The city of Luxembourg proper was established in 963, and its advantageous location quickly assured it of a prosperous future. Luxembourg became strongly fortified due to its location at the crossroads of Western Europe. The massive city walls and towers that create its unique cityscape may still be seen. Luxembourg became a Duchy as a result of its strategic location, and it originally included a considerably wider area that extended into modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. The strong Habsburg dynasty had sway over it until the late Renaissance.
The Duchy of Luxembourg was given to the Netherlands after the Napoleonic Wars. As a part of the German confederacy, it enjoyed special status, and the fortress was equipped with a Prussian garrison. Luxembourg remained a key place that everyone wanted to dominate. In 1815, it was given the title “Grand Duchy,” although it lost some territory to France and Germany.
Throughout the nineteenth century, advances in warfare and the introduction of artillery rendered Luxembourg obsolete as a fortress, and it became nothing more than a rural area of little strategic importance. The Germans surrendered their rights and evacuated their garrison, Belgium was given its western half in 1839, and the Netherlands gave it full independence in 1867. Luxembourg has progressed from an impoverished nation of fields and farms to a sophisticated economy based on financial services and high-tech sectors since then.
Luxembourg was overrun by Germany in both world wars and was one of the main battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-1945, a tale vividly chronicled in the Diekirch museum. The state lost its neutrality in 1948 when it joined the Benelux Customs Union, and the following year it joined NATO. Cooperation among the Benelux nations had previously existed after World War I, but it proved to be much more significant on a European scale this time. Luxembourg was one of the six founding nations of the European Economic Community (later the European Union) in 1957, and it joined the euro currency zone in 1999. Luxembourgers have climbed to high positions in the EU administration because most are proficient in (at least) two languages (French and Luxembourgish/German), and the tiny nation seems non-threatening to the majority of the EU. The most famous is Jean-Claude Juncker, who has served as President of the European Commission since 2014.