Walloons (wŏlōnzˈ) [key], group of people living in S Belgium who traditionally spoke a dialect of French called Walloon, but who today for the most part speak standard French. The Walloons, numbering some 3.5 million, reside mostly in the provinces of Hainaut, Liège, Namur, Luxembourg, and Walloon Brabant, in contrast to the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the northern provinces. The movement for reviving Walloon literature centered in Liège in the 19th cent.; today the language is considered moribund. The periodical Wallonie had considerable influence. Since medieval times the economic and social background of the Walloons has differed radically from that of the Flemings, and the cleavage became even more pronounced with the Industrial Revolution. The Walloon part of Belgium contains major mining areas and heavy industries, while the Flemings engage mainly in agriculture, manufacturing (particularly textiles), and shipping. Tension between Walloons and Flemings has long been a critical political issue. In 1970 a plan was approved that recognized the cultural autonomy of Belgium's three national communities: the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north, the French-speaking Walloons of the south, and bilingual Brussels. The name Walloons was also applied to Huguenot refugees in America by the Dutch, who made no distinction between French and Walloon Protestants.
See H. H. Turney-High, Château-Gerard; the Life and Times of a Walloon Village (1953).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Peoples (except New World)