The History of Belgian Beer: Page 2 of 3
In the fourteenth and fifthteenth century Flanders and Wallonia, the 2 States of modern Belgium, were very prosperous. Cities like Brugge, Gent, Antwerpen, Brussel, Tournai and Liege were cultural and political centers of the world. All these cities were involved with international trade with the rest of Europe and the Middle East. They were all at the top of technology and craftsmanship. You can compare their wealth with the splendor and good fortune, at the same time, of the Italian cities (Venice, Padua, Torino ...) and the Scandinavian cities (Kopenhagen, Stockholm, ...) and Northern German cities (Bremen, Hamburg, Dantzig ...) along the coast of the Baltic sea.
Brugge (Bruges) was called the "Venice of the North" because of all its canals, where ships from all over Europe traded their merchandise. The Oldest known Stock-Exchange of the world can still be visited in the center of Brugge. In fact, the word "bourse", an other word for stock-exchange, comes from the Flemish word "beurs". The houses and cathedrals built in that era, and the artwork of the Flemish painters Bruegel, Memlinck, Rubens, Van Dijck and many others are still the witnesses of the power and the richness of Flanders. Examples of these paintings can be admired in all major museums of the world. They are catalogued as "Flemish Primitives". A strange name when you see the picture-like details of these paintings.
Thanks to the international trade and the craftsmanship, these cities became very powerful and were governed like a republic, where the rulers stood close to and were part of the people. Some historians claim that the absence of higher layers of government and the self-rule of these small identities is the main reason for the economical successes of that time. It was free-trade and free enterprise at its top. Free thinking and criticism of the higher powers, church and kings, leads to the emergence of new ideas and Protestantism. The cities, and thus the people, had the money and that was something the kings didn't like. When the King and Queen of France visited Brugge at the end of the thirdteenth century, the Queen was mad because the women of Brugge's Trading families were better dressed than herself. All over Europe we see the Kings and Emperors bring the cities and the regions back under their control, and sadly enough, they succeed. Imperialism of the French, English and Spanish kings brings devastating wars and illnesses over Europe and the decline of the economical well-being of the population. This will create the ideal circumstances (oppression, poverty, sickness ...) for the people to take a new chance and migrate to new discovered territories like the Americas. And, these immigrants brought of course their beer to the new world!