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By Pieter François

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Additional info for ‘A Little Britain on the Continent’: British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870

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In name, however, this Unionism survived until the 1850s. Belgium’s relative political stability in the period 1830-1870 coincided with and was supported by a period of economic growth and prosperity. The rise of the industrial interests was facilitated by the fact that they had already a share of political power. The rise of the industrial cities of Wallonia and Brussels formed, however, a marked contrast with the agricultural decline of some regions of the Flemish countryside, symbolized by the 1846 potato crisis103.

Although clearly overshadowed in importance by the July Revolution in Paris, British public opinion soon realised that the Belgian Revolution too would have long lasting consequences, and it was considered by contemporaries as one of the most complicated issues of international politics of the previous decades. British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870 41 An independent Belgian nation-state was clearly in breach of the 1815 peace agreement. The British found themselves in a position where they could tip the balance between the Courts of Eastern Europe, which were in favour of reuniting Belgium with The Netherlands, if necessary by employing military force, and France, which favoured an independent Belgium in the hope that this would be a first step towards the annexation of Belgium.

Besides Ypres, he did not visit any Belgian town of importance. It is, therefore, ironical that precisely Percy Fitzgerald uttered “the worst of such visits is that only a faint impression is left: and to gather the full import of such a monument one should stay for a few days at least, and grow familiar with it98”. Often clichés were used as a means to cover up the extremely narrow empirical base upon which the observations of the travellers were founded. There was a great contemporary awareness of this small empirical base, and it was often criticised as one of the most important weaknesses of contemporary travel writing.

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