Context of Flanders

Flanders (UK: , US: ; Dutch: Vlaanderen [ˈvlaːndərə(n)] (listen)) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics, and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is the City of Brussels, although the Brussels-Capital Region that includes it has an independent regional government. The powers of the government of Flanders consist, among others, of economic affairs in the Flemish Region and the community aspe...Read more

Flanders (UK: , US: ; Dutch: Vlaanderen [ˈvlaːndərə(n)] (listen)) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics, and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is the City of Brussels, although the Brussels-Capital Region that includes it has an independent regional government. The powers of the government of Flanders consist, among others, of economic affairs in the Flemish Region and the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels, such as Flemish culture and education.

Geographically, Flanders is mainly flat, and has a small section of coast on the North Sea. It borders the French department of Nord to the south-west near the coast, the Dutch provinces of Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg to the north and east, and the Walloon provinces of Hainaut, Walloon Brabant and Liège to the south. Despite accounting for only 45% of Belgium's territory, it holds the country's largest population, with 6,653,062 (or 57%) out of 11,431,406 Belgian inhabitants living there. Much of Flanders is agriculturally fertile and densely populated at 483/km2 (1,250/sq mi). The Brussels Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. Flanders also has exclaves of its own: Voeren in the east is between Wallonia and the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in the north consists of 22 exclaves surrounded by the Netherlands. Not including Brussels, there are five present-day Flemish provinces: Antwerp, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Limburg and West Flanders. The official language is Dutch. Other recognised languages are French and German.

The area of today's Flanders has figured prominently in European history since the Middle Ages. The original County of Flanders stretched around AD 900 from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary and expanded from there. This county also still corresponds roughly with the modern-day Belgian provinces of West Flanders and East Flanders, along with neighbouring parts of France and the Netherlands. In this period, cities such as Ghent and Bruges of the historic County of Flanders, and later Antwerp of the Duchy of Brabant made it one of the richest and most urbanised parts of Europe, trading, and weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy.

Belgium was one of the centres of the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, but Flanders was at first overtaken by French-speaking Wallonia. In the second half of the 20th century, and due to massive national investments in port infrastructure, Flanders' economy modernised rapidly, and today Flanders and Brussels are much wealthier than Wallonia, being among the wealthiest regions in Europe and the world. In accordance with late 20th century Belgian state reforms, Flanders was made into two political entities: the Flemish Region (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest) and the Flemish Community (Dutch: Vlaamse Gemeenschap). These entities were merged, although geographically the Flemish Community, which has a broader cultural mandate, covers Brussels, whereas the Flemish Region does not.

More about Flanders

Basic information
  • Native name Vlaanderen
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 6552967
  • Area 13522
History
  • Early history

    When Julius Caesar conquered the area he described it as the less economically developed and more warlike part of Gallia Belgica. His informants told him that especially in the east, the tribes claimed ancestral connections and kinship with the "Germanic" peoples then east of the Rhine. Under the Roman empire the whole of Gallia Belgica became an administrative province. The future counties of Flanders and Brabant remained part of this province connected to what is now France, but in the east modern Limburg became part of the Rhine frontier province of Germania Inferior connected to what is now the Netherlands and Germany. Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior were the two most northerly continental provinces of the Roman empire.

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    Early history

    When Julius Caesar conquered the area he described it as the less economically developed and more warlike part of Gallia Belgica. His informants told him that especially in the east, the tribes claimed ancestral connections and kinship with the "Germanic" peoples then east of the Rhine. Under the Roman empire the whole of Gallia Belgica became an administrative province. The future counties of Flanders and Brabant remained part of this province connected to what is now France, but in the east modern Limburg became part of the Rhine frontier province of Germania Inferior connected to what is now the Netherlands and Germany. Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior were the two most northerly continental provinces of the Roman empire.

