1870-1890 1914-1918

Belgium 1890 - 1914

A.) Foreign Policy

In 1908, the Congo Free State, heavily indebted to Belgium and criticized because of inhuman treatment of the native population, was annexed, to become BELGIAN CONGO. In 1907 the VENEZUELAN QUESTION (on outstanding Venezuelan debts) was resolved by the South American nation submitting to the decision of the Hague tribunal.

B.) Domestic Policy

The voting rights issue continued to be a hot iron; in 1893 voting was made mandatory. The elections of 1912 were accompanied by riots; the troops sent to reestablish order in certain instances joined the rioteers. In 1913 a strike, in April joined by more than 1 million workers, was held, demanding ewual universal manhood suffrage. Also in 1913, compulsory military service was introduced.
In 1900 retirement insurance was introduced, an insurance against accidents on the job in 1903.
In 1898, a law declared that in case of laws, the French and the Flemish text were to be regarded as equally valid.

In 1892 the Ligue belge du Droit des Femmes (Belgian League for Women's Rights) was established, aiming at achieving women's suffrage. In 1912, JULES DESTREE published an open LETTER TO THE KING, in which he stated that there was a Belgian state, but no Belgian people. The letter marks the beginning of the WALLOON MOVEMENT.
The FLEMISH MOVEMENT long exclusively focussed on the language question. At the turn of the century, Flemish leaders took on social topics. JULIUS MCLEOD pointed out that in Belgium's industry, Flemings were generally offered low-paid jobs, at the bottom of the hierarchy, while the better jobs were given to Walloons - in Wallonia as well as in Flanders (1900). LODEWIJK DE RAET, in his Economic Programme for the Flemish Movement (1906) demanded that technical education - hitherto offered exclusively in French - should be made available in Flemish. On the eve of World War I, life expectancy of the average Belgian man had reached 49 years, that of the average Belgian woman 52 years (Quetelet 2005).

C.) The Economy

Between 1896 and 1905 the new port of ZEEBRUGGE was constructed. In 1912, the "praline" was invented by Belgian confectioners.
Just before World War I, Belgium ranked sixth in world trade, higher than the Russian Empire. In 1910, another World Exposition was held in Brussels.

D.) Intellectual Life

Belgian poet MAURICE MAETERLINCK wrote in French; in 1911 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Francophone Belgian artists and writers were closely connected with the French art scene.
In 1895/96, Belgian soccer teams (amateurs) fought for the first time for the Belgian championship.
In 1897, ADRIEN DE GERLACHE (1866-1934) commanded the BELGIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION, which was forced to spend the winter 1897/1898 in Antarctica.
In 1900, Historian HENRI PIRENNE (1864-1935) began the publication of his 7 volume HISTORY OF BELGIUM (-1932).
In 1904 the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE was awarded to the Institute for International Law in Ghent, in 1909 to Belgian ex-premier A. BEERNAERT, in 1913 to HENRI-MARIE LA FONTAINE (1854-1943), president of the International Peace Bureau (1907-1943). About 1906, Belgian LEO BAEKELAND - he had emigrated to the US in 1889 - invented Bakelite.
Belgian painter turned architect HENRI CLEMENS VAN DE VELDE (1863-1957) was one of the major exponents of ART NOUVEAU; among his creations the Paris Maison de l'Art Nouveau (1896) and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts (Germany, 1907), which was to become the center of the BAUHAUS movement.

Deutsche Zollgeschichte : Belgien, Neu-Moresnet, from Deutsche Zollgeschichte, postcards with German comment
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 Maurice Maeterlinck, from Books and Writers
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
100 Jaar Vreemdelingen, Gastarbeiders, Migranten, Allochtonen en Nieuwe Belgen (100 Years Strangers, Guest Workers, Migrants, Allochtones and New Belgians), from Archief Limburgs Mozaiek, in Dutch
Vandervelde supported the 'socialism' of the liberal employer Solvay !, 1908: The SP and the big colonial employers, from Ludo Martens, The true history of the Socialist Party (From Workers Party of Belgium Website)
De Strijd voor het Vrouwenstemrecht (the Struggle for Women's Suffrage), posted by Sofie de Graeve, in Dutch
Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1910, posted by Xavier Lannoy; in French ("English version" activates unreliable translation engine)
Claire Quetelet, De evolutie van de levensverwachting in Belgie, 18de - 20ste eeuw (The Evolution of Life Expectancy in Belgium, from the 18th to the 20th century), thesis Univ. Gent 2005, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS Portraits of King Leopold II, No.1, from Art Istocracy
Portraits of King Albert I., No.1, No.2, from Art Istocracy
Permoti Nos, Encyclica by Pope Leo XIII., July 10th 1895. on social conditions in Belgium
Documents : L'Expansion coloniale de la Belgique, 2 documents 1890-1908, from Documents Historiques posted by Eric and Luc Dodemont, in French
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
Les Cartes Postales Belges : Belgique au debut du XXme siecle, large collection of postcards, sorted by location or topic
A number of Dutch-language articles on Belgian Politics 1911-1913, from Ons Volk Ontwaakt
REFERENCE W. Harold Claflin (ed.), The History of Nations : Holland and Belgium, N.Y.: Collier (1907) 1916 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1913 pp.966-971 (on events of 1912) [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Statesman's Year Book 1895 pp.375-393, 1898 pp.375-393, 1901 pp.432-452, 1905 pp.468-490, 1910 pp.629-644 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : International Year Book 1898 pp.94-97, 1899 pp.106-111, 1900 pp.117-121 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : New International Year Book 1907 pp.90-94, 1908 pp.84-90, 1909 pp.88-92, 1913 pp.98-102, 1914 pp.94-99 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events 1894 pp.75-78 [G]
Algernon Bastard, The Gourmet's Guide to Europe (1903), posted by Gutenberg Library Online, chapter III pp.79-90 on Belgium
Frederic Augustin Ogg, The Governments of Europe (1913), posted by Gutenberg Library Online, Pt.7 pp.534-553 on Belgium

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on October 17th 2007

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