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Europe >> Belgium >> History of Belgium

History of Belgium

With neighbors like France, Germany and England, Belgium couldn’t help but make history. Constantly invaded by its bullying neighbours – first by the tribes of Germany and later ruled by the French duke of Burgundy during the 14th century, Belgium enjoyed its golden days of glory under the latter’s regime. Art and literature flourished, as did trade and commerce. Antwerp in particular emerged as a crucial port through the Flemish cloth trade. However, in the centuries that followed, the Spaniards invaded Belgium, and this somewhat stifled the country’s quest for prosperity. Christianity had been infused in the Belgians, starting with the 7th century, and the Catholic enforcement by the Spaniards did not go down too well with the people, leading to much unrest and revolt against the rule.

A full scale war erupted in 1568, fought by all the Low Countries under Spanish rule. The revolt lasted almost a century, and treaties, political unifications and divisions took up another 100 years or so. In 1815 the famous Battle of Waterloo took place here where Napolean suffered defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington. By 1830, Belgium was recognized as an independent state by all its neighbours.

In close coordination with countries like Luxembourg, Belgium maintained a neutral stand in the years to come. But the insistent German armies still invaded the country during World War I, and again in 1940 – with the acquiescence of King Leopold III.

After the Axis defeat, Leopold was executed, but the people willingly accepted his first born, Baudoin, as their emperor. Baudoin lived to serve as head of state till as recently as 1993, and was then succeeded by the current monarch King Albert II.


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