1848-1870 1890-1914

Belgium 1870 - 1890

A.) Foreign Policy

Belgium remained neutral during the FRANCO-GERMAN WAR of 1870/71. In 1871, the GERMAN EMPIRE (Deutsches Reich) was founded as a federation of 38 German states. Public sentiment in Belgium tended to side with the Germans, because of Napoleon's plans to annex Belgium, published in the London Times shortly before the war broke out.
In 1885, King Leopold II. of Belgium became sovereign of the CONGO FREE STATE. The Belgian parliament refused to accept responsibility for the Free State, but granted Belgian military officers, administrative officials to take leave in order to serve in the Free State, and granted the Free State a credit over a considerable amount. Belgium became the single most important trade partner of the Free State, whose most important export article was rubber.

B.) Domestic Policy

In Belgium in 1870-1878 the Catholics formed the cabinet, succeeded by the radical liberals (1878-1884). In 1884 a Catholic Party was established, in 1885 the Belgian Workers Party. In 1886, a socialist rising in the Borinage mining region was supprressed by the army. In 1893, priest Adolf Daens founded the Christian People's Party. The same year a constitutional amendment introduced universal manhood suffrage, with multiple voting; the franchise was greatly increased.
In 1878, the administration was declared bilingual (Flemish was added to French as the official language), in 1883 the education was set on bilingual footing.

C.) The Economy

Economically, Belgium lived through a boom in 1870-1873, which was followed by a deep crisis. In 1873 the NATIONAL BANK OF BELGIUM was granted the exclusive right to issue bank notes. Labour unrest in 1886 lead to the limitation of women and child labor in 1889.

D.) Intellectual Life

In the 1870es, Belgian medical doctor CHARLES DELSTANCHE (1840-1900) pioneered in OTOLOGY (researching/healing diseases of the ears).
Belgian-American engineer CHARLES VAN DEPOELE - he had emigrated in 1869 - in 1883 patented the ELECTRICAL RAILWAY after having successfully experimented with electrical traction since the early 1870es.
In 1883, Belgian nun LOUISE LATEAU (1850-1883) had the STIGMATA appear on her, a phenomenon the Belgian Academy of Medicine failed to scientifically explain.
In 1884, a group of artists called LES XX hold their first exhibition in Brussels, introducing ART NOUVEAU, a style which would soon spread to France, Germany and elsewhere. A famous Belgian painters of the period included FELICIEN ROPS (1833-1898) who influenced Toulouse-Lautrec, and symbolist FERNAND KHNOPFF (1858-1921). Belgian poet EMILE VERHAEREN (1855-1916) wrote in French. Francophone Belgian artists and writers were closely connected with the French art scene.

Eric Dodemont, La guerre franco-allemande de 1870, from Histoire du Monde du 1er siecle a nos jours, in French, a Belgian site having many details on the Belgian army during that war
Geschiedenis van de Tram in Belgie, by W.J. Kusee (beginning in 1885)
Geschiedenis van de haven van Zeebrugge
Honderd Jaar Socialisme (100 Years Socialism), from SP
History of Belgian Chocolate, from The Belgian Chocolate
Biography of Emile Verhaeren, from La Litterature Belge de la Langue Francaise
Symbolism and Art Nouveau -- A Brief Chronology, by Jeffrey Howe
Biography of Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916) from Stonehorse
Biographies of Felicien Rops and Fernand Khnopff, from Weborgers
Belgium : A Literature Apart, by Jean-Luc Outers
Het Ontstaan van het Gentse Socialisme (The Emergence of Gent Socialism), from Gandavum 1996, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS Portraits of King Leopold II, No.1, from Art Istocracy
Licet Multa, Encyclica by Pope Leo XIII, August 3rd 1881, on Catholics in Belgium, justice, church, philosophy, state
Permoti Nos, Encyclica by Pope Leo XIII., July 10th 1895. on social conditions in Belgium
Documents : La Guerre franco-allemande et la Neutralite belge, 6 documents 1865-1870, in French, from La Guerre Franco-Allemande de 1870 by Eric and Luc Dodemont
Flemish patriotic poems/songlyrics by Albrecht Rodenbach, posted by Tim Moens, with brief biography of A.R.
Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916), Toute la Flandre, Vol. I, 1920, Vol. II, 1920; from La Bibliotheque Universelle, in French
List of Belgian Cabinet Chiefs etc., from World Statesmen : Belgium by Ben Cahoon
Article Belgien, P.1 (644), P.2 (645), P.3 (646), P.4 (647), P.5 (648), P.6 (649), P.7 (650), P.8 (651), P.9 (652), P.10 (653), P.11 (654), from Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888-1890 edition, in German
REFERENCE W. Harold Claflin (ed.), The History of Nations : Holland and Belgium, N.Y.: Collier (1907) 1916
Article : Belgium, in : Statesman's Year Book 1878, pp.27-41 (data on 1877) [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1886 pp.80-84 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on September 6th 2007

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