Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One of the many things I never knew.............

Some nations are born out of kinship, others out of conquest.  The nation of Belgium was born from a song.  In 1830, a few hundred spectators gathered in Brussels to take in what was by all accounts an unusually stirring performance of the French grand opera La Muette de Portici (The Mute Girl of Portici).  The opera's patriotic message - with its rousing song "Sacred Love of the Fatherland" ("Amour sacre de la patrie") - struck a chord with the French speakers in the crowd, who like many of their compatriots had long fled aggrieved under generations of Dutch rule.  The performance lit a fuse in the audience, igniting a nationalist fervor that swept thought Brussels as the attendees streamed out of the theater and into the streets, where thousands soon joined in a massive protest for independence.  The riots spread across the country, and within a year the fledgling nation of Belgium had declared independence from the Netherlands.
      As Europe's newest nation state, Belgium seemed imbued from the start with a spirit of forward-looking idealism.  After forming a national congress, the government invited a German prince named Leopold Georg Christian Friedrich to ascend the throne of its newly forged constitutional monarchy.  At first, the fledgling kingdom struggled to find its footing.  After severing ties with the Netherlands, Belgium lost access to the world markets commanded by the massive Dutch fleet.  As a result, the new regime faced considerable ill will from its powerful mercantile class.  By 1845, fully one-third of the population of Flanders was living off charity.  But the country had considerable assets at its disposal:  raw materials in the form of enormous coal and iron deposits in the south and east of the country, as well as a major port in Antwerp.  The country was ripe for the technological revolution that would soon transform it into the most industrialized nation on the continent.
-Alex Wright, as excerpted from Cataloging the World:  Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age

Wiki on the 1830 Belgium Revolution is here

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