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Charleroi History, Belgium

Charleroi History – Origins and Foundation

It has its origins in the prehistoric period when many commercial activities along the river Sambre were noticed. The roman period followed in Charleroi history, leaving traces of buildings, temples and villas. It was Charnoy that historians discovered as being its first name, a small part of the County of Namur with just 50 inhabitants.

The city is said to be founded pretty late, in 1666. Along the short Charleroi history, a few events happened and led to obvious consequences in the existence of the city. It was renamed after the Spanish King Charles II (Charle-Roi)

The Spanish and later the French during 1667-1678 ruled the city and expanded it and the upper and lower parts of the city were situated around 2 squares: Charles II Square and Albert Square.

Charleroi History - From 1678 until Now

After its foundation in 1666, the city was conquered by the Dutch, the Spanish, and the French; Charleroi proved to be like “a ping pong ball” being taken and ceded several times by or to the French, the Dutch, the Austrians, the Spanish and finally the last ones were the Austrians in 1748 under Joseph II who ruled the city during a new period of prosperity in the case of glass, steel and coal industries.

Other battles and civil uprising followed in the next 40 years when the Austrians and the French struggled to be the winners and the rulers of the city. Under the French, Charleroi even took the revolutionary name of “Libre-sur Sambre” which lasted till 1800.

Charleroi history also refers to Napoleon who stayed a few days in the city before he lost the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After this important historical event the whole city and the surrounding area were taken by the Netherlands from which Charleroi separated for good in 1830 thanks to the Belgian Revolution.

Its new gained freedom made the glass, metallurgy and coal industries flourish again determining many people from all over Europe to come and look for good job opportunities here.

Then, the two World Wars brought nothing but chaos and general decline not only in Charleroi, Belgium or Europe but in the entire world. Still, the city recovered as others did, mostly because of its industry and the merging process with the surrounding municipalities in 1977.

Its reconstruction and growing population made historians say that it is now the main city of Wallonia, a French-speaking part of Belgium and the fourth largest in the whole country.

Charleroi History – Early Industrial Areas

In the 19th century Charleroi and Liege were the centre of coal industry in Belgium, hence their name of “pays noir” or “the black country”. Even nowadays the nearby villages where the coal miners were settled once are still independent from the city area.

The coal industry opened the way to other industries such as: iron and glass. All three of them contributed to the transformation of the city into an industrial centre. A helping hand in this way was also given by a canal built between Brussels and Charleroi that made the trade with other parts of the country easier.

Thanks to the English invention of ovens and steam-machines, iron and steel production continued to develop rapidly in Charleroi. “Forges de la Province” was one of the most important iron factories in the region. Many of them were recreated or regrouped to be able to function properly and efficiently.

One may tell that Charleroi history is a starting point when you decide to learn or find out something interesting about an important city of Belgium.Reading Brussels History or Lille History one might get a broader idea on the country's past.

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  • danpopOn the way back home through Charleroi
    review by danpop posted more then 30 days ago
    It was the 3rd of june, 2009. It was a beautiful morning in Lille, although clouds were threatening the sun and from what I saw they were about to convince it to hide. I got up really early, at least for me, at about 7 o’clock. Shower, eating, watching the beautiful landscape on the window...
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