) [3]
Antwerp Flanders Antwerpen Anvers Antwerp
(Dutch: Antwerpen)
Antwerp 2,876 1,886,609
East Flanders Flanders Oost-Vlaanderen Flandre-Orientale Ghent
(Dutch: Gent)
(French: Gand)
Ghent 3,007 1,543,865
Flemish Brabant Flanders Vlaams-Brabant Brabant flamand Leuven
(French: Louvain)
Leuven 2,118 1,173,440
Hainaut Wallonia Henegouwen Hainaut Mons
(Dutch: Bergen)
Charleroi 3,813 1,351,127
Liège ¹ Wallonia Luik Liège Liège ¹
(Dutch: Luik)
Liège 3,857 1,110,989
Limburg Flanders Limburg Limbourg Hasselt Hasselt 2,427 885,951
Luxembourg Wallonia Luxemburg Luxembourg Arlon
(Dutch: Aarlen)
(Luxembourgish: Arel)
(Dutch: Bastenaken)
4,459 291,143
Namur Wallonia Namen Namur Namur
(Dutch: Namen)
Namur 3,675 499,454
Walloon Brabant Wallonia Waals-Brabant Brabant wallon Wavre
(Dutch: Waver)
(Dutch: Eigenbrakel)
1,097 409,782
West Flanders Flanders West-Vlaanderen Flandre-Occidentale Bruges
(Dutch: Brugge)
Bruges 3,197 1,209,011

¹ German name: Lüttich - the very eastern part of the province of Liège is officially German-speaking, the so-called German-speaking Community of Belgium.

Climate change

Belgium has a mostly oceanic climate, but the Belgian Ardennes has a continental climate.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Belgium was 41.8 °C (107.2 °F), on 25 July 2019 in Begijnendijk.[17] The lowest temperature ever recorded in Belgium was −30.1 °C (−22.2 °F), on 20 January 1940 in Lesse.[18]

Politics change

Philippe of Belgium, current King.

Since 1993, Belgium is a federal state, divided into three regions and three communities.



It has a system of government known as a constitutional monarchy, meaning that it has a monarch, but that the monarch does not rule the country, and that a government is elected democratically.

Belgium has had its own monarchy since 1831. King Albert II left the throne on July 21, 2013 and the current king is Philippe.

In Belgium, the government is elected. Between mid-2010 and late 2011, after no clear result in the election, Belgium had no official government, until Elio Di Rupo became Prime Minister. Flanders and Wallonia both also have their own regional governments, and there is a notable independence movement in Flanders. Alexander De Croo is currently the Prime Minister.

Military change

The Belgian Armed Forces have about 46,000 active troops. In 2009 the yearly defence budget was $6 billion.[19] There are four parts: Belgian Land Component, or the Army; Belgian Air Component, or the Air Force; Belgian Naval Component, or the Navy; Belgian Medical Component.

Science and technology change

Gerardus Mercator

Adding to science and technology has happened throughout the country's history. cartographer Gerardus Mercator, anatomist Andreas Vesalius, herbalist Rembert Dodoens[20][21][22][23] and mathematician Simon Stevin are among the most influential scientists.[24]

Chemist Ernest Solvay[25] and engineer Zenobe Gramme[26] gave their names to the Solvay process and the Gramme dynamo in the 1860s. Bakelite was formed in 1907–1909 by Leo Baekeland. A major addition to science was also due to a Belgian, Georges Lemaître. He is the one who made the Big Bang theory of the start of the universe in 1927.[27]

Three Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine were awarded to Belgians: Jules Bordet in 1919, Corneille Heymans in 1938 and Albert Claude together with Christian De Duve in 1974. Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.[28] Two Belgian mathematicians have been awarded the Fields Medal: Pierre Deligne in 1978 and Jean Bourgain in 1994.[29][30]

In February 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia without any age limits.[31]

Culture change

Fine arts change

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (inside view), painted 1432 by van Eyck

There have been many additions to painting and architecture. Several examples of major architectural places in Belgium belong to UNESCO's World Heritage List.[32] In the 15th century the religious paintings of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden were important. The 16th century had more styles such as Peter Breughel's landscape paintings and Lambert Lombard's showing of the antique.[33] The style of Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck was strong in the early 17th century in the Southern Netherlands.[34]

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Belgian painters started. These include James Ensor and other artists in the Les XX group, Constant Permeke, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. The sculptor Panamarenko is still a remarkable figure in contemporary art.[35][36] The artist Jan Fabre and the painter Luc Tuymans are other internationally known figures in contemporary art.

