A population of well over 10.5 million on an area of 11,754 square miles gives Belgium almost 700 persons per square mile and makes it one of the most densely populated countries of the world.
In the coal districts the density is even higher than in the intensively cultivated agricultural regions of Flanders and the central upland. The most sparsely settled parts are in the sandy Campine and the Ardennes.
The location of Belgium in the transition zone between the Germanic and Romance cultures gives the country two ethnographic groups, the Flemings in the west and north, and the Walloons in the south and east. Although both are Roman Catholic, they differ in other cultural respects. The earliest cultural development was in the Flemish lowlands, north of the language boundary; but the influence of France was always strong, and in time the less populous Romanized section, with only 40 per cent of the population, achieved cultural and social domination. At a later date it also took economic precedence when the development of mining industries made the French section the center of Belgian industry.
During the nineteenth century Belgium, like so many other countries of Europe, experienced a revival of interest in the national language and customs. The Flemish population, although it considered itself entirely Belgian, wanted the right to use its own language, and in consequence Belgium is at present a bilingual country. A Flemish university at Ghent is another result of this national movement. Although Brussels lies north of the language boundary which is also the ethnographic boundary, a majority of its people speak French, and it forms an enclave of Walloons.
The more Belgium is studied, the clearer becomes its high standing among the countries of Europe A. Its crops provide the world's highest yields per acre, and its high degree of industrialization is a sign of very active modern progress. Nevertheless, Belgium, like Britain and Holland, depends more and more on other countries for its food and raw materials, and hence has greater and greater need of foreign markets for its manufactured products. Not having an agricultural surplus like that of Holland, it bases its welfare too much on manufacturing, and, when this declines, because of foreign competition, the country experiences difficulty.