Resources for the history of Belgium

Resources for the history of Belgium

In the coming weeks, you will notice a new feature on our website: a webpage with the name ‘Resources’.

What can you expect from that new feature?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are looking for material about the history and culture of Belgium. Now, I don’t deny you could just spend months reading up on Wikipedia. I’m guessing that is not exactly what most people have in mind though.

So I will be sharing my best reading tips, as well as short reviews that will help you make your reading choice. For free.

The page ‘Resources’ will consist of two parts: History and Culture.

Under History you will find reading material about (mostly Belgian, but not exclusively) history in all its facets: general history, cultural and religious history, economic history and political history. The reason for this subdivide is that this is the way we structure our History of Belgium course.

The second part of the page ‘Resources’ is Culture. Under Culture you will find both fiction and non-fiction on Belgian Art and Literature, as well as Music and Films. I’ll be updating that page later on. The reason I want to include films (or popular culture if you want), is because that also pops up frequently on social media. People looking for an easy way to learn one of our country’s languages, are frequently referred to television programs or easy to follow popular films. So I will be adding my choice of films that represent Belgian culture best. The same goes for works of ‘classic’ Belgian literature.

The Resources on our website will give you a substantial overview on what there is to read about Belgium. You can consider it a bibliography with which to start your exploration of the Belgian identity. To help you in that exploration, we will provide a link to where you can purchase your book of choice. Occasionally I will share material that you might only be able to look through in specialised libraries. In that case, I will give you a detailed step-by-step guide on how to visit these libraries. Where possible, I will provide a link to online material.

To introduce this new feature, I will share my first reading tip with you:

Paul Arblaster, A History of the Low Countries, 2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan: 2012.

The History of Belgium course is structured around the sociological theories of professor Luc Huyse, which we have applied to Belgian history before and after 1830. In the absence of a book that follows this narrative, we chose Paul Arblaster’s book as the handbook for our course.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, Arblaster managed to write an easily understandable and concise overview of the history of three countries: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, which are historically known as ‘the Low Countries’ (Lage Landen in Dutch, les Pays-Bas in French).

The book does a good job of relating the closely entwined history of these three countries, offering several annexes that further help the reader to process the information, like chronological overviews, genealogies and lists of political parties. In that sense, it’s a very practical handbook, as well as an interesting read. It is divided into six chapters, starting in Roman times and ending in 2011.

Chapters two and three are of special interest to students in our History of Belgium course, since they treat on the formation of the Low Countries in the early Middle Ages and go into some detail concerning the Burgundian and Habsburg Low Countries. I find these two chapters especially well written, although at times it can be challenging to take in the details, especially if you lack some background knowledge.

From chapter 4 the emphasis is put more on the history of the Netherlands and there is a bit less to learn about Belgium. In his final chapter on the twentieth century dr. Arblaster again turns more to Belgium, beginning with the invasion of Belgium by the German Empire at the beginning of the Great War.

I can heartily recommend this book as a good first introduction to Belgian history.

In the coming weeks, more and more resources will be added to the site, so check back regularly.

You can find Arblaster’s book here:

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