Belgian contributions to architecture were also in the 19th and 20th centuries. Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde were major starters of the Art Nouveau style.[37][38]

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were major violinists, such as Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe and Arthur Grumiaux. Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846. The composer César Franck was born in Liège in 1822. Newer music in Belgium is also famous. Jazz musician Toots Thielemans and singer Jacques Brel have made global fame. In rock/pop music, Telex, Front 242, K's Choice, Hooverphonic, Zap Mama, Soulwax and dEUS are well known. In the heavy metal scene, bands like Machiavel, Channel Zero and Enthroned have a worldwide fan-base.[39]

Belgium has several well-known authors, including the poet Emile Verhaeren and novelists Hendrik Conscience, Georges Simenon, Suzanne Lilar and Amélie Nothomb. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1911. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé is the best known of Franco-Belgian comics. Many other major authors, including Peyo, André Franquin, Edgar P. Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen brought the Belgian cartoon strip industry a worldwide fame.[40]

Belgian cinema has brought a number of mainly Flemish novels to life on-screen. Belgian directors include André Delvaux, Stijn Coninx, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Well-known actors include Jan Decleir and Marie Gillain. Successful films include Man Bites Dog and The Alzheimer Affair.[41]

Cuisine change

Brussels waffles, commonly known as Belgian waffles outside of Belgium

Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. French fries were first made in Belgium. The national dishes are "steak and fries with salad", and "mussels with fries".[42] Other local fast food dishes include a Mitraillette. Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Côte d'Or, Guylian, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Corné and Galler are famous.[43] Belgium makes over 1100 varieties of beer.[44][45] The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world's best beer.[46][47] The biggest brewer in the world by volume is Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuven.[48]

Sports change

Kim Clijsters was WTA Player of the Year in 2005 and 2010

Since the 1970s, sports clubs are organised separately by each language community.[49] Association football is one of the most popular sports in both parts of Belgium, together with cycling, tennis, swimming and judo.[50] With five victories in the Tour de France and many other cycling records, Belgian Eddy Merckx is said to be one of the greatest cyclists of all time.[51] Jean-Marie Pfaff, a former Belgian goalkeeper, is said to be one of the greatest in the history of football (soccer).[52] Belgium and The Netherlands hosted the UEFA European Football Championship in 2000. Belgium hosted the 1972 European Football Championships.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both were Player of the Year in the Women's Tennis Association. The Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit hosts the Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, Jacky Ickx, won eight Grands Prix and six 24 Hours of Le Mans. Belgium also has a strong reputation in motocross.[53] Sporting events held each year in Belgium include the Memorial Van Damme athletics competition, the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One, and a number of classic cycle races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège–Bastogne–Liège. The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp.

Related pages change

References change

  1. "Government type: Belgium". The World Factbook. CIA. Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Bodemgebruik, Statbel
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Loop van de bevolking, Statbel
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Belgium". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  5. "Gini coefficient of equivalised disposable income (source: SILC)". Eurostat Data Explorer. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  6. "Human Development Report 2015" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  7. The Belgian Constitution (PDF). Brussels, Belgium: Belgian House of Representatives. May 2014. p. 63. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  8. Bunson, Matthew (1994). Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire (Hardcover 352pp ed.). Facts on File, New York. p. 169. ISBN 0-8160-2135-X. (Paperback 512pp: ISBN 0-8160-3182-7; Revised edition (2002), Hardcover 636pp: ISBN 0-8160-4562-3)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cook (2002), p. 3
  10. Edmundson, George (1922). "Chapter I: The Burgundian Netherlands". History of Holland. The University Press, Cambridge. Republished: Authorama. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  11. Dobbelaere, Karel (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); Voyé, Liliane (Université Catholique de Louvain) (1990). "From Pillar to Postmodernity: The Changing Situation of Religion in Belgium" (PDF). The Allen Review. Online at Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press: S1. Retrieved February 25, 2011. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. "National Day and feast days of Communities and Regions". Belgian Federal Government. Retrieved July 20, 2011.
  13. Meredith, Mark (June 6, 2005). The State of Africa (Hardcover 608pp ed.). Free Press. pp. 95–96(?). ISBN 0-7432-3221-6.
  14. Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges (2002). The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People's History. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-84277-053-5.
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  16. 16.0 16.1 Bodembezetting volgens het Kadasterregister, Statbel
  17. "Zo uitzonderlijk was het gisteren: 41,8 graden in Begijnendijk, vandaag wat minder warm en kans op onweer". July 26, 2019.
  18. "Januari - KMI". Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
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  21. O'Connor, J. J.; Robertson, E. F. (2004). "Simon Stevin". School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  23. Midbon, Mark, University of Wisconsin–Madison (March 24, 2000). "'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang". Commonweal, republished: Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC). pp. 18–19. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  30. O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Jean Bourgain", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews. (Retrieved: November 10, 2011)
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  50. George Wingfield (2008). Charles F. Gritzner (ed.). Belgium. Infobase Publishing. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-0-7910-9670-3.
  51. Majendie, Matt (April 18, 2005). "Great, but there are greater". BBC Sport. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
  52. "Goalkeeping Greats" Retrieved on June 29 2008
  53. Bob Woods (2008). Motocross History: From Local Scrambling to World Championship MX to Freestyle. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7787-3987-6.

Other websites change

  Media related to Belgium at Wikimedia Commons