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Belgium (French Belgique; Dutch België), constitutional monarchy in northwestern Europe. Belgium is one of the smallest and most densely populated European countries. It is also the most urbanized; 97 percent of its people live in urban areas. Together with Netherlands and Luxembourg, Belgium forms the Low, or Benelux, Countries. The country’s name comes from the Belgae, a Celtic people who lived in the region and were conquered by Roman general Julius Caesar in 57 bc. Its capital and largest city is Brussels.
Belgium is situated between France and the plains of northern Europe, and it borders the North Sea. Because of its geographic position as a crossroads of Europe, Belgium has been a major commercial center since the Middle Ages. The North Sea has been the country’s outlet for trade with the rest of the world. Belgium’s geographic location has also given it strategic importance, and many battles have been fought for control of the area. Belgium became an independent country in 1830.
Belgium is divided into three regions—Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. In Flanders, which consists of the provinces to the north and west of Brussels, most of the people speak Dutch (Flemish) and are known as Flemings. In Wallonia, the provinces south and east of Brussels, most of the people speak French and are known as Walloons. The population of the Brussels region comes from both language groups. Each region has a great deal of autonomy (self-rule), but friction between Flemings and Walloons continues to the present day.
For younger readers
Burgan, Michael. Belgium. Children's Press, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 7.
Carrick, Noel. Belgium. Chelsea House, 1999. For readers in grades 4 to 7.
Pateman, Robert. Belgium. Marshall Cavendish, 1998. For readers in grades 5 to 8. Belgium:
Alter, George. Family and the Female Life Course: The Women of Verviers, Belgium, 1849-1880. University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. A social history examining the changes in families during the Industrial Revolution in Belgium.
Bles, Mark. Child at War: The True Story of a Young Belgian Resistance Fighter. Mercury House, 1991. The experiences of Hortense Daman, a Belgian girl who joined the Resistance at the age of 13 and survived imprisonment at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. For high school readers.
Blom, J. C. H., and Emiel Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries. Berghahn, 1999. A one-volume history of Belgium and The Netherlands.
Kossman, Ernst Heinrich. Low Countries, 1780-1940. Oxford University Press, 1978. Scholarly history of Belgium (1789-1900) and The Netherlands (1898-1948).
Martens, Maximilian P. J., ed. Bruges and the Renaissance. Abrams, 1999. This lavishly illustrated study brings to life the Renaissance in Bruges.
Pietrusza, David. The Battle of Waterloo. Lucent, 1996. A study of events prior to, during, and after this famous battle.
Belgium: Politics, Society and Culture
Fox, Renee C. In the Belgian Chateau: The Spirit and Culture of a European Society in an Age of Change. Dee, 1994. A study of the changing social conditions of Belgium.
Pateman, Robert. Belgium. Marshall, 1995. An overview of the geography, history, culture, and people of Belgium. For middle school readers.
Roberts-Jones, Philippe, ed. Brussels: Fin de Siecle. Taschen, 1999. Illustrated survey of art nouveau architecture in Brussels.
Vlieghe, Hans. Flemish Art and Architecture, 1585-1700. Yale University Press, 1998. Overview of art in the area around Antwerp, from the Pelican History of Art series.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.
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