In ancient times, the Celtic tribe Belga lived on the territory of modern Belgium, which was conquered by the Roman emperor Caesar (in 57 BC). This region became part of two Roman provinces: Germania Inferior (with its center in Cologne) and Second Belgium (in Reims). During the early Middle Ages, it became the core of the Frankish state. Later (9th-10th centuries), as a result of the division of the Carolingian possessions, these lands were divided along the Scheldt River into the western part (Flanders), which went to France, and the eastern part, went to Lorraine, nominally subordinate to the German Empire. Already in the 12-13 centuries. According to historyaah, Flanders and Brabant became the most economically developed regions of Europe. Almost the entire urban population was employed in the production of woolen cloth and fabrics, which were supplied to world markets. The main center of crafts and trade in the 15th century. becomes Antwerp.
In the 16th-18th centuries Belgium (part of the Netherlands) became part of the Spanish monarchy. Constant opposition to foreign domination, which often took the form of an armed uprising, did not prevent, however, the gradual formation of a new capitalist image. New branches of production also arose: lace, silk, glass. In the valleys of the rivers Meuse and Sambre, where the development of coal deposits began, metallurgy and metalworking began to develop. It was during these years that Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire with its vast European and overseas possessions, turned Brussels into the unofficial capital of his vast state, which lasted until 1550.
As part of the War of the “Spanish Succession” (1701-14), Belgium (as part of the “Spanish Netherlands”) was ceded to the Austrian Habsburg Empire. But the struggle against foreign domination did not stop. In the beginning. In 1789, an armed uprising broke out against Austrian rule (the so-called Brabant Revolution). In January 1790, a national congress of nine provinces proclaimed the independence of the United States of Belgium. However, this period in the history of the country did not last long. After the defeat of the Austrian Empire in the war with France, this territory came under French rule (1795-1814). The fall of the Napoleonic Empire did not, however, lead to the re-establishment of an independent Belgium. By the final act of the Congress of Vienna (June 1815), it was united with Holland to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, headed by the Dutch King William I. See ehistorylib for more about Belgium history.
The new alliance proved short-lived. The interests of the Belgian industrialists, who needed to be protected by protective duties, came into conflict with the aspirations of the Dutch merchants and farmers, who demanded “free trade”. In the new state, the rights of the Belgians were infringed in every possible way. In August 1830, an armed uprising broke out in Brussels against Dutch rule. After a week of fighting in the streets of the city, the Dutch troops were forced to retreat. In November 1830 the National Congress of Provinces again declared the independence of Belgium. In December 1830 the London Conference of 5 leading European states recognized this declaration, in January 1831 Belgium proclaimed eternal neutrality.
The conquest of state independence contributed to the rapid transformation of the country into one of the most industrially developed European states (metallurgy, metalworking, heavy engineering, chemical production). This was facilitated by the presence of natural resources (mainly coking coal) and the mass of free capital accumulated as a result of extensive foreign trade, as well as income from colonial possessions (primarily the Belgian Congo in Africa).
During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Belgium, despite internationally recognized neutrality, was twice occupied by German troops. But each time after the defeat of Germany, which was achieved by the allied powers of the anti-German coalition, the country managed to relatively quickly restore its economy and even play a particularly important role in the economic revival of the entire Western European region. The Belgian heavy industry (coal, metallurgical, machine-building) during these periods made the most of the advantages of its geostrategic position (“golden gate of Europe”).
Even before the end of World War II, Belgium was one of the initiators of the creation of the first intercountry European association, the Benelux (in 1944), which included three countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg).
This was followed by the formation of the first sectoral European Coal and Steel Community (1951). Both of these organizations were, as it were, the forerunners of the European Union (1957). Brussels is now the capital of an ever-expanding EU. Modern Belgium has a completely unique role as an integration mediator. The peculiar experience of centuries of coexistence gained by the Belgians, who speak Dutch, French and German, contributed to the emergence of a remarkable ability to find compromises and sound thinking.
It is no coincidence that most of the prominent Belgian public figures who gained worldwide fame took an active part in the formation of European unity. Such can be considered the leader of the Belgian socialists P. Spaak. In the 1940s-50s. he constantly headed the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country.
More than 100 years ago, the famous Belgian entrepreneur E. Solvay first proposed a plan for the integration of the European economy. He is also considered the founder of the concept of “socially oriented capitalism”, which later became widespread in European business. In con. 1990s Belgium, according to many international experts, gave Europe another extraordinary public figure. Such is the leader of the Flemish liberal democrats G. Verhofstadt, who has been heading the Belgian Council of Ministers for 5 years (since June 1999). He substantiated and put forward as the most important national strategic goal giving the process of European integration a permanent character, because only in these conditions does a small country get its voice in solving global problems.
During the period of state independence of Belgium, its borders did not undergo significant changes. However, its area slightly increased twice. In 1839, more than half of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and approx. half of the Dutch province of Limburg (the Belgian provinces with similar names were formed on their basis). In 1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I, Belgium received two small German districts (Eupen and Malmedy), which were included in the Belgian province of Liege.