WALLOONS AND FLEMINGS DBQ (1983)

(Suggested writing time-45 minutes)

Percent of Section II score-50

 

Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1-12. (Some of the documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.) Write your answer on the lined pages of the pink essay booklet.

This question is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents. You may refer to historical facts and developments not mentioned in the documents. Construct a coherent essay that integrates the analysis of documents into a treatment of the topic.

1. Identify the major features that distinguished Flemings from Walloons in Belgium in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What political, economic, and social tensions developed between the two groups?

Historical setting: In 1830 a new independent nation-state, Belgium, was created out of the southern provinces of the kingdom of the Netherlands. Belgium's liberal constitutional monarchy united population groups of different cultural backgrounds. Until the First World War, this small mineral-rich state, long a leader in European commerce, shared many economic, social, religious, and political developments with its Western European neighbors. At the same time, the unique cultural composition of Belgium raised special problems not faced elsewhere in the West.

 Document 1

 

 Document 2

 "The Flemish people of Belgium, inhabiting the country north of a line drawn near the city of Brussels, are of Teutonic origin. Their ancestors battled against the march of the constantly invading sea, against the advance of Roman legionaries and the attacks of savage barbarians, and resisted and defeated them. The savage German barbarians were either absorbed or driven back; the Roman legions marched over the land but never conquered it, and Roman law, custom, or language obtained no foothold in the country of the [Dutch-speaking] Flemings.

"To the south of the line lives another race of Celtic origin, the [French-speaking] Walloons. Supporting the same monarchy, ruled by the same laws, but differing in language, customs, blood, and traditions, the nearly two million Walloons who live south of the line look upon the majority Flemings who live north of it as aliens and foreigners. Except upon the arbitrary divisional line, there is no racial fusion.

"The Celtic Walloon is impatient of political or priestly control, has little regard for political or religious tradition, but is readily disposed to absorb new faiths and modern politics."

 Henry Hilliard, American diplomat in Brussels, 1842

 

Document 3 

DISTRIBUTION OF THE BELGIAN POPULATION BY MAJOR LANGUAGE AREAS, 1846-1910

(in millions and by percentage)

 

 1846

 1880

 1910

 

 Population

 Percentage of Total Population

  Population

 Percentage of Total Population

  Population

 Percentage of Total Population

 French Speaking Areas

 1.4

33%

1.3

31%

 2.4

 32%

 Dutch Speaking Areas

 2.2

 51%

 3.0

54%

 4.1

 55%

 Brussels Area (Bilingual)

 .7

 16%

 .8

 15%

 1.0

 13%

Total Belgian Population

 4.3

 100%

 5.6

 100%

 7.5

 100%

Extracted from statistical data compiled by the Belgian Ministry of the Interior

 Document 4

 "In the (Flemish) north, the most ardent supporters of the national government leadership are the French-speaking upper bourgeoisie; these northern Francophones [French speakers] are but 5 percent of the region's population, but are an elite that controls much of Flanders' wealth. Their economic power, especially in commercial enterprises, is resented by most of the Flemings, who see them as a foreign occupying power receiving their orders from the Francophones of Brussels."

 L'independance belge, a Brussels-base "middle-of-the-road" daily newspaper, 1872

 Document 5

 "To acknowledge the linguistic rights of the Flemings is to accept the inevitable consequences of bilingualism. No longer can those who use the French language make French the predominant language. The improvement of educational facilities for all Belgians requires real equality in the respect shown the Flemish culture."

 Flemish pamphlet, 1879

 Document 6

 "The Flemish are more Roman Catholic and more royalist than those in the south. Walloons are by nature anticlerical (one might say even bent on the dechristianization of Belgium) and display only a lukewarm affection for monarchy. The quarrels between the two in the political arena do not, however, reflect these crucial differences and their importance, but instead dwell on this language or that language, etc."

 French diplomatic observer, 1890

 Document 7

 "The Flemish have always suffered under a system of economic exploitation, from the early days of the potato famine in the 1840's and the government's decision to give aid and relief to paupers. This pattern of 'hand-outs,' together with the absence of national investments that would improve the entire Flemish region, continues to this day."

  C. Smeenk, Flemish political leader in the Chamber of Deputies, 1896

 Document 8

 "The Flemish struggle has been transformed into a struggle for political power, and it is led by the dominant Catholic party. With the 1893 (universal suffrage) revision of the Constitution, the Catholics have appealed to a newly enfranchised peasantry of Flanders which has discovered a connection between the economic decline of their region and the prosperity of the Walloon provinces The Belgian Workers' party (Socialist political party), emerging as a weapon to free workers from distress and oppression, has gained some new supporters with its call for social democracy but has not committed itself to language reform. The Catholic party, not the Socialist, has understood that the Flemish movement that aroused the masses was politically so important that its demands had to be met."

  F. Payen, French observer, 1899

 Document 9

 "For over 50 years, our nation has worked its way, at a rapid pace, toward an industrial shape. Two sectors of the Belgian economy have evolved: one advanced and comparable to its major [Western] European neighbors, one less advanced in the spread of steam-driven machinery. These sectors coincide with the language communities. The Flemish regions have remained agricultural and commercial; in Wallonia, activity in textiles and metallurgy is dominant."

  Le Moniteur beige, a weekly government publication, 1900

 Document 10

 "One cannot shrug off the Flemish movement or dismiss it as the eccentricity of a few extremists. It is not simply a question of who should speak Dutch or French and when and where. The differences in the two regions come out of different views of history, religion, and politics, and can be understood only if the economic and social structures of each area are seen as decisive. If viewed properly, then, the Fleming yearns for real, not professed, equality of his language and cultural ways."

 E. Vandervelde, Belgian political leader, 1902

 Document 11

 "The conflict between these two language groups-the Dutch-speaking, largely peasant population of the northwest and the French-speaking, more industrial population of the southeast-is no longer confined to a small intellectual circle of Flemings and the French- speaking [central] government in Brussels. The purely scholarly cause is now a political battle pressing for reforms. It is an assault on French, the language of the rich ruling classes and the language of atheism. That French is used exclusively by the government, in the courts, army, universities and secondary schools is a state of affairs we bitterly resent. We demand nothing less than equal language rights."

 Flemish publicist, 1912

 Document 12

 "One thing still separates Fleming from Walloon-the difference of language. Between the Teutonic Flemings and the German frontier is the French or Walloon speech of Liege, Namur, and Luxemburg. Roughly speaking, France is held to be a Liberal and anti-Catholic language; Flemish a Conservative and Catholic one. So there is a great deal of politics mixed up with the only cause for jealousy which divides the two races. Flemish has given to Belgium poets like Ledeganck, and has suffered from the defection to French of Maeterlinck, a Walloon playwright. The Walloons have produced many savants and historians and among them imaginative writers. There have been French movements and Flemish movements; and of late years it is the Flemish movement which has been the more vigorously conducted with effects on education and on politics which time will show to be important."

  The Times of London, May 14, 1913