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Antwerp (Dutch: ) is the northernmost province both of the Flemish Regionmarker, also called Flanders, and of Belgiummarker. It borders on (clockwise from the North) the Netherlandsmarker and the Belgian provinces of Limburgmarker, Flemish Brabantmarker and East Flandersmarker. Its capital is Antwerpmarker which comprises the Port of Antwerpmarker. It has an area of 2867 km² and with nearly 1.7 million inhabitants it is the country's most populous province. The province consists of 3 Arrondissements, Antwerp, Mechelen and Turnhout. The eastern part of the province comprises the main part of the Campine region.


During the early Middle Ages the region was part of the Frankish Empire, which was divided into several pagi. The territory of the present day province belonged to several pagi of which the region around Antwerp belonged to the Pagus Renesium. The Pagus Toxandria stretched from North Brabantmarker into the Campine region. To the south there was the Pagus Bracbatinse and the Pagus Hasbaniensis. In 843 the Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne was divided among his sons and the river Scheldtmarker became the border between West Francia and East Francia. In 974 Otto II established the Mark County of Antwerp as a defence against the County of Flanders.

In 1106, Henry V granted the Mark County to Godfrey I of Leuven. His descendants would from 1235 onwards become the Duches of Brabant and the region itself was the northern part of the Duchy of Brabant. In 1430 the Duchy became part of the County of Burgundy until 1477 when it fell to the House of Habsburg. In 1713, at the end of the Spanish Succession War the region became part of the Austrian Netherlands until 1794, with in 1790 the short lived United States of Belgium. On 1 October 1795 the former Austrian Netherlands were annexed by Francemarker under the French Directory.

The modern province was created as the Department of the two Netesmarker during the First French Empire (when the Southern Netherlands were part of Francemarker). After the defeat of Napoleon, the territory became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands as the province of Antwerp. In 1830, after the Belgian Revolution the province kept its name.

Prefects from 1800 until 1814

Prefects of the Department of the two Netesmarker during the First French Empire

Governors from 1815 until 1830

Governors of the province of Antwerp during the United Kingdom of the Netherlands

Governors since 1830

Governors of the Belgian province of Antwerp


  • 1846: 406,354
  • 1856: 434,485
  • 1866: 456,607
  • 1880: 577,232
  • 1890: 700,019
  • 1900: 819,159
  • 1910: 968,677
  • 1920: 1,016,963
  • 1930: 1,173,363
  • 1947: 1,281,333


As in all Flemish provinces, the official language of the Antwerp province is Dutch. The spoken language is Belgian Dutch, besides the local Brabantian dialect.


Traffic infrastructure

The province has a network of roads, railroads, canals and rivers which provide a modern infrastructure. Historically, the traffic infrastructure was an important element of connecting the Port of Antwerpmarker with the Ruhr Area in North Rhine-Westphaliamarker, Germanymarker. Both the Iron Rhine railroad and the E313 (King Baudouin highway) and E34 highway connect Antwerp with the Ruhr Area.

The river Scheldtmarker, an important waterway, connects the Port of Antwerp with the North Seamarker. The Albert Canalmarker connects the Scheldt in Antwerpmarker with the Meusemarker and Liègemarker. Other canals are the Canal DesselmarkerKwaadmechelenmarker, SchotenmarkerTurnhoutmarkerDesselmarker, and HerentalsmarkerBocholt which flows into the Nete canal.

Of the International E-road network, the E313, E19, and E34 run through parts of the province. The Kennedy Tunnelmarker and the Liefkenshoek Tunnelmarker connect the highway network of the province with East Flandersmarker and Ghentmarker. In addition a new Oosterweelconnection is under consideration.

The railroads connect the major cites of the province, such as Antwerpmarker, Mechelenmarker, Herentalsmarker, Turnhoutmarker and Mol. The Iron Rhine connects Antwerp with Mönchengladbachmarker in Germanymarker. The new High Speed Train will connect Antwerpen-Centraal railway stationmarker with Brusselsmarker (HSL 4) and Amsterdammarker (HSL-Zuid) at high speed. Antwerp International Airportmarker, located in Deurnemarker is a regional airport.


The province harbors several historical cities, such as Antwerpmarker, Mechelenmarker, Turnhoutmarker, Herentalsmarker and Liermarker. The Campine region is becoming a popular destination for tourists searching for a quiet and relaxed weekend. Old farms were transformed into bed and breakfast-hotels, the restaurant and café business is very active and an ingenious network for bicycle tours has come to life the past few years. Here and there still up to several dozens acres of large heathland - and forests, such as the Kalmthoutse Heidemarker (E: Kalmthout heathland) in Kalmthoutmarker, the moor around Turnhout, the Liereman (Oud-Turnhoutmarker) and the Prinsenpark in Retiemarker. In a number of villages one can still see the typical Campine langgevelboerderijen (E: long facade farms).

Education and research

The province is home to several educational institutions and the University of Antwerpmarker. Several research institutions are located in the province, such as the SCK•CENmarker, the European Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO).


The Port of Antwerpmarker is the economic heart of the province. Until the agricultural crisis of 1880, the eastern part of the province was a largely agricultural region. The industrial development of the eastern part of the province, part of the Campine region, started at the end of the nineteenth century when industry established itself in the region. The availability of cheap labor, new roads, canals, tramways and railroads such as the Iron Rhine, stimulated the settlement of new industry. Brick making industry alongside the canals, paper and printing business in Turnhoutmarker. Non-ferrous metallurgy in Balen-Nete, dynamite factories in Arendonkmarker and Balenmarker. Tobacco and sigar factories in Arendonkmarker and the first shoe factory in Herentalsmarker. During the twenties of the twentieth century, the industrial expansion of the region continued with the radium and copper factories in Olen, the glass factory in Mol-Gompel and the diamond industry in Grobbendonkmarker.

