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The History of Belgium

The name ‘Belgium’ is said to come from Belgae tribes that lived in the northern part of what was then Gaul around the 3rd century BC.

Belgium is well known for its famous cuisine; its chocolate and waffles, but how much do we actually know about its history?

There is a lot of speculation about where the Belgae tribes originated, but many scholars think that they started themselves. They were described as ‘the bravest of them all’ and Julius Caesar found it difficult to conquer them. It took him four years before he succeeded in 53BC. Caesar also found them very different to the other tribes in Gaul.

Belgium was part of the Holy Roman Empire and remained part of this until the 11-12th century. As a result of this, Belgium was left vulnerable and easy for England and France to take control of the region. Over the centuries, Belgium was divided into smaller states, the most famous of these being Flanders. This region became the main trading region in the country. Until the 19th century, Belgium was controlled by Spanish, French and Dutch and would remain that way until it gained its independence.

The year 1815 was a year of significant importance for Belgium. During the Vienna congress, a possibility of the creation of a Belgium state was discussed but never received enough support. Instead it was decided that the territories that belonged to France should be attached to the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands. This was not the best decision and later led to the Belgium revolution 15 years later. One of the reasons it did not work was due to the difference in religion of the North and South of the country. The north was predominantly Protestant while the south was Catholic. This reminds me of my own country’s situation.

The Belgian Revolution was a moment which not only was of huge importance for Belgium, but it also shaped the rest of Europe, and created a new country. The powers from the Vienna congress then came together in London in 1830 and decided the only way to move forward was to grant Belgium its independence. Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg became the first King of Belgium and his inauguration was on 21 July 1831. This date became the national day of Belgium. Since then the Dutch and French speaking communities have their own country and king, and sealed the year 1831 as the true beginning for modern day Belgium.

Text written in July 2019.

Short bio of the volunteer:

My name is Kelly Quinn. I am from County Donegal in Ireland. I have studied Journalism in university and I am interested in getting a job hopefully either working on television or on radio. Being in Madeira is such a different experience for me; I get to experience new cultures, meet new friends and also of course, try the famous ‘poncha’! I am so happy to be here and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time here will be like. I am hoping by being here and working with the rest of the volunteers, I can improve my public speaking and achieve a higher level of confidence in myself.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.