Brussels, a brief history

Brussels, a brief history (1)

Although the origins of Brussels date back to the late sixth century, it was not until the mid-fifteenth century that the development of the city became evident. The oldest buildings to be found here, alongside those built in the late nineteenth century, date precisely from this period. 

Another feature of the city is that it has successively belonged to different countries throughout its history, which has prompted the blend of cultures that you will notice characterises the city. 

Although its development began in medieval times, it had previously been the centre of the Belgian Celts, whose territory was subjected by the might of Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire. With the victory of the Romans, the province of Belgian Gaul was established here. 

The first great drive experienced by Brussels came from the Carolingian armies that dominated these territories. Their work was continued by the Dukes of Burgundy, who enjoyed Belgian virtues and brought together a whole series of territories that they governed, which were known as the Low Countries, under a single flag. It was in the fourteen-thirties that Brussels became the capital of Burgundy.

Later, in 1482, the government of the city passed into the hands of the Habsburgs. 

Afterwards, in the sixteenth century, there came the period of Spanish rule, when Charles V, who was then the sovereign of Burgundy, also inherited the Spanish throne. It was in this period that Brussels became the most powerful city in Flanders, surpassing both Bruges and Antwerp. 

The seventeenth century witnessed great political and religious struggles throughout Europe. It was in this period that Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, decided to annex the territories of Flanders to his own. This wish culminated in the bombardment of Brussels by the French in 1695, and the destruction of the Grand Place zone and its surrounding areas.   

France, however, eventually withdrew and the Spanish remained in Belgian territory until 1713, when, after the War of Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed by which the Low Countries, Brussels included, were ceded to Austria.

This period ended with occupation by Napoleonic troops in 1792. After the overthrow of French domination, the last occupiers of the site were the neighbouring Dutch, who were finally forced to leave after the 1830 uprisings. 

Thus, Belgium attained independence in 1831, when it became a liberal, parliamentary monarchy, the first in continental Europe. 

This hereditary monarchy began with Leopold I, who was succeeded by his son, Leopold II, who established himself as the champion of most of the outstanding monuments that are currently preserved.  

Despite its independence, however, Belgium did not escape the consequences of the world wars that ravaged Europe in the twentieth century, and it was occupied by German troops in both.

In 1950, Baldwin I ascended to the Belgian throne and, shortly afterwards, the country became the capital of Western Europe, when it became home both to the administrative centres of the European Community, and to the Headquarters of NATO.

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