History of Belgium

Belgium as a country only came into being in 1830 making it a very young nation. Belgian history is deeply linked with its neighbours; the Netherlands, France, Germany and Luxembourg. For most of its history the land where present day Belgium is located was often part of a much larger territory such as the Spanish Netherlands or the French Carolingian Empire.

The name ‘Belgium’ was first used by Julius Caesar to refer to a larger area than present day Belgium. The territory he named stretched from Paris to the Rhine and described it as the northeast of Gaul and inhabited by the Belgae tribes, a group who were related to the Celts and the Germanic tribes from across the Rhine.

After the fall of Rome the region was occupied by migrating Germanic tribes including the Franks. During the reign of the Carolingian and Merovingian Empires the land was at the centre of those large empires before it was absorbed by the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.

Belgium’s formation into a single independent country was a result of several events. First, the majority of the territory of the Low Countries was united, mostly by marriage, as the Burgundian Netherlands, which became part of the Hapsburg Empire. Second, as a result of the Eighty years war from 1568 to 1648, the Dutch Republic gained its independence, leaving most of modern Belgium as the remaining Spanish Netherlands, and later the Austrian Netherlands. Third, the parts of modern Belgium that had remained under the Prince-Bishop of Liege were unified administratively with the rest while under the control of the First French Empire. Fourth, after the defeat of Napoleon the region came under Dutch rule, but Belgium gained independence in the 1830 Belgian revolution, giving the state its name and modern borders.

Following independence Belgium was one of the first country’s to embrace the industrial revolution and in the 20th century dabbled with empire having several colonies in Africa. The country was invaded by Germany in both World War Wars with the majority of the vicious fighting taking place in the country. Countless battles and wars have been fought in Belgium giving the country the nickname ‘the cockfighting region of Europe’.

After the war Belgium became one of the founding members of the European Union and NATO and today is the seat of the European parliament making the country a highly important diplomatic region.