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Belgium

° Antwerp ° Brussels ° Ghent ° Ostend ° Zeebrugge

Beginning in 57 B.C.E., Julius Caesar extended the power of Rome into the region of Europe that is now Belgium. The people he encountered there were the Belgae, one of the various Celtic tribes of early Gaul, and the Romans dubbed their new province Gallia Belgica.

Like most of Europe, Belgium came under the rule of the empire of the day . . . from Charlemagne (768) to Burgundy (1400s) to Spain (1500s). By 1565, a powerful League of Nobility, under the leadership of William of Orange and Count Egmont (governor of Flanders), had joined in opposition to Spain. By 1576, William's power in the north was virtually unchallenged, and he came to terms with the Spanish.

In 1648, with the Treaty of Munster, the much-weakened Spanish not only recognized the independence of the United Provinces, but also agreed to close the Scheldt to navigation. As a result, Antwerp and Ghent, like Bruges before them, lost their predominance as the region's centers of trade. For the next several centuries, the Dutch port of Amsterdam would play that role.

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the country rose up in revolt against the Austrians, and in 1790 independence was declared in the form of the United States of Belgium. With the rise of Napoleon, French rule over Belgium became more constructive, including the revitalization of industry and (with the opening of the Scheldt) the partial recovery of Antwerp. With Napoleon's fall, the great Allied powers decreed that Belgium would become a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, ruled by the pro-Dutch William of Orange.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought south of Brussels between the French, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and General Blücher from Prussia.

The Island of Elba.
Napoleon (1769-1821)
arriving on the island of Elba

The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war beginning with the French Revolutionary wars in 1792 and continuing with the Napoleonic Wars from 1803. There was a brief eleven-month respite when Napoleon was forced to abdicate, exiled to the island of Elba.

However, the unpopularity of Louis XVIII and the economic and social instability of France motivated him to return to Paris in March 1815. The Allies soon declared war once again. Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo marked the end of the Emperor's final bid for power and the final chapter in his remarkable career.

By 1830 the Belgians' patience had run out. Revolution erupted in Brussels and quickly spread across the country. William made a brief effort to regain control, but within a few months he withdrew. On 20 January, 1831, after centuries of external rule, Belgium was recognized as an independent nation.

The European powers were meeting in Vienna to re-establish the territorial balance in Europe when news came of Napoleon's escape from Elba on 1st March 1815 and his re-entry into Paris on 20th March. The powers immediately renewed their declaration of war on Napoleon and the 7th Coalition between Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia was formed on 25th March. Only the armies of Wellington and Blücher were in place in Belgium. The Austrians and Russians arrived after Napoleon had been defeated. The Allied army under the Duke of Wellington was a coalition of British, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers.

Napoleon described Britain as "the most powerful and most constant of my enemies." Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, had never been beaten by the French and had a reputation as a talented coalition general. He came to prominence in India and then successfully directed the Peninsular Campaign of 1811 when the British went to support Portugal and Spain against Napoleon. He was made a duke at the end of that war and appointed ambassador to the restored Bourbon court in 1814.

Defeat at The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon's hundred days reign, he was exiled to the island of St. Helena where he died in 1821. Wellington fought his last battle at Waterloo and became a hero, throughout Europe. He was Commander-in-Chief during the occupation of France and advocated a non-punitive peace deal. He organized loans to restore French finances and advised the withdrawal of troops after three years. He returned home in 1818 and became Prime Minister in 1828.

Antwerp

Although the open North Sea is about 60 km away from Antwerp, the river is so large that sea-going vessels and sail to deliver their products in the vast port area of the city.

At the end of the tenth century Antwerp became a border province of the Holy Roman Empire. The border was the River Scheldt.

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A View of Antwerp Harbour with the Kraanenhoofd
and the Werf Gate, 1608
Sebastian Vrancx

In spite of political and economic strife imposed by struggles between Protestant North and Catholic Spain, the city flourished culturally until the mid-seventeenth century with painters such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens and Teniers.

Antwerp owes the beginnings of a modern port to the French period (1792-1815). At the same time the city’s cultural heritage fell prey to art plundering and destruction on a scale rarely seen before.

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View of Antwerp Taken From the Border of Flanders.
Eugene Boudin

After the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo (1815), there followed a short-lived reunification with the Northern Netherlands and an equally short period of prosperity which ended with the Belgian Revolution (1830) and once again the closure of the Scheldt. It was reopened, this time definitively, in 1863, and enlarged with an artificial dock . . . the so-called Napoleon dock. Until then, the harbor was situated right at the entrance to the city alongside the riverbanks.

Apart from interruptions during the two world wars, Antwerp experienced steady economic growth into the twentieth century.

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Brussels, Belgium, c.1837

Brussels

March 7, 1902, Los Angeles Herald
Los Angeles, California

Disturbance In Brussels

BRUSSELS. March 6.—After a big demonstration tonight in favor of universal suffrage, a serious collision occurred between Liberal and Catholic students. The police dispersed the students with their swords, wounding three.

