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History of the Low Countries
Austrasia Frisian kingdom
Carolingian Empire
ca 800843
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Cty of Flanders
9th century – 1384
Lotharingia, then Lower Lorraine 855–954–977
Bishopric of Liège.png
Bishopric
of Liège

+
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Imperial Abbey of Stavelot- Malmedy
+
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Duchy of Bouillon

10th century
– 1795
Other feudal states Luxembourg New Arms.svg
County of Luxembourg
963–1384
10th–14th centuries
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Burgundian Netherlands
Duchy of Luxembourg
1384–1443
1384–1482
 

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Habsburg Netherlands
1482–1795
(Seventeen Provinces, Burgundian Circle)

Spanish (Southern) Netherlands
1549–1713
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Dutch Republic
1581–1795
Oostenrijkse Nederlanden Vlag.gif
Austrian Netherlands
1713–95
Liège Revolution

1789-1792

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United States
of Belgium
1790
   

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French Republic
1795–1804
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Batavian Republic
1795–1806
French Empire
1804–15
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Kingdom of Holland
1806–10
 
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
since 1815
   
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium
since 1830
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
since 1839
Netherlands

The United States of Belgium, (Dutch: Verenigde Nederlandse Staten or Verenigde Belgische Staten, French: États-Belgiques-Unis) was a confederation of the Southern Netherlands which existed from January to December 1790, during a short-lived revolt against the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II. Other English translations are United Belgian States or United Dutch States.

History

Influenced by the Enlightenment, Habsburg Emperor Joseph II pushed through a series of large-scale reforms in the Austrian Netherlands in the 1780s, designed to radically modernize and centralize the political, judicial and administrative system. The old decentralized system would be replaced with a uniform judicial system for the whole empire, and the independent provinces of the Austrian Netherlands were to be replaced with 9 kreitsen and 35 districten. Joseph also secularized the education system and reorganized or abolished a number of religious orders.

Map of the Austrian Netherlands in 1786.

In 1789, a popular revolt broke out in the Austrian Netherlands in reaction against the emperor's centralizing policies. Two factions appeared: the Statists who opposed the reforms, and the Vonckists, named for Jan Frans Vonck, who initially supported the reforms but then joined the opposition, due to the clumsy way in which the reforms were carried out.

The uprising started in Brabant, which in January 1789 declared it no longer recognized the emperor's rule, in what is called the Brabant Revolution. The leader of the Statisten faction, Hendrik Van der Noot, crossed the border into the Dutch Republic and raised a small army in Breda in Staats-Brabant, the northern (Dutch) part of Brabant.

Flag of the Brabant Revolution

In October, he invaded Brabant and captured Turnhout, defeating the Austrians in the Battle of Turnhout on October 27. Ghent was taken on November 13, and on November 17 the imperial regents Albert of Saxony and Archduchess Maria Christina fled Brussels. The remains of the imperial forces withdrew behind the citadel walls of Luxembourg and Antwerp.

Van der Noot now declared Brabant independent, and all other provinces of the Austrian Netherlands (except Luxembourg) soon followed suit. On January 11, 1790 they signed a pact, establishing a confederation under the name Verenigde Nederlandse Staten / États-Belgiques-Unis (United States of Belgium) and a governing body known as the Sovereign Congress. The Dutch Act of Abjuration in 1581 and the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 stood model for the treaty of the United Belgian States.

Independently, in 1789, a revolution had broken out in the Bishopric of Liège. The revolutionaries established a republic which joined the United States of Belgium in a kind of alliance.

Realizing the fragility of the new state, Van Der Noot attempted to approach foreign states for support and suggested a unification with the Dutch Republic, with little success. Also, the Statists and Vonckists factions were in constant conflict, bordering on civil war.

Meanwhile, Joseph II had died and his brother Leopold II had succeeded him as emperor. Leopold quickly moved to recapture the Austrian Netherlands. On October 24 imperial troops took the city of Namur, forcing the province of Namur to recognize the authority of the emperor. Two days later, the province of West Flanders followed suit, and by December the entire territory was again in imperial hands.

Legacy

Though short-lived, the United States of Belgium had long-lasting repercussions. It had given the Southern Netherlands their first taste of independence, and had sparked a new political idea: the nation-state of Belgium.

In 1830, the inhabitants of the Southern Netherlands successfully revolted against the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Belgian Revolution, creating the modern state of Belgium.

External links

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