This is the next posting from us about Belgium’s cultures. Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal monarchy in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU’s headquarters as well as those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.
Belgium has, since the Middle Ages, always been one of the richest and most developed regions in the world. Just look at the historic churches, town halls, and pieces of art, in cities such as Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp to get an idea of the wealth during the mediaeval and Renaissance periods, when only the North of Italy could rival its splendour and artistic development. During its second golden age, the half century before World War I, Belgium was in absolute terms the fourth economic power in the world. If you take into account that the other industrial powers had a 5 to 10 times larger population, the achievement is impressive. This wealth was not due to natural resources, which are practically absent, but to industrial production and trade, which is facilitated by Belgium’s central position in Western Europe, and the presence of many land and waterways.
Although it is fashionable in some quarters to view Belgium as an “artificial state”, put together by the European powers after Napoleon’s defeat, history shows that the region which is now called Belgium has been almost continuously under a single rule since at least the 16th century, when it got separated from Holland during the reformation. Before that period (and for a few years after the defeat of Napoleon), Belgium and the Netherlands were united, forming the “Low Countries”, a remainder of the third, central part of the Frankish empire, Lotharingia, that formed a corridor between France and Germany. There has historically never been a clear split between the Walloon and Flemish provinces. Insofar that there was a division in counties and duchies (Flanders, Brabant, Liège/Limburg, …), the divide was East-West rather than North-South as it is now. (this is clearly seen on a set of historical maps of the wider German region). The “Flemish” painters and polyphonists who were famous throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance often were of Walloon origin (for example the painter Rogier Van der Weyden/Rogier de la Pasture and the composer Josquin des Prés).
Read more at http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/BelgCul2.html