History of Brussels The founding of Brussels While Belgium takes its name from the ancient Celtic tribe of the Belgae, whom Caesar fought to conquer there in the Gallic wars of 58-52 BC, Brussels is first mentioned in a 7th-century manuscript and the name of the city has its origins in the Old Flemish word Broekzele, meaning marshland, since the city was originally built on an island in the river Senne. The traditional year of the establishment of Brussels is said to be 580, when Saint Géry (or Saint Gorik), the Bishop of nearby Cambrai made a narrow escape from the Forest of Soignes through which he was travelling, and decided to build a chapel to the site. The settlement grew into a significant village and in the 9th century developed into a town. The area was ruled by the Franks, people of Germanic origin who took over the region after the fall of the Roman Empire which had established a province there under the name of Gallia Belgica. After the 5th century, the Frankish Merovingian dynasty ruled the area, followed by the Carolingians whose most famous king is Charlemagne (768-814) who ruled over a huge part of Western Europe streching from Denmark to Italy. In the 10th century his empire was divided between his grandsons and one of these, Lothar, founded a fortress in Brussels in 979, which is considered the official date of the establishment of Brussels. The Middle Ages The city outgrew its walls already in the 13th century and the present boulevards show the limits of the new town as it spread. Brussels was home to skilled craftsmen and therefore became a trade centre, which monumental buildings from the 13th century such as cathedrals bear witness to. Brussels was in the next few hundred years among the most successful towns in the Duchy of Brabant which it was part of, specialising in fabrics. There developed a conflict between the powerful merchants and political rulers and in the 14th century a series of Flemish rebellions took place against the French rulers. Wars fought for political reasons were threatening trade with Britain which was a lucrative source of income for the merchants. The economic depression caused by this also created a drift between local merchants and craftsmen. Finally, in 1356 Jeanne, Duchess of Louvain gained control of the city and initiated a charter of workers’ rights which allowed craftsmen some political power in running the city. The Burgundian and Hapsburg dynasties The town was invaded by the Count of Flanders at the end of the 14th century which resulted in the enhancement of the fortifications surrounding the city. As Philip the Bold married an heiress of Duchess Jeanne, the city passed to Burgundian rule. In the 1430-s, Brussels became the capital of Burgundy and this meant an unprecedented rise in the city’s importace. In 1477, Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian of Austria, so the Hapsburg dynasty started ruling over Brussels. The locals did not take this change in power easily and after the death of Mary, started to rebel against the rulers and their French connections. The Hapsburgs managed to hang on to their power but the daughter of Maximilian moved the capital away from Brussels. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V became the ruler of Burgundy in 1515, and a few years later inherited also the Spanish throne. Since he had been raised in Flanders, he restored Brussels as the capital of Burgundy and government councils began to be run there. This attracted a lot of immigrants to the city and it became known for intellectual tolerance and business, overtaking other Flandrian cities in power. The Reformation, however, ensued and Charles’s Catholic heirs started to persecute the Protestants of Flanders. The Spanish rule ended with their defeat by the English but it is estimated that they could have killed over 8000 Protestants during their rule.turkeyarena.com Austrian rule In 1695 Brussels underwent an attack by the French king Louis XIV, which had a serious effect on the city since over 4000 houses, including the Grand Place or Grote Markt were destroyed in the wake of the bombings by the French. The 18th century marks the beginning of Austrian rule over Brussels after the Utrech peace threaty which ended the War of the Spanish succession between France and Austria with its allies. The city was rebuilt and resumed its economic dealings. The Willebroek canal gave Brussels access to the Rupel and Scheldt rivers and from there to the North Sea, enhancing the city’s economic potential further with the development of export trade from its harbour. The War of Austrian Succession which ensued, however, drained Brussels of its assets, along with other regions and produced an era of poverty. However, under the influence of the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the court of Brussels attracted artists and intellectuals, restoring its glamour. The Place Royale and Parc de Bruxelles bear witness to this era. After the French revolution the Brussels working class also started to revolt, and the ensuing War of Independence brought about in 1830 an independent Kingdom of Belgium with Brussels as its capital. Independence A revolution which preceded the achievement of independence, started on 24 August 1830. By July 1831, Leopold I was declared king. Subsequently, Brussels began to expand and new city districts were added in the 19th and 20th century which resulted in the demolition of the old city walls. Brussels gathered momentum as a place of libertarian thinking and as such provided a haven for people like Baudelaire, Marx and Hugo. Although production and facilities expanded, the overflow of population created a situation of inadequate housing. The second king, Leopold II, faced both these domestic issues as well as Belgium' s colonial decisions in Congo. The 20th century The beginning of the century saw a flourishing of Art Nouveau style in Brussels under the aegis of king Albert I, but this period came to an abrupt end as Belgium was occupied by the Germans in the First World War despite its neutrality. Flanders saw the worst of the warfare and today provides a resting place for the thousands of soldiers who died there. With the Peace treaty of 1919, Belgium gained the German-speaking area in the southeast. The country barely had time to breathe as it was again occupied by the Germans in 1940, after which king Leopold III surrendered to them. After the war ended, the king, who had resided in Germany towards the end of the Second World War, was suspected of Nazi collaboration and abdicated in 1951. The throne was taken by his son Baudouin, later to be succeeded by Albert II. The economic boom of the 1960-s and recession of the 1970-s and 1980-s gave way to Brussels' stature as the heart of Europe, as in 1958 it became the headquarters of the then European Economic Community (now the European Union), as well as NATO in 1967. Nowadays Brussels not only functions as the political and business centre of the region but also as the headquarters of many world famous corporations.