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Museum of Capitalism takes over Bourse in Brussels
Belgium's itinerant Museum of Capitalism has taken over the Bourse - that temple to commerce in central Brussels - having previously travelled to Ghent, Arlon, Namur, Saint-Gilles and Mons.
"The intention of the museum is to explain the economic system to the public in a fun way, and to create spaces for discussions and debates on society as we live it," says museum spokeswoman Célimène Bernard. "Our guides are there to facilitate those discussions."
The exhibition looks at capitalism from three angles: its origins, the hopes it has elicited in the past and nowadays, and its limits. A fourth room is dedicated to alternatives to capitalism. The Belgian museum will share the stunning interiors of the Bourse with the Museum das Kapitalismus of Berlin until 13 September.
Belgium has a long history when it comes to financial markets and the development of capitalism. In the very early 1300s, the main market for financial transactions would take place on a square named after the Van der Buerse family. People would say they were going to the Buerse. In 1309 the name was institutionalised by the creation of the first official stock market: the Bourse of Bruges.
In 1531 in Antwerp, the Handelsbeurs, the first building built specifically to house a stock exchange, was built. The Royal Exchange in London, built in 1565, originally called the Bourse until Queen Elizabeth I changed the name, is based on it.
But Belgium also has a long history when it comes to communism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were in exile in Brussels in the 1840s. It was a very productive time for them as it was here that the ideas of dialectical materialism took shape.
Living here and there, in the poorer parts of downtown Brussels, Marx hung out at the Le Cygne on the Grand-Place - or more exactly in the backroom since he couldn’t afford the main room of the cafe. Here he held educational sessions for workers and he and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, which would make them very famous.