Luxembourg: Lëtzebuerg City Museum, the economy

(continuer en français) – Published: November 13, 2021

Lëtzebuerg City Museum, Luxembourg

The Lëtzebuerg City Museum not only describes the political history of the city of Luxembourg, but also presents its economic aspects.


In the 13th century, the population of Luxembourg began to look like a small town with about 5,000 inhabitants. The protection provided by powerful fortifications and the freedom from seigneurial constraints encouraged this trend. Craftsmen developed in the towns.

The social classes began to stratify with distinct habitats and activities, as archaeological excavations reveal. The most modest lived in wooden buildings, while stone was used by the wealthiest. Glass is also beginning to be found in their homes.

The tombstones sum up a whole life in a few accessories, the potter’s pots or the aristocrat’s coat of arms.

For a long time Luxembourg was a garrison town, receiving foreign troops according to the dominant country. The Spanish, Austrians, Prussians and French stationed a variable number of soldiers there depending on the threats of the moment.

As the barracks were often insufficient, the soldiers stayed with the locals. In addition to opening up to different cultures, this was also a source of additional income and a greater number of consumers. This encouraged certain products such as tobacco and beer.

In 1867, Luxembourg was declared a neutral country and the city’s fortifications had to be dismantled. This was the starting point for a rapid increase in population with the construction of new districts where new activities were established. Bridges and viaducts spanned the deep valleys, extending the urban perimeter.

The railway arrived in the south of the city in the middle of the century. Near the railway station, metallurgical and other industrial companies were established, and in search of labour they attracted new inhabitants.

From crafts to trade

Since the Middle Ages, craftsmen, grouped in guilds, have dominated the economic activity of towns. Goldsmiths were a good example of this, their activity being supported for a long time by ecclesiastical orders.

From the 19th century onwards, craftsmen were gradually replaced by traders. There was a shift from the single order produced on the spot by the specialised craftsman, to industrialised production distributed through commercial networks.

The city centre saw the emergence of retail shops to replace artisanal workshops. Quality houses established their reputation over several generations, before the large-scale retail chains appeared in turn.

The industrial era

Even agricultural products were caught up in the industrial spiral. Farmers no longer sell their produce at the market in the next town. They sell them to cooperatives or food manufacturers, who process them and sell them on much larger markets. Beer, tobacco, but also butter and mustard began to be produced en masse.

The population of Luxembourg soon became insufficient to absorb the production. Fortunately, the country skilfully negotiated its participation in cross-border economic associations. This began with the Zollverein in 1842, then the Benelux in 1944 and of course the European Union from 1957.

During the industrial revolution, metallurgical factories were built at the gates of the city before migrating further south, near the ore and coal fields. These activities, which were later grouped together in the Arbed, mobilised significant resources in terms of finance and manpower. The human need was met by immigration, as shown by the posters in several languages to inform the workers.

Since the 20th century

While the steel industry gradually left Europe, it was the means for Luxembourg to enter capitalism by accumulating significant capital. This provided the basis for the next economic period in which finance took on an essential role, providing around half the national income. This is a phenomenon that is less easy to show in a museum, but there is a room listing the 10 reasons why Luxembourg is an international financial centre.

Between the 150 international banks established in Luxembourg and the European institutions, the city has seen a rapid growth in its population since the Second World War, mainly from other European countries. To this must be added all the cross-border workers who double the active population every workday. This has led to changes in urbanisation, particularly with the development of the Kirchberg.

The figures are impressive:
In Luxembourg City, there are now more than 115,000 inhabitants, 70% of whom are not Luxembourgers, and there are more than 170,000 jobs.
The GDP per capita in 2020 is USD 107,000 for Luxembourg, USD 31,000 for the EU average.

True or fake

The upper floors of the museum are dedicated to temporary exhibitions. There was recently a reflection on fake news.

They are propagated in particular through social networks. These are less controlled than the traditional media, which favours a greater diversity of information, and it is also easier for deliberately erroneous data to slip in that no one checks.

As global warming is a growing concern, it generates a great deal of manipulation in order to diminish its reality, which is embarrassing for some economic actors.

This false information also benefits from human credulity, which is quick to believe what suits it, and still incapable of challenging the authenticity of a message conveyed by media whose credibility is not questioned.

Sadly, established historical facts are called into question, such as the reality of the Shoah.

Some fake news are almost hoaxes, like this alleged moon stone. It was reportedly brought back by a non-existent Luxemburgish astronaut.

More recently, the measures to be taken to curb the pandemic have often been criticised, even developing a form of conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, this led to the deaths of many people, who were insufficiently protected on the basis of false information.

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