Walloon Federalism or Belgian Nationalism? The Walloon Movement at the End of the First World War



In 1993 Belgium officially became a federal state. The demand for federalism, however, dates back much earlier, as it was first popularised under the ambiguous term of ‘administrative separation’ by the Walloon Movement before the First World War. Beyond the human toll and global impact, the War would prove to be consequential in Belgium because on the one hand it acted as a key driver for the growing scrutiny of the Belgian unitary state structure, whilst (paradoxically) on the other hand, the War consolidated said state’s legitimacy. This complexity reveals how global conflicts have had an impact not only on states but also on political and social emancipation movements. In this article, we will focus on the Walloon Movement. To what extent did the war shape and transform it? How much did it change the identity of the Walloon and Flemish movements? The two World Wars do appear to be decisive elements in understanding contemporary Belgium, as they contributed to opposing or divergent social representations that served as a driving force – through games of images and counter-images – in the identification processes of all the actors in Belgian society. The wars have not only nourished but also exacerbated the factors of division and created fragmented memories. In addition, they constituted key moments to grasp certain concepts such as loyalty or allegiance, but also heroism, victimisation, and betrayal. In addition to the immediate impacts, there were also upheavals in the long term. And this story is probably far from over.

Keywords: Walloon, Federalism, Belgium, nationalism, Walonia, Walloon movement, national movement

How to Cite: Kesteloot, C. (2021) “Walloon Federalism or Belgian Nationalism? The Walloon Movement at the End of the First World War”, NISE Essays. 6(1). doi: