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Although the franchise was initially restricted, universal suffrage for men was introduced after the general strike of 1893 (with plural voting until 1919) and for women in 1949.
The main political parties of the 19th century were the Catholic Party and the Liberal Party, with the Belgian Labour Party emerging towards the end of the 19th century.
The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces (Belgica Foederata in Latin, the "Federated Netherlands") and the Southern Netherlands (Belgica Regia, the "Royal Netherlands").
The latter were ruled successively by the Spanish (Spanish Netherlands) and the Austrian Habsburgs (Austrian Netherlands) and comprised most of modern Belgium.
A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings.
A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire.
Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area.Its two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the mostly French-speaking southern part of the Wallonia region.The Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual (French and Dutch) enclave within the Flemish Region.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.It is estimated that nearly 10 million were killed during the Leopold period.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia.