From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Flanders (disambiguation).
The Flemish Region :
The Flemish Community :
Official language Dutch
Capital Brussels
Minister-President Yves Leterme
 - Total

13,522 km2
 - In Flemish region
 - in Brussels region

6,016,024 (2004)
/- 200,000
Regional anthem De Vlaamse Leeuw

Flanders (Flemish, Fleming) (Dutch: Vlaanderen (Vlaams, Vlaming)) has two main designations:

The precise geographical area denominated by Flanders has changed a great deal over the centuries.

In the past, the term Flanders was applied to an area in western Europe, the County of Flanders, spread over:

The significance of the County and its counts eroded through time, but the designation remained.


Flanders in Belgium

Somewhere in the 19th century it became commonplace to call the area now known as Flanders, from Maasmechelen to De Panne as "Flanders", including parts of the Duchy of Brabant and the Bishopric of Liège (Belgian Limburg). This usage started to find its modern usage in a "disambiguation" of the northern part of Belgium (la partie septentrionale), from 1831, the establishment of the Belgian monarchy, on.

At this time, for most, the term Flanders is normally taken to refer to either the political, social, cultural and linguistic community (and the corresponding official institution, the Flemish Community), either the geographical area, one of the three regions in Belgium, namely the Flemish Region. Given that the community absorbed all legal powers of the region, and that the community corresponds with all the Flemish organisations (parties, cultural foundations, etc.), this might be the dominant meaning.

Institutional Flanders

Both the Flemish Community as the Flemish region are federal units of the Kingdom of Belgium. Institutionally, it is the Flemish Community which has most contemporary relevance as it has its own parliament and government, whereas the region has nearly no proper institutions any more, as it was absorbed by the community.

The area of the Flemish Community is represented on the maps above plus the area of the Brussels region (seen as a white hole on the same map). Roughly, the Flemish Community is responsible for all cultural issues as education, culture, language, sports, ...

The area of the Flemish region is represented on the maps above. The Flemish Region has a population of around over 6 million. Roughly, the Flemish Region is responsible for all economic issues which are not relevant of the federal Belgian government.

The number of Flemings in Brussels (region) is estimated to be between 7,5% and 15% (official figures do not exist as there is no language census and no official subnationality). They are under the rule of the Brussels Region for economics affairs and under the rule of the of the Flemish Community for educational and cultural issues.

As of 2005, the Flemish institutions as its government, parliament, etc. represent the Flemish Community, which absorbed all constitutional competencies of the Flemish region. The region and the community thus de facto share the same parliament and the same government. All these institutions are based in Brussels. Nevertheless, both bodies (the community and the region) are still existing and the distinction between both is important for the people living in Brussels.

The official language for all Flemish institutions is Dutch. In private, several minorities speak other languages as French, Yiddish, Italian, Polish, Turkish, Berber, Arabic and other languages. French enjoys a limited official recognition in a few municipalities along the border with French-speaking Wallonia and the bilingual Brussels Region.

Provinces of Flanders

The Flemish Region covers 13,522 km² and contains over 300 municipalities. It is divided into 5 provinces:

  1. Antwerp (Antwerpen)
  2. Limburg (Limburg)
  3. East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen)
  4. Flemish Brabant (Vlaams-Brabant)
  5. West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen)

Independently from the provinces, Flanders has its own local institutions in the Brussels-Capital region, being the Vlaamse GemeenschapsCommissie (VGC), and its municipal antennae (Gemeenschapscentra, community centers for the Flemish community in Brussels). These institutions are independent from the educational, cultural and social institutions which depend directly from the Flemish government. They exert, among others, all those cultural competencies that outside Brussels fall under the provinces.

Political Flanders (in Belgium)

Main article: Politics of Flanders

Many new political parties during the last half century were founded in Flanders and most often in Antwerp: Daensism, progressive Christian-Democrats; Frontpartij & Volksunie, moderate nationalism; Green!, alternative/Green; Vlaams Belang: far-right nationalism; and ROSSEM, a short-lived anarchistic spark).

Flemish nation

A more controversial designation for Flanders is those parts of Belgium where Dutch is (or was) spoken. This is the root of many communautary quibbles in Belgium. This designation finds its root in the romantic nationalism of the 19th century but later got a more pejorative meaning, which is now overcome. For some, Flanders is more than just a geographical area (Flemish Region) or a federal institution (Flemish Community). Some even call it a nation: a people of over 6 million living in the Flemish Region and in the Brussels-Capital Region, where they form a minority. Flemings share a lot of political, cultural, scientific, social and educational views. Although many Flemings identify themselves more with Flanders than with Belgium; the Belgian legislator provides a federal Belgian-scale organisation for all questions that require a nationwide solution.

Flanders in France

See: Nord and Nord-Pas de Calais

Flanders in The Netherlands

See: Zeeuws-Vlaanderen


See also: History of Belgium

Historical Flanders: County of Flanders

Main article: County of Flanders

Created in the year 862, the County of Flanders was divided when its western districts fell under French rule in the late 12th century. The remaining parts of Flanders came under the rule of the counts of neighbouring Hainaut in 1191. The entire area passed in 1384 to the dukes of Burgundy, in 1477 to the Habsburg dynasty, and in 1556 to the kings of Spain. The western districts of Flanders came finally under French rule under successive treaties of 1659 (Artois), 1668, and 1678.