April 3, 1906, Los Angeles Herald
Los Angeles, California

Exposition at Brussels

By Associated Press. '
BRUSSELS, April 2.— The report that an international exposition will be held In Brussels in 1910 is officially confirmed. The most notable feature will be exhibits from the Congo.

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The Hotel de Ville, Brussels
William Callow

August 28, 1905, Los Angeles Herald
Los Angeles, California, USA

LAWMAKERS OF NATIONS GATHER
CONGRESS OF PARLIAMENTS TO MEET TODAY :
MANY AMERICANS PRESENT
Members of U. S. House of Representatives Attend Gathering at Brussels
President's Position Is Commended

By Associated Press. BRUSSELS, Aug. 27.— An unusually large and representative delegation from the United States congress is here to attend the inter-parllamentary congress, which will open in the Palais de la Nacon tomorrow. „

The parliaments of Europe are also numerously represented, the Italian chamber of deputies sending 100 delegates, the British House of Commons sending thirty and the French Chamber of Deputies twenty, while, the German, Austrian and Hungarian Houses and the Parliaments of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and Holland are represented by a number of conspicuous members. These include Herr von Plener, former minister of commerce of Austria and now president of the Mid European Economic union, and Count Apponyl, leader of the Hungarian opposition.

Among the American members of congress are Representative Bartholdt of Missouri, president of the inter-parliamentary union, and Representatives Burke of South Dakota; Bates, Barchfleld, Dickerman, Moon and Palmer of Pennsylvania; Boutelle and Fuller, of Illinois; Goldfogle and Waldo of New York; McNary of Massachusetts; Norris of Nebraska; William Alden Smith of Michigan; Slayden of Texas; Wood of New Jersey and Littlefield of Maine. Former Congressman Barrows of Massachusetts is also here.

The American group met this afternoon and Representative Burke proposed the following resolution, which was adopted and cabled to President Roosevelt at Oyster Bay:

"'Assembled in the cause cause of international arbitration, we send you hearty greetings and congratulate you upon your commendable and masterly effort in the cause of peace, which regardless of the immediate results has challenged the admiration of the world."

Peace Prospects Discussed

The situation at Portsmouth was the chief subject of discussion among the delegates today, the sentiment being divided between, commendation of President Roosevelt's persistency and hope that the plenipotentiaries' might reach a compromise.

Mr. Bartholdt, chairman of the Americans, reported to the executive council of the congress, which met this afternoon under the presidency of M. Bernaert, the Belgian minister of state and adviser- of King Leopold.

Mr. Bartholdt presented a draft of a model arbitration treaty and a plan for a permanent international parliament.

With the aid of two English members, Philip Stanhope and W. R. Cremer, the plans were referred to a special commission for final action prior, to the reassembling of The Hague conference. The discussion showed considerable opposition to arbitration on the part of the Italian and German delegates. Assurances were given by other delegates that President Roosevelt's proposed reassembling at The Hague would be carried out at the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese war, and this was fortified by a letter from President Roosevelt showing, the positiveness of the president's intension.

In the absence of Mr. Bartholdt, the American delegation unanimously adopted a resolution for presentation to the Norwegian government, asking that the Nobel prize be conferred on Mr. Bartholdt in recognition of his efforts In behalf of arbitration.

King Leopold will receive the members of the congress at the royal palace at 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

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Red Star Cruise Line: Antwerp, New York and Philadelphia
C. Satzmann

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Exploring Flemish Cities by Derek Blyth.
Flemish Cities Explored:
Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Leuven, & Ostend

Derek Blyth

Waterloo.
The Battle of WaterlooWaterloo.
Jeremy Black

Waterloo.
The Battle:
A New History of Waterloo
Waterloo.
Alessandro Barbero

Waterloo 1815 from Wavre to Plancenoit.


WATERLOO 1815:
Wavre, Plancenoit and
the Race to Paris

(Pen & Sword Military)

Peter Hofschroer
Hofschoer's account tells the story of the grueling Prussian advance towards the battlefield . . . the reader follows in the footsteps of the Prussian soldiers as they struggled across the Belgian countryside almost 200 years ago.

Struggling for leadership between 1870 and 2000
Struggling for Leadership: Antwerp-Rotterdam Port Competition 1870 - 2000: International Conference on Comparative Antwerp-Rotterdam
(Contributions to Economics)
Editors: Reginald Loyen, Erik Buyst, Greta Devos

Fiction

Imperial Scandal
(Malcom & Suzanne Rannoch Historical Mysteries)

This well-researched Tracy Grant novel set in the Napoleonic Era is an well-researched whodunit that uses the real suspense of the pending battle at Waterloo to serve as a powerful backdrop to the investigation. Terrific twists make for a fabulous early nineteenth century thriller.

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