    In the future county of Flanders, the main Belgic tribe in early Roman times was the Menapii, but also on the coast were the Marsacii and Morini. In the central part of modern Belgium were the Nervii, whose territory corresponded to medieval Brabant as well as French-speaking Hainaut. In the east was the large district of the Tungri which covered both French- and Dutch-speaking parts of eastern Belgium. The Tungri were understood to have links to Germanic tribes east of the Rhine. Another notable group were the Toxandrians who appear to have lived in the Kempen region, in the northern parts of both the Nervian and Tungrian districts, probably stretching into the modern Netherlands. The Roman administrative districts (civitates) of the Menapii, Nervii and Tungri therefore corresponded roughly with the medieval counties of Flanders, Brabant and Loon, and the modern Flemish provinces of East and West Flanders (Menapii), Brabant and Antwerp (the northern Nervii), and Belgian Limburg (part of the Tungri). Brabant appears to have been separated from the Tungri by a relatively unpopulated forest area, the Silva Carbonaria, forming a natural boundary between northeast and southwest Belgium.

    Linguistically, the tribes in this area were under Celtic influence in the south, and Germanic influence in the east, but there is disagreement about what languages were spoken locally (apart from Vulgar Latin), and there may even have been an intermediate "Nordwestblock" language related to both. By the first century AD, Germanic languages appear to have become prevalent in the area of the Tungri.

    As Roman influence waned, Frankish populations settled in the Tungiran area east of the Silva Carbonaria, and eventually pushed through it under Chlodio. They had kings in each Roman district (civitas). In the meantime, the Franks contributed to the Roman military. The first Merovingian king Childeric I was king of the Franks within the military of Gaul. He became leader of the administration of Belgica Secunda, which included the civitas of the Menapii (the future county of Flanders). From there, his son Clovis I managed to conquer both the Roman populations of northern France and the Frankish populations beyond the forest areas.

    Historical Flanders
     
    A Flemish lady and gentleman in the year 1400, illustrated in the manuscript "Théâtre de tous les peuples et nations de la terre avec leurs habits et ornemens divers, tant anciens que modernes, diligemment depeints au naturel". Painted by Lucas d'Heere in the 2nd half of the 16th century. Preserved in the Ghent University Library.[1]

    The County of Flanders was a feudal fief in West Francia. The first certain Count in the comital family, Baldwin I of Flanders, is first reported in a document of 862, when he eloped with a daughter of his king Charles the Bald. The region developed as a medieval economic power with a large degree of political autonomy. While its trading cities remained strong, it was weakened and divided when districts fell under direct French royal rule in the late 12th century. The remaining parts of Flanders came under the rule of the counts of neighbouring imperial Hainaut under Baldwin V of Hainaut in 1191.

    During the late Middle Ages, Flanders's trading towns (notably Ghent, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a sophisticated culture developed, with impressive art and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Ghent, Bruges, Ypres and the Franc of Bruges formed the Four Members, a form of parliament that exercised considerable power in Flanders.[2]

    Increasingly powerful from the 12th century, the territory's autonomous urban communes were instrumental in defeating a French attempt at annexation (1300–1302), finally defeating the French in the Battle of the Golden Spurs (11 July 1302), near Kortrijk. Two years later, the uprising was defeated and Flanders indirectly remained part of the French Crown. Flemish prosperity waned in the following century, due to widespread European population decline following the Black Death of 1348, the disruption of trade during the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), and increased English cloth production. Flemish weavers had gone over to Worstead and North Walsham in Norfolk in the 12th century and established the woolen industry.

    The County of Flanders started to take control of the neighbouring County of Brabant during the life of Louis II, Count of Flanders (1330-1384), who fought his sister-in-law Joanna, Duchess of Brabant for control of it.

    The entire area, straddling the ancient boundary of France and the Holy Roman Empire, later passed to Philip the Bold in 1384, the Duke of Burgundy, with his capital in Brussels. The titles were eventually more clearly united under his grandson Philip the Good (1396 – 1467). This large Duchy passed in 1477 to the Habsburg dynasty, and in 1556 to the kings of Spain. Western and southern districts of Flanders were confirmed under French rule under successive treaties of 1659 (Artois), 1668 and 1678.

    The County of Loon, approximately the modern Flemish province of Limburg, remained independent of France, forming a part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège until the French Revolution, but surrounded by the Burgundians, and under their influence.

    Low Countries Beeldenstorm

    In 1500, Charles V was born in Ghent. He inherited the Seventeen Provinces (1506), Spain (1516) with its colonies and in 1519 was elected Holy Roman Emperor.[3] Charles V issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549, which established the Low Countries as the Seventeen Provinces (or Spanish Netherlands in its broad sense) as an entity separate from the Holy Roman Empire and from France. In 1556 Charles V abdicated due to ill health (he suffered from crippling gout).[4] Spain and the Seventeen Provinces went to his son, Philip II of Spain.

    Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time.[5] According to Luc-Normand Tellier "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas."[6]

     
    The Sack of Antwerp in 1576, in which about 7,000 people died

    Meanwhile, Protestantism had reached the Low Countries. Among the wealthy traders of Antwerp, the Lutheran beliefs of the German Hanseatic traders found appeal, perhaps partly for economic reasons. The spread of Protestantism in this city was aided by the presence of an Augustinian cloister (founded 1514) in the St. Andries quarter. Luther, an Augustinian himself, had taught some of the monks, and his works were in print by 1518. The first Lutheran martyrs came from Antwerp. The Reformation resulted in consecutive but overlapping waves of reform: a Lutheran, followed by a militant Anabaptist, then a Mennonite, and finally a Calvinistic movement. These movements existed independently of each other.

    Philip II, a devout Catholic and self-proclaimed protector of the Counter-Reformation, suppressed Calvinism in Flanders, Brabant and Holland (what is now approximately Belgian Limburg was part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and was Catholic de facto). In 1566, the wave of iconoclasm known as the Beeldenstorm was a prelude to religious war between Catholics and Protestants, especially the Anabaptists. The Beeldenstorm started in what is now French Flanders, with open-air sermons (Dutch: hagepreken) that spread through the Low Countries, first to Antwerp and Ghent, and from there further east and north.

    The Eighty Years' War and its consequences

    Subsequently, Philip II of Spain sent the Duke of Alba to the Provinces to repress the revolt. Alba recaptured the southern part of the Provinces, who signed the Union of Atrecht, which meant that they would accept the Spanish government on condition of more freedom. But the northern part of the provinces signed the Union of Utrecht and settled in 1581 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Spanish troops quickly started fighting the rebels, and the Spanish armies conquered the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp, which was then the most important port in the world, also had to be conquered. But before the revolt was defeated, a war between Spain and England broke out, forcing Spanish troops to halt their advance. On 17 August 1585, Antwerp fell. This ended the Eighty Years' War for the (from now on) Southern Netherlands. The United Provinces (the Northern Netherlands) fought on until 1648 – the Peace of Westphalia.

     
    Winter scene by Sebastian Vrancx, 1622

    During the war with England, the rebels from the north, strengthened by refugees from the south, started a campaign to reclaim areas lost to Philip II's Spanish troops. They conquered a considerable part of Brabant (the later North Brabant of the Netherlands), and the south bank of the Scheldt estuary (Zeelandic Flanders), before being stopped by Spanish troops. The front at the end of this war stabilized and became the border between present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch (as they later became known) had managed to reclaim enough of Spanish-controlled Flanders to close off the river Scheldt, effectively cutting Antwerp off from its trade routes.

    The fall of Antwerp to the Spanish and the closing of the Scheldt caused considerable emigration.[a] Many Calvinist merchants of Antwerp and other Flemish cities left Flanders and migrated north. Many of them settled in Amsterdam, which was a smaller port, important only in the Baltic trade. The Flemish exiles helped to rapidly transform Amsterdam into one of the world's most important ports. This is why the exodus is sometimes described as "creating a new Antwerp".

    Flanders and Brabant, went into a period of relative decline from the time of the Thirty Years War.[7] In the Northern Netherlands, the mass emigration from Flanders and Brabant became an important driving force behind the Dutch Golden Age.

    Southern Netherlands (1581–1795)
     
    1609 map of the county of Flanders

    Although arts remained relatively impressive for another century with Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and Anthony van Dyck, Flanders lost its former economic and intellectual power under Spanish, Austrian, and French rule. Heavy taxation and rigid imperial political control compounded the effects of industrial stagnation and Spanish-Dutch and Franco-Austrian conflict. The Southern Netherlands suffered severely under the War of the Spanish Succession. But under the reign of Empress Maria-Theresia, these lands again flourished economically. Influenced by the Enlightenment, the Austrian Emperor Joseph II was the first sovereign who had been in the Southern Netherlands since King Philip II of Spain left them in 1559.

