Daniel Laqua
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Nationhood
in The age of internationalism and Belgium, 1880–1930
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Internationalism is often perceived as the anti-thesis of nationalism. In contrast to such views, this chapter tackles the interrelated nature of these two phenomena. Representations of the Belgian nation depicted the country as a ‘microcosm’ or ‘crossroads of Europe’. Internationalism thus fed into a discourse of national exceptionalism. To illustrate this point, the chapter considers the writings of a range of Belgian intellectuals, notably Henri Pirenne, Edmond Picard, Louis Frank, Louis Piérard, Irénée Van der Ghinst, Louis Dumont-Wilden, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine.

The notion of Belgium as an ‘international nation’ was not confined to intellectuals: it was also staged at international congresses and world’s fairs. Indeed, between 1885 and 1935, Belgium hosted more international exhibitions than any other country. Such events helped to promote the project of ‘Belgian expansion’ in which nationalism, internationalism and colonialism intersected.

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