World War I, 1914-1918 The Depression Years

Belgian stamps overprinted for use in Eupen-Malmedy (far left), Eupen (center left)
Malmedy (center right), the occupied Rhineland (far right)
In the beginning, German currency was used (far left), then replaced by Belgian currency;
the areas of Eupen and Malmedy were soon integrated into Belgium.

Belgium 1918-1929

A.) Foreign Policy

Belgium during the war had suffered intense destruction, especially in the battlezone of Flanders. It was a victim of the war, as it was attacked by Germany in breach of it's neutrality, guaranteed by Prussia. The TREATY OF VERSAILLES sought to compensate for the damage. Germany had to cede the districts of EUPEN and MALMEDY to Belgium. The RHINELAND was to be demilitarized, and to be occupied by Belgian and French troops, for a number of years. Germany was to pay REPARATIONS to Belgium and France. Belgium even gained RUANDA-URUNDI, which was a part of former GERMAN EAST AFRICA.
Belgium no longer relied on a policy of neutrality, the status having been ignored by Germany in 1914. In 1920, France and Belgium signed a defensive treaty, turning their temporary wartime alliance of necessity into a permanent one. In 1923, with Germany failing to deliver reparations shipments on time, Belgian troops join the French in the occupation of the RUHRGEBIET. However, they encounter determined non-violent resistance; the occupying troops withdrew in 1925, and they withdrew from the Rhineland in stages (1926-1930).

B.) Domestic Policy

In 1918, a GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY was formed and UNIVERSAL MANHOOD ADULT SUFFRAGE introduced (minimum voting age 21). King Albert I. in 1918 promised to give in on Flemish demands. The 8-hour-workday and the 48-hours-work week were introduced. Education was made compulsory. In 1920, WOMEN SUFFRAGE IN LOCAL ELECTIONS was introduced.
The Belgian Communist Party (KPB/PCB) was founded in 1925.

C.) The Economy

In 1921, Belgium and Luxemburg established a CUSTOMS UNION. Between 1926 and 1929, the Belgian economy boomed, unemployment figures were extremely low (1.3 % of the workforce in 1923). Between 1927 and 1929, state revenue exceeded state expenses. Belgium was unaffected by the inflation which hit central and eastern Europe in the early 1920es.
The infrastructure was improved, as new port facilities were built at Antwerp and Ghent, and new canals were built. New industries - chemical industry, glass industry, production of artificial textiles emerged. With the Katanga mines in the Belgian Congo now connected by railroad to the coast, Belgium began to profit from Katanga's mineral wealth. The UNION MINIERE soon enjoyed a virtual monopoly on RADIUM. In 1923, SABENA, the Belgian national airline, was established.
Belgium's population experienced a rising standard of living.

D.) Intellectual Life

In 1919 J. BORDET was awarded the Nobel Price for Medicine.
In 1920 the Summer Olympic Games were held at Antwerp; German athletes were barred from attending. In 1924 the 24 HOURS OF SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (annual car race) was staged for the first time.
In 1927, Belgian astronomer GEORGES LEMAITRE came up with the BIG BANG THEORY, which in 1948 was developed and popularized by the American astronomer Gamov.

Belgium : History, from infoplease, encyclopedic, scroll down
Leopold III, King of Belgium, from Famous Belgians, encyclopedic.
Inter Bellum, from History of the 2nd Belgian Grenadiers
Biography of Hendrik de Man, from International Institute of Social History
The Antwerp Games, from Peppercorn Place
History of Belgium from
Article SABENA from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis
Between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Religious Life of Russian Emigres in Belgium between the World Wars, from Rutgers Univ.
Timeline Women's voting right in Belgium, from Vrouw en Vrijheid, in Flemish
DOCUMENTS Poster : Cardinal Mercier protects Belgium, from : Miscellaneous Propaganda Posters, posted by Earth Station #1 (scroll down)
Proces Verbaux du Conseil du Ministres, 1916-1949 (protocols of sessions of the Belgian cabinet), from the Belgian State Archives, a very large databank, downloadable, in French
Treaty of Versailles, Articles 31 to 39 (pertaining to Belgium), from BYU
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Antwerp in August 1920; Antwerp, Olympic Stadium 1920; Belgian fencer Victor Boin swears the Olympic oath, Antwerp Aug. 1920; Paavo Nurmi in the 100 meters; Paavo Nurmi, 3 golds, 1 silver; tennis mixed double ; Ropepulling Olympic for the last time
Belgian banknotes, from Currency Museum and from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Olympic Summer Games, Antwerp 1920, final medal standings, from Olympic Website
Poster Olympic Gamnes, Antwerp 1920, posted by Library of Congress
Image : Women vote for the first time (1921) at local elections, from Gazet van Antwerpen
REFERENCE Article : Belgium, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1919 pp.687-698, 1924 pp.680-692, 1925 pp.691-702, 1926 pp.669-681, 1928 pp.677-689, 1929 pp.671-683 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : Americana Annual 1927 pp.96-99, 1928 pp.86-88 [G]
Article : Belgium, in : New International Year Book 1919 pp.94-98, 1920 pp.83-87, 1921 pp.80-84, 1923 pp.83-88, 1925 pp.86-90, 1928 pp.91-94 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000. last revised on August 23rd 2007

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