During the late Middle Ages Flanders' trading towns (notably Ghent and Bruges) made it one of the most urbanised parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export.

Increasingly powerful from the 12th century, the territory's autonomous urban communes were instrumental in defeating a French attempt at annexation (1300-1302), finally defeating the French in the Battle of the Golden Spurs (July 11, 1302), near Kortrijk. Two years later, the uprising was defeated and Flanders remained part of the French Crown. Flemish prosperity waned in the following century, however, owing to widespread European population decline following the Black Death of 1348, the disruption of trade during the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War (1338-1453), and increased English cloth production. Flemish weavers had gone over to Worstead and North Walsham in Norfolk in the 12th century and established the woollen industry.

Flanders -as it is known now- in the Low Countries

Main article: Low Countries

The Reformation

Martin Luther's 95 Theses, published in 1517, had a profound effect on the Low Countries. Among the wealthy traders of Antwerp, the Lutheran beliefs of the German Hanseatic traders found appeal, perhaps partly for economic reasons in Dutch. The spread of Protestantism in this city was aided by the presence of an Augustinian cloister (founded 1514) in the St. Andries quarter. Luther, an Augustinian himself, had taught some of the monks, and his works were in print by 1518. Charles V ordered the closing of this cloister around 1525. The first Lutheran martyrs came from Antwerp. The reformation resulted in consecutive but overlapping waves of reform: a Lutheran, followed by a militant Anabaptist, then a Mennonite, and finally a Calvinistic movement. These movements existed independently of each other.

The Pragmatic Sanction of 1549, issued by Charles V, established the Low Countries as the Seventeen Provinces (or Spanish Netherlands in its broad sense) as an entity separate from the Holy Roman Empire and from France.

The schism between the southern Catholics and northern Calvinists resulted in the Union of Atrecht and the Union of Utrecht, respectively.

It was the iconoclasm of 1566 (the Beeldenstorm) – the demolition of statues and paintings depicting saints – that led to religious war between Catholics and Protestants. The Beeldenstorm started in what is now French Flanders with open-air sermons (hagepreken) in Dutch. The first took place on the Cloostervelt near Hondschoote. The first large sermon was held near Boeschepe on July 12, 1562. These open-air sermons, mostly of Anabaptist or Mennonite signature, spread through the country. On August 10, 1566 at the end of the pilgrimage from Hondschoote to Steenvoorde, the chapel of the Sint-Laurensklooster (Cloister of Saint Lawrence) was defaced by Protestants. The iconoclasm resulted not only in the destruction of Catholic art, but also cost the lives of many priests. It next spread to Antwerp, and on August 22, to Ghent. One cathedral, eight churches, twenty-five cloisters, ten hospitals and seven chapels were attacked. From there, it further spread east and north, but in total lasted not even a month.

Charles' son, King Philip II of Spain, a devout Catholic and self-proclaimed protector of the Counter-Reformation who was also the duke or earl of each of the Seventeen Provinces, started to crack down on the rising Calvinists in Flanders, Brabant and Holland. What is now approximately Belgian Limburg was part of the Bishopric of Liège and was catholic de facto. Part of what is now Dutch Limburg supported the Union of Atrecht, but did not sign it.

The Eighty Years' War and its consequences

In 1568 the Seventeen that signed the Union of Utrecht started a (counter)rebellion against Philips II: the Eighty Years' War. Before the Low Countries could be completely reconquered, war between England and Spain broke out, forcing the Spanish troops under Philips II to halt their advances. Meanwhile, Philips' Spanish troops had conquered the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp, which was then arguably the most important port in the world had to be conquered. On August 17, 1585, Antwerp fell. This ended the Eighty Years' War for the (from now on) Southern Netherlands. The United Provinces (the Netherlands proper) fought on until 1648 – the Peace of Westphalia. The definite loss of the southern Low Countries caused the rich Calvinist merchants of these cities to flee to the north. Many migrated to Amsterdam, which was at the time a tiny port, but was quickly transformed into one of the most important ports in the world in the 17th century. The exodus can be described as 'creating a new Antwerp'.

This mass immigration from Flanders and Brabant (especially Antwerp) was an important driving force behind the Dutch Golden Age. While Spain was at war with England, the rebels from the north, strengthened by refugees from the south, started a campaign to reclaim areas lost to Philips II's Spanish troops. They managed to conquer a considerable part of Brabant (the later Noord-Brabant of the Netherlands), Limburg and a small part of Flanders (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen), before being stopped by Spanish troops. The frontline at the end of this war stabilized and became the current border between present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch (as they later became known) had managed to reclaim enough of Spanish king-controlled Flanders to close of the river the Scheldt, effectively closing Antwerp off from a significant trade route. Due to these events, Flanders and Brabant went into a relative decline in the 17th century. From the view of the sophisticated northerners and the present benefit of hindsight, it became a country of peasants and simple but happy folk. The potential to reclaim their wealth and prominent world position remained possible until just recently. Today Flanders is one of the most productive and wealthiest regions of the world.

