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Formation of Nations (All European Nations)

Belgium/Belgians: Development of a Nation
How Belgium became Belgium, and how the Belgians became Belgian.

BelgiumHow Belgians as a people, and the country of Belgium as a nation-state, evolved and materialized into current form, in terms of ancestral bloodlines, language, borders, culture, and even how they received their name.


Ancestral Background
Development of Language
Formation of Borders
Etymology (How Name Received)
Culture
Belgium in 2008

 

Belgian Ancestral Background:

  1. Same as Dutch people until 1648.
  2. During 16th century, most in the Northern Netherlands would become Protestant, fostering dissatisfaction with Catholic rule of Habsburg Spain. They would begin to revolt in 1568, beginning the 80-Years War with Spain, also known as the Dutch War of Independence. The Dutch cemented their distinct identity and nationality when they achieved independence from Holy Roman EmpireSpain during 80-Years War ending in 1648. The Protestant Dutch in the north formed the independent United Provinces. The Southern Dutch in Belgium and Luxembourg remained under Spanish rule (as the "Spanish Netherlands"), due to their less enthusiastic and less effective revolts. The Catholic Southern Dutch did not have the same religious conviction as the Protestant Dutch in the north. This finalized the separation between the Dutch and those in modern Belgium and Luxembourg from that point forward. With this, the nationality of those considered "Belgian" was largely set.

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Development of Belgian Language:

  1. See Dutch Language.
  2. After Napoleon conquered and annexed Belgium (known as Austrian Netherlands at the time), a substantial French population settled in modern Belgium. From that time forth, Belgium would feature a significant French population, making French the majority language, dominating southern Belgium. Dutch is still prevalent in the north.

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Formation of Belgian Borders:

  1. Netherlands French puppet statesGermanic peoples that settled around the modern Netherlands and Belgium were ancestors to the Franks and Dutch. Franks migrated into Gaul in the 5th century, facilitating the collapse of the Roman Empire, and becoming the ruling class in Gaul (modern France). Those that remained behind became the ancestors to the Dutch (northern) and Belgians (to the south).
  2. German lands, including modern Netherlands, were conquered by the Franks in the 8th century.
  3. Separated by other Germanic peoples by the division of the Frankish Kingdom in 843, but realigned with them when most of the region was ceded to the Eastern Realm in 870 (with exception of County of Flanders, which went to the Western Realm – West Francia). At this point, the predecessors to the Dutch were reunited the Germanics. Their territory became known as the “Low Counties” (comprised of modern Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg). Over time, the Low Counties began to view themselves as a distinct people within the larger Germanic nation, due to their location at the northwestern fringe of the main body of Germans.
  4. The Eastern Realm became decentralized in 888, becoming a collection of affiliated German duchies.
  5. The Holy Roman Empire was established in 953.
  6. Between 1000 and 1433, those in the “Burgundian Netherlands” (a.k.a. "Low Counties", comprised of modern Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) began to operate independently from the Holy Roman Empire. They began to refer to themselves as “Dutch”, the English pronunciation for their German language (Deutsch). The County of Flanders was joined to Netherlands through marriage in 1384.
  7. The Dutch would come under Habsburg Austrian rule in 1477, before being annexed by Habsburg Spain in 1556 (as a result of division of Habsburg empire between heirs). By now, the Dutch were considered a separate nationality from the pan-German nation (which were broken into various principalities under the Holy Roman Empire banner).
  8. During 16th century, most in the Northern Netherlands would become Protestant, fostering dissatisfaction with Catholic rule of Habsburg Spain. They would begin to revolt in 1568, beginning the 80-Years War with Spain, also known as the Dutch War of Independence. The Dutch cemented their distinct identity and nationality when they achieved independence from Spain during 80-Years War ending in 1648. The Protestant Dutch in the north formed the independent United Provinces. The Southern Dutch in Belgium and Luxembourg remained under Spanish rule (as the "Spanish Netherlands"), due to their less enthusiastic and less effective revolts. The Catholic Southern Dutch did not have the same religious conviction as the Protestant Dutch in the north. This finalized the separation between the Dutch and those in modern Belgium and Luxembourg from that point forward.
  9. The Spanish Netherlands would later fall under Austrian rule again in 1714, after Spain's defeat in the War of Spanish Succession, becoming the Austrian Netherlands.
  10. Napoleonic France invaded and conquered the Austrian Netherlands, along with the independent Dutch United Provinces in 1795, consolidating both Netherlands nations into the Batavian Republic. In 1806, when the Northern and Southern Dutch nations failed to mesh, the Southern portion (Belgium) was annexed directly into France, while the northern portion was reconstituted into the Kingdom of Holland.
  11. After the Napoleonic Wars, Belgium and Luxembourg were enjoined with the Netherlands by the European Powers (such as United Kingdom, Russia and Prussia) in 1815, forming the manufactured Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  12. Belgium separated to form the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, forming the modern boundaries of both Netherlands and Belgium. During the ensuing Belgian War of Independence (1830-39), Belgium gained possession of more than half of Luxembourg's territory, achieving its modern borders.

