The Brabant Revolution, 1789/90 Belgium 1799-1815

Flemish Peasants War 1798

Belgium under French Administration, 1795-1799

In Brussels, the BRABANT REVOLUTION unfolded simulaneously with the revolution in France. It was ended by the Austrian army reestablishing Austrian authority. In the following years, Belgium was a battlefield in whic the campaigns of the wars of the first and second cosalition were fought. On Oct. 1st 1795, Belgium officially was annexed by France. The day after, the constitution of the year III was proclaimed in Belgium. The old provinces were replaced by a new organization in DEPARTEMENTS, which by and large coincided with the old provinces. Austria formally ceded the territory in 1797 (Peace of Campo Formio). Only now the Belgians were granted the full rights of French citizens. The number of French (i.e. non-Belgian) civil servants in the administration in Belgium increased steadily, which, especially in the Flemish- speaking areas alienated administration and populace. In the army, in higher education French only was used. In 1796 the dissolution of the monasteries (in France already introduced in 1790) was enforced in Belgium. A GENDARMERIE was introduced (1796). In 1797 LEUVEN UNIVERSITY (Louvain) was suppressed. In 1797 public holy mass were forbidden, churches vandalized and closed down, priests which continued to administer services at private locations, and who were caught, were treated as criminals, some even deported to Devil's Island (French Guyana). Many church buildings were sold for scrap. The revolutionary calendar was introduced.
Heavy conscription into the French Army in 1798 caused a PEASANTS REVOLT.
France formally ended the century old BLOCKADE OF ANTWERP; however France then forbade any export from Belgium, and her war with England had a detrimental effect on Antwerp's trade. Only the establishment of the consulate in 1799 ended the exploitation of the Belgian territories by France (1792-1799), which historian Sleeckx describes as 'more severe than the reparations Germany forced France to pay after the war of 1870-1871'. During the period of early French occupation and systematic exploitation, an estimated 800,000 Belgians fled their country. As the French demanded the payment of requisitions in hard currency, but made her payments in (worthless) assignats, as exports out of Belgium except for France were forbidden, the Belgian economy was under a stranglehold. The population in general impoverished; the rising number of the poor found that most of the institutions which used to provide charity to the needy, church institutions, had been closed down and their assets sold off. Rising banditry indicates the desperation of poor persons not knowing where else to turn to.
With French annexation had come the abolition of the GUILDS. This measure was widely resented in Belgium, another indicator for the Belgian public opinion being comparatively conservative, and sceptical of the novel institutions created by the French Revolution. Similarly, the confiscation and sale of church property and noble estates often was engineered by French fortune hunters, and did not benefit the short-term economic benefit of Belgium.

French Occupation, from Life in Flanders in the 18th and 19th Centuries by Marcel Blanchaer
Belgian Territory under French Occupation, 1793-1815, from Rootsweb
Historique de la gendarmerie, from Gendarmerie Belge
Recension : Jan Roegiers, Revolutie in de seminaries. De priesteropleiding voor seculieren in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden 1780-1830, in : Trajecta
De Economische Geschiedenis van Belgie 1794-1815, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in Dutch
Geschiedenis van Brussel, De Franse Overheersing (1792, 1794-1815), from Digitaal Brussel, in Dutch
De Universiteit van Leuven 1425-1797, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in Dutch
200 jaar geleden had de Boerenkrijg plaats, Dutch-language website on the peasants' revolt
DOCUMENTS Coins of the Austrian Netherlands, 1744-1797, from Coins of Austria, many images; coins for the A. Neth. in 1797 were minted at Günzburg (Austria) and Kremnitz (Hungary)
Vlaamse Soldatenbrieven uit de Napoleontische Tijd (Flemish soldiers' letters from the Napoleonic Period), posted by Jan van Bakel , look here for Frans-Vlaamse Soldatenbrieven (French-Flemish soldiers' letters), and here for the introduction, introduction in Dutch, documents in Flemish resp. French
Map : frontieres de la France en 1789, 1797, 1811, 1814, 1815, from Histofig
Treaty of Campo Formio, 1797, from
REFERENCE H.P.H. Jansen, Kalendarium. Geschiedenis van de Lage Landen in Jaartallen. (Calendarium. History of the Low Countries by Years), Utrecht 1979
Sleeckx, De Jacobijnen in Belgie (The Jacobins in Belgium), (1889), Gent : Geschiedkundige Heruitgeverij 2001, 66 pp. in Dutch
Jaerboeken der Oostenryksche Nederlanden van 1780 tot 1814, opgesteld door eenen Tydgenoot (Yearbooks of the Austrian Netherlands 1780-1814, compiled by a contemporary), Gent (1818) Geschiedkundige Heruitgeverij 2002, in Dutch
Floris Prims, De Sociaal-Economische Geschiedenis van Belgie (The Socio-Economic History of Belgium), (1926) Gent 2002

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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