Thursday, August 19, 2010

Belgian Foreign Concessions

The Mad Monarchist discusses the Belgian concession in China. This was established in 1902 by King Leopold II and existed, depending on the source, until 1929 or 1931. This was done by a treaty between the King of the Belgians and the Manchu Emperor of China with similar concessions going to Austria, Italy, Russia, Japan, France, the U.K. and Germany. Belgium did not do much with the concession (did not do much with any of them thanks to the penny-pinching government again). The most important contributions of the Belgian concession in China was in providing electricity and the contruction of a street train system throughout the foreign concessions area. When the Japanese invaded Tientsin they took over the Belgian concession (with the others) and put the Belgians in concentration camps. At the end of the war they gave the concession back to China (nationalist) and some in Brussels held out hope of gaining compensation for the lost property (if not the restoration of the concession) but when the communists took over there was no possibility of this.

Another foreign concession gained by King Leopold II was the Lado Enclave of the Congo Free State on the west bank of the Upper Nile in what is now southeast Sudan and northwest Uganda. This existed from 1894 until 1910. This territory was part of the Ottoman-Egyptian province of Equatoria until Lado was taken by the British who, in the 1894 British-Belgian Congolese Treaty, leased the territory to King Leopold II for the duration of his lifetime. In exchange for this King Leopold II ceded to Great Britain some land in the eastern Congo so that the British could build their "Cape to Cairo" railroad. The enclave had an area of 15,000 square miles with 250,000 people around the main town of Lado. This enclave was important to the Congo Free State because it included Rejaf; a terminus for boats on the Nile and this was the home of the Belgian Commander, the only colonial official in the area from 1897 to 1910. After the death of King Leopold II the district became a province of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and in 1912 the southern half was ceded to the British colony of Uganda.

On May 4, 1843 the parliament of Guatemala issued a decree which gave the district of Santo Tomas de Castilla "in perpetuity" to the Compagnie belge de colonisation, a private company under the protection of King Leopold I. It was intended for this to be a major Belgian colony in the Americas and the Belgian settlers who went over were the first to try to colonize the area. However, as usual, the government did not want to deal with the expenses of settling the district and after a few years most had given up on the project because of the lack of government support and the very humid, tropical climate Belgians were not used to. Today it is an important port region in Guatemala, formerly home base of the navy and now a major tourist destination that receives cruise ships on a regular basis. Perhaps this one could be revived? The original decree did say the words "in perpetuity".


  1. I didn't know that about Guatemala. It does seem a shame if the government signed it over for colonization and investment that nothing was done. Seems like private companies could have taken it in hand.

  2. Yesterday I would have been all ready to try it again but after reading the news today I am depressed. No wonder these things had such trouble when people are so bickering and selfish.