Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen, French: Flandre) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, although there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history. It is one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although Brussels itself has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees some cultural aspects of Brussels life.
Flemish feeling of identity and consciousness grew through the events and experiences of war. The occupying German authorities took several Flemish-friendly measures. More importantly, the experiences of many Dutch-speaking soldiers on the front led by French-speaking officers catalysed Flemish emancipation. The French-speaking officers often gave orders in French only, followed by "et pour les Flamands, la même chose!", meaning "and for the Flemish, the same thing!" (which did not help the Flemish conscripts, who were mostly uneducated farmers and workers unable to have understood what had been said in French). The resulting suffering is still remembered by Flemish organisations during the yearly Yser pilgrimage in Diksmuide at the monument of the Yser Tower.
Created in the year 862 as a feudal fief in West Francia, 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, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Ghent, Bruges, Ypres and the Franc of Bruges formed the Four Members, a form of parliament that exercised considerable power in Flanders.
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 (11 July 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 (1337–1453), and increased English cloth production. Flemish weavers had gone over to Worstead and North Walsham in Norfolk in the 12th century and established the woolen industry.
The County of Flanders started to take control of the neighbouring County of Brabant during the life of Louis II, Count of Flanders (1330-1384), who fought his sister-in-law Joanna, Duchess of Brabant for control of it. The titles were eventually more clearly united under Philip the Good (1396 – 1467), Duke of Burgundy. The County of Loon, approximately the modern Flemish province of Limburg, remained independent under the lordship of the Archbishop of Liège until the French Revolution, but surrounded by the Burgundians.
References / notes
- Flanders. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 20 April, 2017.
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