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Etymology (How Name Received):

Upon gaining independence (1830), Belgians decide not to take upon themselves the same name as those they just gained independence from, despite the fact they had always been considered Dutch, or the Netherlands (Southern/Spanish/Austrian Netherlands). They instead took upon themselves the historic name of the region before the Germanic people migrated there. Before the Germanic migrations inside Roman borders, a substantial portion of modern Belgium was part of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, named after the Celtic tribe that presided in the region. The Belgium name was adapted from this in 1830.

 

Belgian Culture:

Unlike its Dutch relatives to the north (Netherlands), the "Southern Netherlands" (modern Belgium) retained its strong Catholic heritage, rather than converting to Protestantism during the Protestant Reformation. This proved to be a major factor in the division of the Netherlands in the 17th century, as Protestant Netherlands were far more motivated to break free from Catholic Spain.

The tale of the two Netherlands (both considered Dutch) evolved over the next two centuries, culminating in the re-combining of the two nations into the Kingdom of the Netherlands following the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. However, the Catholic-dominated southern Dutch could not tolerate following the lead of the Protestant Dutch under the same banner. Tensions reached a boiling point in 1830, leading to the War of Belgian Independence.

Belgium won its independence in 1839, with anti-Dutch sentiment serving as a cementing agent for the newly-formed nation, which was fairly diverse in its own right. It consisted of a formidable Dutch and French population, along with a significant German contingency.

However, over the years, the rivalry and animosity with the Netherlands diminished, exploiting the lack of natural cohesion within the country. As a result, sectarian lines have been established, with the Belgian "Dutch" (Dutch language speakers) occupying the north, French-speaking "French Belgians" (rooted from French immigrants from the Napoleonic rule) dominating the south, along with a substantial German population in the east. Each group has remained entrenched within their cultural heritages.

Thanks to stability and prosperity, sectarian tensions have been kept in check. Belgian rests along the natural geographical highway intersecting Germany and France (east to west), while also serving as a hub between north and south. As a result, the transportation industry has flourished in Belgium. Belgium has also placed a premium on education, positioned among the top tier in the world in education and income per capita.

 

Belgian in 2008:

Economy: Advanced capitalistic economy. Highly integrated into the pan-European market, since dependent on imports and international trade. Relatively few natural resources, forcing significant trade deficit, but central location makes it a natural hub for trade. Economy somewhat sluggish since worldwide slowdown from 2001-2003.
Government: Constitutional monarchy (democracy with monarch still in place).
Religion: Roman Catholic 75%, most of remaining 25% Protestant. Still very secular, but Roman Catholicism has engendered greater religiosity throughout Europe. Nations dominated by Catholicism like Belgium tend to be a little more religious (although still very secular trend). Survey: 43% believe in God, 29% in some other form of intelligent design, 27% atheist/agnostic.
Demographics: 92% Belgian, highly homogenous. 60% speak Dutch (mostly northern half), 40% French (mostly southern half), as French began settling in the south beginning with the Napoleonic era, and afterward. Belgium now somewhat divided between these sectarian lines, resulting in amendments to the constitution allowing regional autonomy, adding a federalist element to government.
Foreign Policy: Part of NATO
Population: 10,403,951 (2008)

 
Formation of Nations (All European Nations)

 

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