    French Revolution and Napoleonic France (1795–1815)

    In 1794, the French Republican Army started using Antwerp as the northernmost naval port of France.[7] The following year, France officially annexed Flanders as the départements of Lys, Escaut, Deux-Nèthes, Meuse-Inférieure and Dyle. Obligatory (French) army service for all men aged 16–25 years was a main reason for the uprising against the French in 1798, known as the Boerenkrijg (Peasants' War), with the heaviest fighting in the Campine area.

    United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1830)

    After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in Brabant, the Congress of Vienna (1815) gave sovereignty over the Austrian Netherlands – Belgium minus the East Cantons and Luxembourg – to the United Netherlands (Dutch: Verenigde Nederlanden) under Prince William I of Orange Nassau, making him William I of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. William I started rapid industrialisation of the southern parts of the Kingdom. But the political system failed to forge a true union between the north and south. Most of the southern bourgeoisie was Roman Catholic and French-speaking, while the north was mainly Protestant and Dutch-speaking.

    In 1815, the Dutch Senate was reinstated (Dutch: Eerste Kamer der Staaten Generaal). The nobility, mainly coming from the south, became more and more estranged from their northern colleagues. Resentment grew between the Roman Catholics from the south and the Protestants from the north, and also between the powerful liberal bourgeoisie from the south and their more moderate colleagues from the north. On 25 August 1830 (after the showing of the opera 'La Muette de Portici' of Daniel Auber in Brussels) the Belgian Revolution sparked. On 4 October 1830, the Provisional Government (Dutch: Voorlopig Bewind) proclaimed its independence, which was later confirmed by the National Congress that issued a new Liberal Constitution and declared the new state a Constitutional Monarchy, under the House of Saxe-Coburg. Flanders now became part of the Kingdom of Belgium, which was recognized by the major European Powers on 20 January 1831. The cessation was recognized by the United Kingdom of the Netherlands on 19 April 1839.

    Kingdom of Belgium

    In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the splitting up of the two countries. Belgium was confirmed as an independent state by the Treaty of London of 1839, but deprived of the eastern half of Limburg (now Dutch Limburg), and the Eastern half of Luxembourg (now the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg). Sovereignty over Zeelandic Flanders, south of the Westerscheldt river delta, was left with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was allowed to levy a toll on all traffic to Antwerp harbour until 1863.[7][8]

    Rise of the Flemish Movement

    In 1873, Dutch became an official language in public secondary schools. In 1898, Dutch and French were declared equal languages in laws and Royal orders. In 1930, the first Flemish university was opened.[9]

    The first official translation of the Belgian constitution in Dutch was not published until 1967.

    World War I and its consequences
     
    Koksijde, a memorial to soldiers killed in World War I

    Flanders (and Belgium as a whole) saw some of the greatest loss of life on the Western Front of the First World War, in particular from the three battles of Ypres.

    The war strengthened Flemish identity and consciousness. The occupying German authorities took several Flemish-friendly measures. The resulting suffering of the war is remembered by Flemish organizations during the yearly Yser pilgrimage in Diksmuide at the monument of the Yser Tower.

    Right-wing nationalism in the interbellum and World War II

    During the interbellum and World War II, several right-wing fascist and/or national-socialistic parties emerged in Belgium. Since these parties were promised more rights for the Flemings by the German government during World War II, many of them collaborated with the Nazi regime. After the war, collaborators (or people who were Zwart, "Black" during the war) were prosecuted and punished, among them many Flemish Nationalists whose main political goal had been the emancipation of Flanders. As a result, until today Flemish Nationalism is often associated with right-wing and sometimes fascist ideologies.

    Flemish autonomy

    After World War II, the differences between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking Belgians became clear in a number of conflicts, such as the Royal Question, the question whether King Leopold III should return (which most Flemings supported but Walloons did not) and the use of Dutch in the Catholic University of Leuven. As a result, several state reforms took place in the second half of the 20th century, which transformed the unitary Belgium into a federal state with communities, regions and language areas. This resulted also in the establishment of a Flemish Parliament and Government. During the 1970s, all major political parties split into a Dutch and French-speaking party.

    Several Flemish parties still advocate for more Flemish autonomy, some even for Flemish independence (see Partition of Belgium), whereas the French-speakers would like to keep the current state as it is. Recent governments (such as Verhofstadt I Government) have transferred certain federal competences to the regional governments.

