Flanders

Some facts about Flanders

Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen [ˈvlaːndərə(n)], French: Flandre [flɑ̃dʁ], German: Flandern) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, although there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history. It is one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although Brussels itself has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Brussels life such as (Flemish) culture and education.

In historical contexts, Flanders originally refers to the County of Flanders (Flandria), which around AD 1000 stretched from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary. The core of historical Flanders is situated within modern-day Flanders and corresponds to the provinces West Flanders and East Flanders, but it sometimes stretched into what is now France and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, during the 19th and 20th centuries it became increasingly commonplace to use the term "Flanders" to refer to the entire Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, stretching all the way to the River Maas, as well as cultural movements such as Flemish art. In accordance with late 20th century Belgian state reforms the area was made into two political entities: the "Flemish Community" (Dutch: Vlaamse Gemeenschap) and the "Flemish Region" (Dutch: Vlaams Gewest). These entities were merged, although geographically the Flemish Community, which has a broader cultural mandate, covers Brussels, whereas the Flemish Region does not.

Flanders has figured prominently in European history. During the late Middle Ages, cities such as Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Belgium was one of the centres of the 19th century industrial revolution but Flanders was at first overtaken by French-speaking Wallonia. In the second half of the 20th century, however, Flanders' economy modernised rapidly, and today Flanders is significantly more wealthy than its southern counterpart and in general one of the most wealthy regions in Europe and the world.

Geographically, Flanders is generally flat, and has a small section of coast on the North Sea. Much of Flanders is agriculturally fertile and densely populated, with a population density of almost 500 people per square kilometer (1,200 per square mile). It touches France to the west near the coast, and borders the Netherlands to the north and east, and Wallonia to the south. The Brussels Capital Region is an enclave within the Flemish Region. Flanders has exclaves of its own: Voeren in the east is between Wallonia and the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in the north consists of 22 exclaves surrounded by the Netherlands.

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