Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.



Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.



The Benelux Countries



Austria was forced to cede its territories in the southern Netherlands to France under the terms of the 1797 Treaty of Campo Formio. At the Congress of Vienna this area was joined with the united Netherlands, which were supposed to act as a buffer zone to France. However confessional, political, and cultural differences led to the separation of Belgium in 1830. At this point in time the industrialization process in the Netherlands and in Belgium began. The Belgian economy benefitted from colonial territories in Africa. The Dutch kings also ruled over Luxembourg as Grand Dukes. Differences in the laws of succession led to Luxembourg's separation from the Netherlands in 1890.


The Netherlands and Luxembourg

Democratic structures were gradually implemented in the Netherlands, which was ruled by the Orange-Nassau dynasty. Luxembourg became independent in the 1890s.


The Congress of Vienna in 1815 created the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, including present-day Belgium, the former Austrian Netherlands.

During the course of the Revolution of 1845, King 2 William II, son of the conservative  1 William I, was forced to agree to a constitutional monarchy.

After his death the following year, his son 3 William III took the throne.

1 William I, King of the Netherlands
2 William II, King of the Netherlands
3 William III, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, ca. 1865

During his reign, the parliament was able to significantly expand its authority.

In the 1880s, the Netherlands experienced an economic boom that also promoted the development of the 4 workers movement, out of which the Social Democratic Workers party emerged in 1894.

4 Congress of the socialist Second
Internationale in Amsterdam,
August 14-20, 1904

see also collection:

Vincent van Gogh

Worker at the loom, one of many paintings by Vincent van Gogh
of weavers working at machines, 1884

Luxembourg had been granted the status of a grand duchy at the Congress of Vienna but was governed over until 1867 by the Netherlands. It was thus able to profit from the Netherlands' new liberal constitution in 1848.

In 1898 5 Queen Wilhelmina ascended the throne.

5 Queen Wilhelmina wearing her coronation robe in 1898

Luxembourg law did not allow for a female monarch, however, and the country was therefore released from its union with the Netherlands.

When 6 Napoleon III purchased the country in 1867, this created a crisis, as Prussia did not approve. The London Conference of May 11, 1867, ended the Luxembourg crisis by assuring its independence and neutrality. This agreement was disregarded by the Germans at the beginning of World War 1 when they occupied the country.

6 Napoleon III, French Emperor, painting by F.X. Winterhalter, 1857



Belgium's Political and Economic Progress

Belgium had a liberal state system as early as 1830, was the most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain, and also endeavored to gain colonies in Africa.


In 1815, the Congress of Vienna merged the Catholic region of the Austrian Netherlands with the Republic of United Netherlands situated north of it, which was reigned over by the Protestant House of Orange-Nassau. Dutch became the official language, which wounded the national pride of the French-speaking population. This and other discriminatory policies, as well as political and economic restrictions, led to a rebellion in Brussels on August 25,1830, in the wake of the Parisian July Revolution.

Dutch soldiers were then chased out of Brussels during the September Revolution 8 on September 26, and on October 4,1830, the provisional Belgian government proclaimed the country's independence.

8 Revolution of the Belgians against
the Dutch rule under William I in 1830,
wood engraving, 1864

Belgium adopted a liberal constitution on February 7,1831, and installed a constitutional monarchy.

The anglophile Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was crowned 9 king on June 4, 1831.

9 Coronation ceremony of King Leopold I on 4 June 1831 at the Palace Royale in Brussels,
painting from 1856

In 1839, Luxembourg ceded the western Walloon region to the newly independent Belgium. The Netherlands, however, did not recognize Belgium's independence until the London Protocol of April 19,1839, but then the country's borders were fixed and its neutrality guaranteed by the Great Powers.

7 Belgium led the Continent economically in the first half of the 19th century.

Domestically, the conflict between Catholic and liberal thought over the educational policies of 1879 were resolved with a liberal school law. Differences between the French-speaking Walloons in the south and the Flemish speakers in the north were not only linguistic and cultural but also represented a difference in wealth as industrialization had been more advanced in the south.

Universal male suffrage was first implemented in 1893 as a result of a 10 general strike initiated by the Social Democrats.

7 The "castle in the-air,"
world exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium,

10 The military puts down the strike
by the miners of Mons, 1893


Sir Henry Morton Stanley and
some of his African companions,
wood engraving,1890

Belgian Colonial Politics

King Leopold II sponsored tire exploration of central Africa by, among others, Sir Henry Morton Stanley. The result of his expedition was the founding of the Congo Free State (later Zaire).

The king was its personal sovereign with a neutral status at the Berlin Congo conference of 18S5. When the inhuman methods he used to exploit the country and the unrest that resulted from them became known, he was forced to cede Congo to Belgian governmental control in 1908.

 His successor, Albert I, who was crowned the following year, restructured the organization of the colony.

The ivory stock of Congo documents
the exploitation of Africa's natural
resources, wood engraving, 1890



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