The aims of the Belgian geographical societies, from their foundation to the eve of the First World War

Room F
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
08.30 – 10.15
Belgium, colonialism, geographical societies

Belgian geographical societies were born during the last quarter of the XIXth Century. Moreover their scientific pretensions, their aim was to contribute to the building and the reinforcement of the national feeling, to support the commercial expansion and to contribute to the building of a colonies. Framed by some University professors and general officers, their members were mainly issued from the petty bourgeoisie, civil and military officers, teachers, etc. Through some documents coming from the archives or the publications of these societies, the communication will present how they assert the national identity through the exaltation of the beauties of the country or through launching inquiries with the concourse of teachers; how they encourage explorators, if not paying for the explorations, due to a lack of money, at the difference of the main French and British societies; how they produce first-hand informations on the external markets; and how they will be involved in the debates between King Leopold II, the Belgian government and the colonial companies about the future of the Independent Congo State, which will only become Belgian Congo in 1909.

Christian Vandermotten
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
cvdmotte [at]
Henri Nicolaï

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