- New and comprehensive insights into the seminal events that shaped Belgian identity In 1790, between the birth of America (1776) and the creation of the French National Assembly (1789), nine provinces nestled between the French and Dutch borders declared themselves a new free and independent country: the United States of Belgium. Before then, the provinces had been part of the vast Austrian Habsburg Empire ruled by Joseph II. In 1789 revolutionaries from Brussels to Ghent to Namur recruited a grass-roots army that, to the surprise of many, successfully chased imperial forces from the majority of the territories. The exhilaration of military triumph and political independence quickly faded as revolutionary factions fought each other and the European monarchies became more nervous in the face of French radicalization. Yet, the course of events had fostered the solidification of a new identity among the provinces' inhabitants: Belgianness. This is the story of the emergence of Belgianness in the crucible of revolution. The United States of Belgium tells the story of the First Belgian Revolution before the creation of a language barrier between French and Dutch. It incorporates over 50 contemporary images of the revolutionary era.