Although arts remained at an relatively impressive level for another century with Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Flanders experienced a loss of its former economic and intellectual power under Spanish, Austrian, and French rule, with heavy taxation and rigid imperial political control compounding the effects of industrial stagnation and Spanish-Dutch and Franco-Austrian conflict.

1581-1815: The Southern Netherlands

Conquered by revolutionary France in 1794 and annexed the following year as the départements of Lys, Escaut, Deux-Nèthes, Meuse-Inférieure and Dyle. The people rose against the French in 1798, the Boerenkrijg, with the heaviest fights in the Campine area. The main reason for this uprising was the forced army service for all men aged 16-25.

1815-1830: United Kingdom of the Netherlands

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in Waterloo, Brabant, sovereignty over the Austrian Netherlands – Belgium minus the East Cantons and Luxembourg – was given by the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the Kingdom of Holland, a French puppet kingdom that succeeded the United Provinces. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands was born. The Protestant King of the Netherlands, William I succeeded in rapidly starting the industrialisation of the Southern Netherlands, but failed to maintain good relations with the larger and rebellious Catholic provinces. The Belgian bourgeoisie was not only Catholic, as opposed to the Protestant north, but they also spoke French, instead of Dutch. Resentment grew both among Catholics and among the powerful liberal bourgeoisie. It became a part of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1831 following the Belgian Revolution of the previous year.

Kingdom of Belgium

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the splitting up of the two countries. Belgium was confirmed as an independent state by the Treaty of London of 1839, but deprived of the military strongholds of Maastricht and Givet. Givet is located in the indentation of the French border in Belgium, near the Meuse River. Sovereignty over Zeeuws Vlaanderen, south of the Westerscheldt river delta, was left with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which closed this river for any sea traffic to and from Antwerp harbour until 1863.

Rise of the Flemish Movement

See Flemish movement

World War I and its consequences

Flanders saw some of the greatest losses of life of the First World War including the battles of Ypres and the Somme. Due to the hundreds of thousands of casualties, the poppies that sprang up from the battlefield and that were immortalised in the poem In Flanders Fields, have become an emblem of human life lost in war. It is perfectly normal for poppies to invade disturbed arable ground. More important for the course of history is the resentment some felt of being used as cannon fodder, as a whole nation, and not as single soldiers.

Flemish feeling of identity and consciousness grew through the events and experiences of war. The German occupying authorities had taken several Flemish-friendly measures. More importantly the experiences of the Dutch speaking soldiers on the front lead by French speaking officers catalysed Flemish emancipation. Their suffering is still remembered by Flemish organizations during the yearly Yser pilgrimage and Wake of the Yser in Diksmuide at the monument of The Yser tower.

Right-Wing Nationalism in the interbellum and World War II

See VNV, Verdinaso, Dietsland, Voorpost, Cyriel Verschaeve

Communautary quibbles and the Egmont pact

See Egmont pact, Vlaams Blok, Voeren, José Happart, Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde

The community: Flemish language and culture

The standard language used in Flanders is almost the same as in the Netherlands, i.e., Dutch. The Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are often referred together as Flemish. However, using Flemish to refer to a specific dialectic language may be confusing as there are many different Flemish dialects that are sometimes mutually incomprehensible.

At first sight, Flemish culture is defined by its language and its gourmandic mentality. Some claim Flemish literature does not exist, because it is said to be 'readable' by both the Dutchmen as well as Flemings, but this is a fallacy. A distinct Flemish literature already began in the 19th century, with writers and poets as Guido Gezelle, whom not only explicitly referred to his writings as Flemish, but actually used it in many of his poems, and strongly defended it:

"Gij zegt dat ‘t vlaamsch te niet zal gaan:
‘t en zal!
dat ‘t waalsch gezwets zal boven slaan:
‘t en zal!
Dat hopen, dat begeren wij:
dat zeggen en dat zweren wij:
zoo lange als wij ons weren, wij:
‘t en zal, ‘t en zal,
‘t en zal!"

("You say Flemish will disappear:
It will not!
that Walloonish rantings will prevail:
It will not!
This we hope, this we crave:
this we say and this we swear:
as long as we defend ourselves, we:
It will not, It will not,
It will not!")

This distinction in literature is also made by experts, such as Kris Humbeeck, professor in Literature of the University of Antwerp, as can be noted here.

Some other famous writers representative of Flemish culture are Ernest Claes, Stijn Streuvels, and Felix Timmermans.

See also

External links

Communities, regions and provinces of Belgium Flag of Belgium
Communities: French Community of Belgium | Flemish Community in Belgium | German-speaking community of Belgium
Regions and provinces: Flanders: Antwerp | East Flanders | Flemish Brabant | Limburg | West Flanders
Wallonia: Hainaut | Liège | Luxembourg | Namur | Walloon Brabant
Brussels-Capital Region
Personal tools