Liege was once a bishopric, comprising a wider territory than is enclosed by the boundaries of the modern day province. It has been a center of coal mining and metal working since the twelfth century. This industry led to the early empowerment of an artisan class, who often clashed with the bishops and the landed nobility, and eked out a few freedoms for themselves sooner than similar classes in the rest of Belgium and Europe. Industrial development continues apace to the present day, especially along the Meuse River
in the north, and near where the Albert Canal
splits off of the Meuse, ultimately connecting Liege with Antwerpen.
French is the official language of Liege, except in the German Cantons in the east. The largest cities are Liege (the capital), Verviers, and Huy. The geography of Liege is varied, with the Haspengouw (Hesbaye in French) in the northwest, the Condroz in the southwest, the Herve in the northeast, and the Hautes Fagnes in the southeast.