|Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of BE and its meanings of Belgium.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and part of northern
France together form the Netherlands, which shared a common
destiny until 1579. (See Netherlands). The boundaries of
where Latin and German were spoken in Europe were at the
same time the borders of the Roman Empire, which divided the
Netherlands into two.
The conclusion of the Arras Union between the Catholic
provinces of Artois and Hainaut in 1579 enabled Spain to
resume the war against the Protestant Dutch. The Utrecht
peace treaty, signed in 1713, led the southern provinces -
Artois, Antwerp, Brabant, Hainaut, Flanders, Liège and Namur
- as well as Luxemburg under Charles the 6th, to take over
the German-Roman Empire from the Austrian branch of the
Habsburg royal house.
The region's economy was based on the manufacture and
trade of textiles, the extent of which led to a huge
demographic growth. Coincidence in the interests of
landowners and producers, united by the high concentration
of weavers, facilitated industrialization. In Ghent, Antwerp
and Tournai, factories emerged with more than 100 employees
and extremely low wages.
Even before the French Revolution, the Austrian royal
house tried to introduce certain liberalization measures,
but hesitated because of the conservative uprising in 1789.
Napoleon invaded the area in 1794, abolished the autonomy
and the privileges of the local nobility, while stimulating
the industrial revolution. At the fall of Napoleon in 1814,
the European superpowers forced a "merger" of the southern
and northern regions, but the southern provinces, where some
form of independent identity had been obtained, were not
prepared to submit to the Netherlands.
In 1830, the citizens of Brussels took up arms against
the Dutch authorities. The conflict spread, and the great
powers recognized the independence of the southern provinces
- and from that point on the provinces were called Belgium.
Parliament adopted a parliamentary monarchy as the governing
body, with a constituency of property owners. The duchies of
Limburg and Luxemburg are divided between Belgium and the
At the end of the 19th century, workers demanded the
right to vote and better working conditions. Following
violent clashes, the government passed laws granting the
right to housing and the right to work - the laws were
introduced especially to improve the conditions for women
and children. Parliament introduced a new constitution, and
in 1893 general suffrage was introduced, albeit in a
somewhat moderate form.
As leader of a group of investors, King Leopold financed
the 2nd expedition to the Congo between 1880 and 1885, which
was converted into his private enclave. The miserable
economic administration, coupled with widespread protests by
the European superpowers against the gross repression of the
indigenous African population, forced the Belgian
authorities to declare the Congo a Belgian colony in 1908.
This ended the worst attacks, but both the Belgian
authorities, as well as the church and the Belgian traders
increased their influence in the area over the following
At the completion of the rail link between Matadi and
Leopoldville, present-day Kinshasa, Belgian business leaders
and investors requested that the land be annexed, which
happened in 1908. The colony's vast natural wealth was
subject to the army's protection, while the African people
were subjected to the worst of the abuses.
Brussels, Dutch Brussels, nicknamed the heart of Europe, the capital of
Belgium and one of the country's three regions. The city is located by Senne, a
tributary to Schelde, as well as by the Brussels-Charleroi and Brussels-Rupel
canals. The Capital Region is divided into 19 municipalities and has approximately 1.1
million residents (2010). However, the functional urban region is far larger
than this area. The languages are French and Dutch.
Brussels is mentioned for the first time in the late 600-h. such as
Bruocsella. The city originated on an island in the river Senne around a castle,
as in 1000-t. moved up a ridge; soon after, both the new castle and the
commercial square were surrounded by city walls. In the following centuries,
Brussels became one of the most important cities in the Duchy of Brabant,
because the Bruges-Cologne trade route passed through the city and because of
the local manufacture of clothing and luxury goods. Then the Netherlands in the
1400's. gathered, Brussels became a form of capital, and many nobles had homes
here. That time was a highlight of political and artistic terms, and the city
became internationally known for its pictorial weaving and lace. During the
Dutch rebellion against Spain, Brussels was under Calvinist rule from 1578, but
was conquered by the Spaniards in 1585. As the capital of the Spanish, later
Austrian Netherlands, Brussels became several times in the 1600's and 1700's.
