The Belgian city of Charleroi is located on the banks of the river Sambre in the Wallonian province of Hainaut, about 60 kilometers south of Brussels.
Compared to other Belgian cities, the history of Charleroi is relatively young. Initially the village on the current location was named ‘Charnoy’. In 1666 the Spanish changed this little town in a fortification and named this location after King Charles II (King of Spain, Naples and Sicily): Charleroi.
During the late 17th and at the beginning of the 18th century, Charleroi was part of a fortified border.
In the 19th century Charleroi played an enormous role during the Industrial Revolution. Together with Liège, Charleroi was next to the Midlands in England the first industrialized area. In little time numerous collieries, blast furnaces, glass, electrical and chemical factories started to rise in this city. Around 1870, Charleroi had world’s best performing steel basin. However like in many industrial areas this was also a period of numerous social conflicts.
At the beginning of 20th century Charleroi continued its direction of steel and coals. The city didn’t suffer any significant damage during the Second World War and could continue its operation after the war. However by the end of the fifties a recession in the heavy industry started and all the coal mines were closed one by one. The oil crisis of the seventies did neither do any good. This time mostly the steel industry was mostly affected. A reconversion was started but could not prevent that just like the coal mines, many factories needed to stop operation.
Today Charleroi is a city slowly recovering from its industrial past. The many slag heaps still remember to this past. Also in 2002, the former colliery Site du Bois du Cazier was turned into monument and museum.