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Places in Belgium

Belgian Municipalities and Places


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Municipalities (1795-now)

The municipality is the smallest administrative unit in Belgium. It can be compared to an incorporated township or town in the United States.

In Belgium they are called "gemeente", in Dutch, or "commune", in French. Commune is also a proper English word for "the smallest administrative district of local government in France and Belgium" [Webster's New World Dictionary], but since I lived through the 60s and 70s, a "commune" has a different sound in my ears. Hence, I will always use "municipality". A municipality may obtain the honorary title of "city" ("Stad" in Dutch, "Ville" in French), but that isn't very important here since the administrative organization remains the same.

Evolution

In 1831, Belgium counts 2,739 municipalities. The Treaty of XXIV articles, finalized by the Final Treaty of 1839, by which the King of the Netherlands recognizes the independence of Belgium, decrees that 124 Limburg municipalities are surrendered to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and 119 Luxemburg municipalities to the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

By 1928, 161 new municipalities have been created and 13 have been suppressed. In addition, Belgium acquired 31 municipalities from Germany in the Treaty of Versailles as a compensation for WWI.

We are looking for the lists of those municipalities and will publish them once found. Contact us if you have them (or know where to find).

Main sources:
Dictionary of the municipalities of Belgium, S.A. Imprimerie E. Guyot n.v., Brussels, 1997
ISBN 2-87263-164-X.
Nijhoffs Geschiedenis-Lexicon Nederland en België, Martinus Nijhoff, 's Gravenhage / Antwerpen, 1981.
ISBN 90 247 9078 6

The merger of municipalities

In 1964, there were 2663 independent municipalities in Belgium. A major restructuring took place in the 1960s and 1970s, which emanated on 1 January 1977 in a merger of most municipalities in 589 larger ones. In most cases the newly formed municipality would be named after the most dominant or prominent municipality from which it was formed.

E.g.: the independent municipalities of Beveren, Melsele, Kallo, Kieldrecht, Doel, Verrebroek, Vrasene, and Haasdonk were merged into the new municipality of Beveren.

The merger that was decreed in 1975 and came into effect on January 1, 1977, was by no means the only one. Others took place in 1964 and 1970/1971, as shown by the number of municipalities in each of these years:

Evolution of the number of municipalities per province

                 1830    1850    1875    1900    1928    1961
                 ----    ----    ----    ----    ----    ----
Antwerp           142     146     151     152     154     148
Brabant           334     338     341     344     348     348
Hainaut           424     427     435     441     444     443
Liège             326     331     336     342     374     369
Limbourg          198     203     206     206     206     206
Luxembourg        190     195     205     225     233     233
Namur             343     346     352     361     366     366
East Flanders     293     293     296     298     297     297
West Flanders     248     249     250     248     253     253
                -----   -----   -----   -----   -----   -----
                2,498   2,528   2,572   2,617   2,675   2,663

Main source:
Dictionary of the municipalities of Belgium, S.A. Imprimerie E. Guyot n.v., Brussels, 1997
ISBN 2-87263-164-X.
Number of municipalities in Belgium, per province and per linguistic area:

                                 after the merger of
                                 -------------------
Province             in 1964     1964   1970/1   1975
--------             -------     ----   ------   ----
Antwerp                148        147    144      70
East Flanders          295        282    241      65
West Flanders          244        240    182      64
Flemish Brabant        232        223    203      65
Limburg                205        202    136      44

Subtotal Flanders    1,124      1,094    906     308

Hainaut                452        444    435      69
Liege                  355        339    317      84
Namur                  366        345    345      38
Walloon Brabant        114        114    108      27
Luxemburg              233        231    229      44

Subtotal Wallonia    1,520      1,473  1,434     262

Brussels-Capital        19         19     19      19

Total                2,663      2,586  2,359     589

Main source:
Winkler Prins Encyclopedisch Jaarboek 1973, Elsevier, Amsterdam/Brussel, 1976.
ISBN 90 10 01611 0. Lemma: GEMEENTEN, Samenvoeging van

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The information on this page was submitted until 29 April 2003 by Georges Picavet, , , ,
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