conquered by the French. The city was the center of the Belgian Revolution in
1830 and became the capital of the new state of Belgium. Like the country, the
city became wealthy in the 1800's. and grew strongly. The city walls were
replaced by boulevards and the city became the center of the new railway
During both World War 1 and World War II, the city was occupied by Germany,
but no major destruction happened. Brussels lies north of the Franco-Dutch
language border and was originally a Flemish-speaking city, but eventually
gained a French-speaking majority. In 1932, the capital gained bilingual status,
but the language problems did not cease; they have been a fiery political issue
in local and national politics since 1960. However, the position of the European
capital and the elevation in 1988 to one of Belgium's three regions has given
the city a new political dimension.
A football match at the city's Heysel Stadium between Juventus and Liverpool
FC in 1985 ended in a disaster due to English hooligans' assault on Italian
spectators. There were 39 killed and approximately 400 wounded. The stadium, which was
remodeled into both the athletics and soccer arena, was reopened in 1995 as King
Business and population
In Brussels, NATO and the West Union headquarters and many of the
institutions are located under the EU; the Commission, the Council and
Parliament, which hold an annual meeting here. The city is also the headquarters
of many multinational companies, which is why employment is concentrated in
lobbying, administration and service. Brussels has a Dutch- and a
French-language university (1832 and 1970), other colleges and many cultural
institutions. The industry (mechanical, electrical, textile and chemical
industry) is around the canals and along the approach roads.
A significant proportion of the working people live outside the capital, and
during peak hours there are often serious traffic problems despite an extensive
motorway and tunnel system, wide access roads and two motorway routes. Public
transport is still under development, and a subway network, whose first line was
inaugurated in 1976, serves large parts of the city.
Since the mid-1950's, Brussels has had a strong immigration; over a quarter of
the population are foreigners. These are the staff of international institutions
and companies with families most often living in the suburbs, and partly of
Mediterranean migrants, who mainly live in the inner city; in several
municipalities, these two groups make up half the population.
Although Brussels is completely surrounded by the Dutch-speaking region of
Flanders, 70-80% of its residents speak French. In recent years, this has
given rise to serious political problems as the city grows and the move to
suburban municipalities whose Flemish status was threatened. According to
Flemish requirements, the boundaries of the bilingual metropolitan region have
therefore been laid down by law, although several areas are in recent years
The western and middle part of the pentagonal inner city, called Ville Basse
(the low city), has industrial and commercial districts. Here lies the medieval
marketplace Grand 'Place, one of Europe's most beautiful plazas, dominated by
the Gothic City Hall (1402-50) with a 97m high tower; The square is also
surrounded by beautifully decorated low-rise buildings from around 1700 and by
the great neo-Gothic Maison du Roi, dating from the 1800's. and houses the city
museum. Nearby is the small fountain Manneken-Pis from 1619. The inner city also
houses the park Parc de Brussels between the royal palace (completely rebuilt
1904) and the Belgian federal parliament (late 1700's) and the Ministry of State.
East of the Parc de Brussels lies the European Quarter with the buildings of the
European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European
Parliament. the famous Berlaymont building. The huge court house, Palais de
Justice, built 1866-83 by architect Joseph Poelaert, is located in the southern
part, where also the beautiful Sablon quarter with the Egmont Palace, several
museums and the classicist Place Royale, the center of "the Austrian quarter"
from late 1700-t.
On the slope towards Ville Haute (the high city) with the government and
administration district is the large Gothic cathedral Saints-Michel-et-Gudule
(1200-1400-t.), The Palais des beaux-arts concert and exhibition building and
the Bibliothèque royale with rich collections of i.e. illuminated manuscripts.
The 1958 World Exhibition, whose landmark Atomium is still a tourist attraction,
and in particular the city's status as an EU capital, has led to a lot of
construction, which has greatly changed the cityscape. Great emphasis is placed
on preserving and beautifying older neighborhoods, including the many art
nouveau buildings by architects like Victor Horta.
Musée d'art ancien in central Brussels contains fine collections of older
Flemish art with works of art, among others. Rogier van der Weyden and Pieter
Bruegel, some works by Rubens as well as foreign masterpieces.