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The name "Belgium" is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings.Historically, Belgium was part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of northern France and western Germany.

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Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region.

The reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1814, after the abdication of Napoleon.

This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993.

Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities; Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and its capital, Brussels, hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as one of two seats of the European Parliament (the other being Strasbourg).

The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish (Spanish Netherlands) and the Austrian Habsburgs (Austrian Netherlands) and comprised most of modern Belgium.

This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Berlin Conference of 1885 ceded control of the Congo Free State to King Leopold II as his private possession.

From around 1900 there was growing international concern for the extreme and savage treatment of the Congolese population under Leopold II, for whom the Congo was primarily a source of revenue from ivory and rubber production.

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution led to the separation of the Southern Provinces from the Netherlands and to the establishment of a Catholic and bourgeois, officially French-speaking and neutral, independent Belgium under a provisional government and a national congress.

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