    On 13 December 2006, a spoof news broadcast by the Belgian Francophone public broadcasting station RTBF announced that Flanders had decided to declare independence from Belgium.

    The 2007 federal elections showed more support for Flemish autonomy, marking the start of the 2007–2011 Belgian political crisis. All the political parties that advocated a significant increase of Flemish autonomy gained votes as well as seats in the Belgian federal parliament. This was especially the case for Christian Democratic and Flemish and New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) (who had participated on a shared electoral list). The trend continued during the 2009 regional elections, where CD&V and N-VA were the clear winners in Flanders, and N-VA became even the largest party in Flanders and Belgium during the 2010 federal elections, followed by the longest-ever government formation after which the Di Rupo I Government was formed excluding N-VA. Eight parties agreed on a sixth state reform which aim to solve the disputes between Flemings and French-speakers. However, the 2012 provincial and municipal elections continued the trend of N-VA becoming the biggest party in Flanders.

    However, sociological studies show no parallel between the rise of nationalist parties and popular support for their agenda. Instead, a recent study revealed a majority in favour of returning regional competences to the federal level.[10]

    ^ "Théâtre de tous les peuples et nations de la terre avec leurs habits et ornemens divers, tant anciens que modernes, diligemment depeints au naturel par Luc Dheere peintre et sculpteur Gantois[manuscript]". lib.ugent.be. Retrieved 25 August 2020. ^ Philip the Good: the apogee of Burgundy by Richard Vaughan, p201 ^ William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (NY, 1874), p 116 ^ William Robertson, The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (NY, 1874), p 456 ^ Dunton, Larkin (1896). The World and Its People. Silver, Burdett. p. 163. ^ Luc-Normand Tellier (2009). Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective Archived 25 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine. PUQ. p. 308. ISBN 2-7605-1588-5. ^ a b c "Antwerp – History". Find it in Flanders. Tourism Flanders & Brussels, Flanders House, London, UK. Archived from the original on 29 September 2006. Retrieved 2 January 2007. ^ "Kingdom of Belgium map (politically outdated)". Planet Ware. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2007. ^ Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES (28 February 1930). "GHENT UNIVERSITY FLEMISH. Belgian Parliament Votes to Have All Instruction in That Tongue". The New York Times. New York Times Company. Retrieved 12 September 2022. ^ Peter De Lobel (25 January 2016). "Staatshervorming richting België wint aan politieke steun" [State reform towards Belgium is gaining political support]. De Standaard (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.


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Stay safe
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    Stay safe

    Flanders is very safe. You will find that people are usually very helpful. In towns, you should of course beware of usual petty crime (pickpockets in tourist places). Some suburbs around Antwerp have high concentrations of immigrants and should be avoided at night for safety, but tourists are usually unlikely to visit them because these areas typically offer little touristic value. The police force in Flanders is professional and the corruption levels are low in comparison to other government structures. When in trouble, do not hesitate to address police officers, who can be expected to engage in a conversation in English anywhere in Flanders. In touristic areas in particular, police officers will be able to communicate fluently in English.

    The relatively flat topography of Flanders favors cycling, but unlike its northern neighbor, cycling infrastructure is poorly developed in many parts of Flanders. Cycling roads are absent outside the major cities, and where cycling roads are available, they are often in a state of disrepair. Wearing a fluorescent vest and safety helmet are not mandatory in Flanders, but of course highly recommendable.

    With the exception of wild boars with young offspring, there is no dangerous wildlife in Flanders, and woods or forests are safe any time of the day. In the summer season however, ticks are known to reside in tall grass, and have a small chance of carrying Lyme disease. Check your legs when walking through tall grass or wear long trousers. If strongly discolored concentric circles show up on your skin, you might be bitten by a tick, and it is recommendable to consult a doctor immediately.

    Jaywalking is not a crime in Flanders, and vehicles will slow down or stop if you stand at the side of the road with visible intention of crossing.

    Tap water is safe to drink anywhere in Flanders, so drink bottles can be refilled at any occasion. Surface water however (streams, rivers, wells) are usually heavily polluted as a result of Flanders' high population density, and unsuitable for consumption regardless of how clean they look.

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