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Open Access Forced Solidarity: Maintenance of Coastal Defences Along the North Sea Coast in the Early Modern Period

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For people living on soft soils near or below sea level in the pre-modern period, flood protection increasingly became a major challenge. This article analyses the organisation of flood protection along the southern shores of the North Sea, from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. One of the main problems was that usually only those communities directly on the coast were charged with maintaining sea defences, while flooding increasingly affected a much wider hinterland. Attempts to spread the costs to include communities situated further from the shore came up against significant political and economic barriers. Nevertheless, in several places the responsibility for flood protection was successfully and permanently transferred to areas that included the hinterland. Very large water districts sometimes emerged, dramatically increasing the number of land users liable to pay for dike maintenance. The article identifies four conditions that were necessary to achieve these radical institutional changes.
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Keywords: North Sea coast; Water management; flood protection; institutional change

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 0.698. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.806.
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