In the twentieth Century the first nuclear installation in Belgiummarker was established at the SCK•CENmarker in Molmarker in 1962. The European Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM), one of the EU Joint Research Centre, was founded in Geelmarker in 1957 as a result of the Treaty of Rome. Innotek is a technology centre located in Geelmarker and is part of the European Business and Innovation Centre Network (EBN). Industry in the Campine region of the province is mainly located alongside the E313, the E34 and the Albert Canalmarker.

Chemical industry

After World War II the Port of Antwerpmarker was expanded and on its premises several chemical factories and oil refineries were established, such as Bayer, BASFmarker, Monsanto Company. The chemical and petrochemical industry is widely represented in the port region and comprises the world's second largest cluster of petrochemical industry, next to Houstonmarker (USAmarker). In 1967 Amoco Chemical Belgium N.V., now BP, was founded in Geelmarker.

Pharmaceutical industry was founded in Beersemarker in the sixties, with Janssen Pharmaceutica and more recently with Genzyme in Geelmarker. Soudal (silicon) in Turnhoutmarker and Ravago (plastics) in Arendonkmarker became leading companies in their markets.


The diamond industry and trade is traditionally located in Antwerpmarker. At the end of the 19th Century Hendrik Cassiers founded the first diamond cutting company outside Antwerp, in Grobbendonkmarker. Hendrik Cassiers and Frans Dela Montagne laid the foundations of the diamond industry in the Campine region. The industry would settle in Nijlenmarker, Herenthoutmarker, Bevel, Kessel, Vorselaarmarker and Berlaarmarker.


The region around Turnhoutmarker became famous for its printing business, with companies such as Brepols, which roots date back to 1796 when Pieter Corbeels established his printing business in Turnhout. In 1833, Van Genechten N.V., Splichal N.V. in 1856, Mesmaekers Freres in 1859, Meses-Goris in 1872, L. Biermans in 1875, Poupaert in 1881, La Belgica N.V. in 1907, H. Proost & Co in 1913 , J. Van Mierlo-Proost in 1918, Lityca in 1932 and Veloutex in 1951. More recently in 1970, Cartamundi was established, a world leader in playing cards.


While Walloniamarker was famous for its steel industry, the Campine region became renown for its non ferrous metallurgies. The Campine region was scarcely populated in the 19th Century and with the availability of canals, the Iron Rhine and cheap labor, several metallurgies were established in the region. In 1888-1889 the metallurgy La Vieille Montagne was founded in Balen-Netemarker, close the Iron Rhine and the canal to Beverlomarker. The company had its roots in the exploitation of the zinc mines of Moresnetmarker.

The Union Minière du Haut Katanga founded the Société Générale Métallurgique de Hoboken in Olen, which was established along the Iron Rhine and the Albert Canalmarker. The factory produced radium, cobalt and copper from the mines of the Union Minière in Katangamarker, Belgian Congo and Rhodesia. Along the canal Turnhout-Schotenmarker the Métallurgique de la Campine was established in 1910 for the production of lead and antimony. In 1919 La Metallo-Chimique was established which specialized in the production of copper.


In 1872 the Sablières et Carrières Réunies (SCR), now Sibelco, was founded to extract the silica sand layers in Molmarker for industrial applications (glass). In 1920 the glass bottle manufacture Beles Réunios was set up in Mol-Donk.In 1921 a group of Belgian banks, the Mutuelle Mobilière & Immobilière, the Société Générale de Belgique, the Banque de Bruxelles and the Financière de Transport together with the Americanmarker group Libbey-Owens founded the Cie Internationale pour la fabrication mécanique de Verre in Mol Gompelmarker. In 1931, due to the economic crisis, the company merged into Glaces et Verres (Glaver). In 1961 Glaver would merge with Univerbel into Glaverbel.


As the Campine region was sparsely populated several dynamite factories were established in the region. In 1875, the Societe Anonyme d'Arendonk was established which premises would later become part of Ravago. In 1881 La Forcite N.V. was established near Balenmarker, which was later acquired by the Poudreries Réunies de Belgique (PRB). In 1887 a factory was founded near Herentalsmarker, which was closed due to the vicinity to the city. The factories produced explosives for the mines and quarries. The factories in the province are now closed down.


Historically, wool processing industry was based on the wool from the sheep which were kept on the Campine heath. The centre of the textile industry in the province could be found in Turnhoutmarker. Wool processing companies such as Wolspinnerij Van Iersel, Spinnerij en Weverij Van Hoof and De Wollendekensfabriek Van Doren were located in Mol.


At the end of the 19th Century Arendonkmarker became the centre of the tobacco industry. Additional factories were founded in Turnhoutmarker, Mol, Geelmarker and Herentalsmarker. After World War II, the ALTO sigar factory was founded by Frans Van den Bergh who would also play an important role at Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Administrative subdivisions

The province is divided into three administrative arrondissements (arrondissementen in Dutch) containing 70 municipalities :

Antwerp arrondissement: Mechelen arrondissement: Turnhout arrondissement:

See also


  • Steve Heylen, Bart De Nil, Bart D’hondt, Sophie Gyselinck, Hanne Van Herck en Donald Weber, Geschiedenis van de provincie Antwerpen. Een politieke biografie, Antwerpen, Provinciebestuur Antwerpen, 2005, 2 Volumes

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