Unformatted text preview: absent. The
Brabant revolution did not last long. Joined with the Principality of Liège, in 1792 these states became the “Belgian
Provinces” of France, i.e. French Departments.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands was established in 1814 by prerogative of William of Orange, who was hardly receptive
to the religious and linguistic originality of his southern subjects and the French-speaking bourgeoisie, which fomented
the revolution that led, in 1830, to the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium.
The result was a French-speaking state headed by a French-speaking bourgeoisie. While the official language of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands was Dutch, French was the official language of the Kingdom of Belgium of 1830. French
was the language of the bourgeoisie and of the governing class, the only voting one, both in Flanders and today’s
Wallonia.3 The people in the Flemish part of the country did not understand French and people in Wallonia still did not
master it: Flemish, Walloon, Picard and Lorraine are dialects. Since the inhabitants of Brussels were closer to power,
3 See Comprendre la Belgique Fédérale, De Boeck and Larcier / La Ligue des Familles, Bruxelles, 1997; see also Perin (1988).
Charters recognized the cities’ privileges, especially their right to autonomous internal management. Upon his accession, the prince was asked to
come and confirm the charter. At that time, he made his joyful entrance into the city.
On the use of French in Belgium and Europe in that time, see a.o. Mabille (1997), pp. 126-127, who quotes Gubin (1979), pp. 26-27. 175 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance they increasingly became French-speaking: in 200 years, the proportion of French-speakers and Dutch-speakers in
Brussels was reversed (Dutch-speakers roughly account for 15% of the population today).
In Belgium, which was officially French-speaking but in which a majority of the population did not understand the
language, it is easy to imagine what happened when the right to vote became widespread, first plural voting, then
universal male suffrage and women’s suffrage in 1945. The Flemish movement obtained “language legislation,” i.e. the
possibility of using Flemish in the justice system in 1873, in the administration in 1878, in education in 1883, in the
universities in 1932, and demanded “cultural autonomy.”
Until after World War II, Flanders, where a majority prevailed, was agricultural and relatively poor. However, Wallonia, to
the south, where a minority prevailed, was one of the world’s most industrialized regions. Alas, such industry relied, by
and large, on coal, a non-renewable resource, and the attendant iron smelting. It was in the hands of Belgian capitalism,
which gradually withdrew from the Walloon industrial sector instead of reconverting its industries.
The Walloon movement shifted from defending a language in the first half of the century to demanding “economic
regionalization” when, starting in 1958, coalmine closings, the prelude to a lengthy descent into economic hell, sounded
the death knell for prosperity built on iron and coal. In...
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