1799-1815 Belgium 1830-1848

Belgian War for Independence 1830-1831

Restauration. The Southern Netherlands, 1815 - 1830

The VIENNA CONGRESS of 1813-1815, after having tried to entrust Prussia with the defense of Belgium (1814) created the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which comprised of the former Dutch Republic and the Habsburgian Netherlands. The House of Orange, previously holding the position of Stadholder in the territories of the Northern Netherlands, was crowned Kings of the Netherlands. Both AMSTERDAM and BRUSSELS were to be capital. King WILLEM I., remembering the long and difficult struggle of the stadholders with the regents, which had weakened the state, ruled absolute. Soon, the DUTCH LANGUAGE was declared the official language of the country, an affront to the inhabitants of WALLONIA and to the French-speaking administration of Brussels. The Catholic southern Netherlands also rejected the distinctly protestant (Calvinist) character of the state. As in other countries, the burghers of the cities of the southern Netherlands strove for a political constitution, for liberal reforms. In 1830, a revolution broke out; liberal burghers declared BELGIAN INDEPENDENCE. Wallonian volunteers defended the city of Brussels against advancing troops. In 1831, a war lasting 8 days was fought; after that, Belgian independence was internationally recognized. Belgium declared NEUTRALITY, which was recognized by all it's neighbours in international treaties. The Kingdom of the Netherlands signed such a treaty only in 1839.
In 1816, state universities were founded at LEUVEN, GENT and LIEGE.

In 1815, Belgium's industry found herself cut off from the vast, protected French market. Instead it now had direct access to the Dutch market, and the Dutch colonies. Within the Kingdom of the United Netherlands, the south and north had conflicting economic interests, the north favouring a low-tariff policy (Free Trade), the industries of the south demanding protection against English competition in form of customs tariffs. The tariffs were at times lowered, then raised, then lowered, then raised again. Overall the free trade advocates of the north were more influential; the Netherlands regained her position as one of the world's leading trading nations, and Antwerp became one of her major ports. The Belgian industry was dissatisfied with the priorities of Dutch economic policy, all the more as the Netherlands traditionally was the highest-taxed country in Europe, these high taxes now also collected in Belgium (which in the past, except for the brief period of French rule, had experienced considerably lower taxation). The taxes were partially intended to pay down huge state debts, but then, these were state debts of the north; the south had entered the union clean.
The metal and machinery industry of Belgium had, in the past, supplied Napoleon's armies. After the Vienna Congress, not only did she now, for her arms production, have to face international (especially English) competition, but the market for arms had contracted considerably. Belgium still exported arms to South America. In 1819 the streets of Brussels were lighted by gas lanterns, the gas produced, from coal, in a gas factory. Other cities soon followed. During the years of Dutch-Belgian union, the port infrastructure in Belgium was improved. The first steamships were put into service in 1828.
In the years 1815-1820 the southern Netherlands experienced a crisis, with considerable numbers of unemployed (poor, in the language of the time). In the 1820es the situation, despite of protests from various corners, improved considerably. While in 1816/1817 many complained about exorbitant grain prices, Russian imports in the 1820es (due to low tariffs) forced the grain price down; grain farming was only marginally profitable.

Belgian Revolution, from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, collection, 1250 major exhibits, encyclopedia, b, Belgian Revolution, thumbnail images
History of the Duchy of Bouillon, from Heraldica
De universiteit van Leuven, 1816-1970, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, in Dutch
Geschiedenis van Brussel, Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, from Digitaal Brussel, in Dutch; Geschiedenis van Brussel, Revolutie van 1830, from Digitaal Brussel, in Dutch
De Belgische Omwenteling van 1830, from Belgica Colen, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS Maps : the Southern Netherlands, 1814 and 1815, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis
Documents relatifs au duche de Bouillon, 1484-1825, from Heraldica, in French
Acte du Congres de Vienne du 9 juin 1815 : Royaume des Pays-Bas et Grand-Duche de Luxembourg, from Histoire Empire
REFERENCE The Revolt in Belgium, pp.619-621 in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, 1996
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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