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There are a number of theories explaining where the name "Leuven" originates from. The frame on the right illustrates one of them: that it commemorates a Scottish nobleman of the era of Julius Caesar, himself named "Loup", who founded a settlement called "Lupolin" on the site of the future university city. Note his drooping bagpipes, perhaps a subtle reference to the future importance of beer in the city's economic development, a theme to which the book returns over and over again.

There are a number of other stories about the history of Leuven, all retold and illustrated here by François Stas, all in Dutch (which I can at least read) with commentary from the characters in local dialect (which I have a lot more trouble with). I'm still a bit confused about the stories of Fiere Margariete and Paep Thoon, but at least I now know the details, even if I can't quite see the point. I was enlightened to discover the origin of the city flag - which is identical to the Austrian flag, but it seems this is just coincidence; it commemorates the battle of Leuven of 891, when Arnulf of Carinthia defeated the Vikings and afterwards the river Dijle flowed clear between two bloodstained banks.

There have been a lot of invaders around here. I had forgotten that one of them was Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, he of the Bodleian Library. Most of the others were Germans, French and Dutch (with the odd incidence of Spanish in the 16th century). It's quite difficult to make war and massacres funny, and on the whole Stas skates around the historical details rather delicately, apart from the rather unavoidable matter of August 1914. It's entertaining enough, and I certainly learned from it.

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