Stage 12 about Liège b

About the city Liège

In 10th century the schools were flourishing in Liège, the city was known as the “Athens of the North”. In the 12th century, Maasland art flourished and some items belong to the masterpieces of the Renaissance. The history of Liège is marked by numerous conflicts between the church and neighboring countries, but also between the citizens of the city and the noble families. Several times the bishops had to take refuge in neighboring city Maastricht.

From the 16th century, Liège developed into an important center of arms industry and trade. A large part of the weapons used in the “Eighty Years War” came from Liège.

The industrial revolution on the European continent began in Belgium, before that, the country had traditionally enjoyed a vibrant trading tradition for many years. Textile production flourished in Flanders, iron processing in Walloon and there were large coal reserves in the south and east of the country. These key branches proved ideal pre-requisites for industrialisation.Belgians also maintained intensive contacts with Great Britain and in 1720, the first steam engine on the continent went into action near Liège. The model, made by Thomas Newcomen, was used to draw out waste water from a coal mine. Sometime later this was succeeded by another steam engine in the coal region around Mons and Charleroi. Thus everything was in place for boosting the coal and steel industries in both areas.

After the foundation of the Belgian state in 1830 successful investments in British technology began once more. Belgium was also a pioneer in the building of the railways. Between 1840 and 1880 the rail network expanded tenfold – even more than in Great Britain. Thanks to its highly developed transport communications the country profited from trade with less-developed neighbours, not the least with Germany where there was a high demand for Belgian goods. Belgian investors and entrepreneurs made a considerable contribution to building up industrial activity along the rivers Ruhr und Emscher.

In 1863 Ernest Solvay set up a pioneering business with his first factory in Charleroi. He had invented a revolutionary process for producing soda chemically. Soda was a basic material used in making glass, soap and chemicals. The Solvay works grew to become a huge concern, which nowadays produces chemical products, synthetic materials and pharmaceutical goods all over the world.

During the heyday of the industrial revolution, Wallonia became the second most industrialised area in the world after Britain.

In the 19th and early 20th century Liège and the surrounding area were an important center of mining and steel industry, which brought the city to great prosperity which can still be seen in the many stately mansions from that period.In the first half of the 20th century, 3 world exhibitions were organized in the city: those of 1905 and 1930 and the Exposition internationale de la technique de l’eau in 1939.

Construction of the fortresses around Liège started in 1887. The Battle of Liège; the first battle of the First World War was from 5 to 15 August 1914 around the fortresses of Liège. The city was on the German attack route to France. Few expected that Belgium would resist the considerable German military superiority. The resistance of the Liège fortresses slowed down the German advance and therefore probably influenced the course of the war. During this battle Liège was also the first city in the world to be bombed from the air by a German zeppelin.

Heavy fighting also took place in and near Liège during the Second World War. The economic slump of the post-World War II era was the result of the diminished importance of the mining and steel industries, aging factories were unable to compete with new industrial areas and the gap between inflexible unions and employers.

The city today attracts an increasing number of tourists. Symbols of the “reborn” city are the futuristic Liège-Guillemins railroad station, the greatly expanded Grand Curtius museum and the renovated Liège Opera.