Restauration 1830-1848 Belgium 1870-1890

early Belgian stamps, featuring King Leopold I. (left)
and King Leopold II. (right)

Constitutionalism. Belgium, 1848 - 1870

A.) Foreign Policy

Between 1864 and 1867, a number of Belgian soldiers served as volunteers in Napoleon III.'s Mexican campaign. France's Emperor NAPOLEON III. for some time had contemplated the conquest of Belgium. An attempt by the French government to purchase railroads in Luxemburg and southern Belgium was foiled by the Belgian government. In a draft to a secret treaty with Prussia in 1866 France claimed Belgium and Luxemburg as her sphere of interest, to be occupied in due time. The draft was published in the London Times in 1870, just before the Franco-German War broke out; Belgium's response was to place her army on a war footing. The British government set up a treaty, in which it promised to declare war on the first of the belligerents who should violate Belgian territory (by that time the Franco-German War was already going on). After the Battle of Sedan, several thousand French soldiers fled onto Belgian territory, where they were duly disarmed and interned for the remainder of the war.

B.) Administration

In 1862 a Flemish Party was founded, the CATHOLIC PARTY in 1863. The LIBERAL PARTY, founded in 1846, was in control of government for most of the period.

C.) Economy and Society

The growing rail network (334 km in 1840, 854 km in 1850, 1729 km in 1860, 2897 km in 1870) led to a sharp increase in the output of Belgium's coal mines, from 3.9 million metric tons in 1840 to 5.8 million in 1850, 9.6 million in 1860, 13.7 million in 1870. Belgian production of iron ore rose from 40,000 tons in 1841 to 1,020,000 tons in 1865, after which Belgian iron ore lost market share to better quality ores from Luxemburg, Lorraine and Spain; a number of mines were closed.
After 1848 the Belgian government, the worst social and political crises being over, the Belgian government again attempted to achieve a balanced budget; in 1839, 1858 and 1859 even budget surpluses were registered.
In 1865 Belgium joined the LATIN MONETARY UNION, with France, Switzerland and Italy. The treaty of 1865 standardized the size, weight, denomination and silver (later also gold) content of the coins; the currencies were exchanged 1:1 and the coins were valid in the other member countries. The union was joined by Greece in 1868.

D.) Intellectual Life

In 1860, Belgian engineer JEAN JOSEPH ETIENNE LENOIR patented the world's first INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE. Only about 500 were built, as German engineer Nikolaus Otto soon came up with a much improved engine which was to set the industry standard.
In 1862, Belgian industrial chemist ERNEST SOLVAY (1838-1922) developed the ammonia process or Solvay process for the industrial production of Soda. Industrial production began in 1865.
In 1867-1869, CHARLES DE COSTER published "La legende et les aventures heroiques, joyeuses et glorieuses d'Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak au pays de Flandres et ailleurs". In 1865, FATHER DAMIAAN (Damien) went to Hawaii, to convert the colony of lepers there; he died on Hawaii in 1889.

Belgium's Steel Network, Belgian railway history
Life in Flanders in the 18th and 19th Century, click : Poverty, Child Labor etc.
From the creation of the Grenadiers until 1914, from History of the 2nd Belgian Grenadiers
Military Orders of Belgium, from Orders of the World
Charles A. Venturi, History of Europe 1856-1865, chronological list of events in intenational affairs, detailed, from Societe d'Europe, scroll down for Belgium
De Geschiedenis van de Belgische Luciferproduktie, from Matchbox Label
Biography of Charles de Coster, from La Litterature Belge de la Langue Francaise
Article Lateinische Münzunion, from Grosses Münzlexikon (Great Numismatic Lexicon) by Verlag Reppa, in German
Belgians in the American Civil War, by Guy Gallez
Banque Nationale de la Belgique (1850), from Dizionario delle Banche e delle Organizzazioni Economiche Internazionali; entry in Italian
Colonial Aspirations of King Leopold I., by El;ke Schellekens (Dutch language)
Vreemdelingenbeleid en politieke migratie in Belgie (1848-1851). (Administration of Alien Affairs and Political Migration in Belgium 1848-1851), by Jurgen Casteleyn, diss. Leuven 2002, in Dutch
Urbanisme in Brussel 1830-1860, by Edwin Smellinckx, diss. Leuven 2001, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS Portraits of King Leopold I. : No.1; No.2; No.3 from Art Istocracy
Portraits of King Leopold II, No.1, from Art Istocracy
Convention Relative to Import Duties and Capitalization of Scheldt Dues: May 20, 1863(1) from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Convention for the Extinguishment of the Scheldt Dues: July 20, 1863, Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Documents : Les Rapports de la Belgique avec la France entre 1852 et 1875, 2 documents 1852, 1860, posted by Documents Historiques posted by Eric and Luc Dodemont, in French
Charles de Coster, La legende et les aventures heroiques, joyeuses et glorieuses d'Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak au pays de Flandres et ailleurs, from la Bibliotheque Universelle, in French
REFERENCE W. Harold Claflin (ed.), The History of Nations : Holland and Belgium, N.Y.: Collier (1907) 1916
Article : Belgium, in : The American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1864 pp.165-167 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on September 1st 2007

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