# Before 14, a 'germanophile' Belgian intellectual milieu

Pre-1914 Belgium was often considered by some commentators – more or less kindly – as a "kingdom of operettas", while doubtlessly thinking back to the circumstances of the birth of the Revolution of 1830, the first rumbles of which were heard on the evening of August 25th, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, during a performance of La Muette de Portici. For many Belgian intellectuals, this operetta to a large extent focused on the influence of Germany. As such, historians look across the Rhine for the roots of the seminär imported from the universities of Berlin, Leipzig or Heidelberg, the Bavarian-style taverns that flourish in more than one town, starting with Liège, while most of the chairs at Belgian universities are occupied by one Herr Professor or another, whose thoroughly German family names are proverbial. The Belgium of 19th century intellectuals is therefore in lockstep with Germany. Indeed, this Germanophile attitude was also motivated by the international situation: had not the France of Napoleon III (1852-1870) nurtured the dream of quite simply annexing its Belgian neighbour? Beginning in 1850, did not Great Britain – the main guarantor of the kingdom's neutrality – enter into the period known as the Splendid isolation, namely a passive attitude when faced with the conflicts raging on the continent? And finally, did the Belgian dynasty not trace its origins back to a Prince from Coburg, Germany? The First World War, a physical and psychological trauma for soldiers and civilians alike, also brought with it a profound suspicion of intellectuals, however recent this new expression coined at the time of the Dreyfus Affair. Though previously bewildered when contemplating the French Republic, the "Gueuze" of Charles Maurras, and the anti-clerical aspects of the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, Belgium now turns its gaze towards Paris.

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