History of Brussels

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The name Brussels is derived from the word Bruocsella meaning 'of the marsh', because many years ago Brussels was surrounded by an extensive marshland.

According to tradition Brussels began as a Gallo-Romeinse settlement in the 7th century A.D. It wasn't until 977 that Brussels really began to take shape as a city. In the 12th century the city already had 5000 residents.

During the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries Brussels was the main centre for the manufacturing of luxurious fabrics, for exporting and for economy and politics. New city walls were erected around the city of Brussels to protect against enemy invasion. These walls stood until the 19th century when they were replaced by a ring road round the city. The only remaining section of the wall still standing is the Porte de Hal.

The Grote Markt, said by many to be the most beautiful market square in Europe, is the historical centre of Brussels. In the 15th century the citizens of the city obtained true power and with it embodied the majestic townhall, with a tower 96m high.

Hastily destroyed by the army of Louis XIV during a three siege in 1695, the market place took the people of Brussels three years to re-build. After that time Brussels fell into the hands of a number of different rulers from different lands.

In her search for independance, Brussels was often the stage for fighting that continued until the arrival of Charles de Lorraine in 1744. In 1789 the people of Brussels followed the example of revolutionary France and took part in the Brabants uprising against Austria. In 1790 the United Belgian States was proclaimed. There was much disunity amongst the groupings, and after a number of attacks from the Austrian side, the revolutionary French government took power. Brussels was now in the hands of the French.

In 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and after the Vienna Treaty Brussels came under the dominion of The Netherlands. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution led Brussels to independence and Brussels was chosen as the new capital for the state of Belgium.

The city began its modernisation during the 19th century. In 1865 the first European passnger railway was opened between Brussel and Mechelen. New street were laid and road taxes were abolished. The Palace of Justice was built and the city was extended.

Brussels has survived two world wars. In the post-war years Brussels again began expanding and modernising again. In the year 1958 the World Fair was held in Brussels and in the 60's Brussels became the base for the EEC and NATO.

More or less in the same period of time many multinationals established their offices in Brussels. Up until the present day Brussels with its one million residents, capital of Europe, is where you run into people come from all the world. A new Europe without borders and trade restrictions between member states was formed in 1992. It is called the European Union.

This small land, divided into different languages, customs and governments is really not so divided. In the north of the country and in the north of Brussels the Flemish people speak Dutch and in the south one finds the Wallonian French-speaking people. After the first world war Belgium received a small portion of Germany as compensation. There the offical language is German.

In Brussels Dutch and French are both the official languages, as so you find everything in the city is bi-lingual. In the European Union there are 13 official languages there for you hear many different languages spoken in Brussels.