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Waddenzee wordt moordzee

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Abstract

Murder in the Wadden Sea. The 1717 Christmas Flood and vulnerability to storm surges

On Christmas Eve 1717 the Wadden Sea was hit by the most deadly storm surge in the history of the North Sea area, claiming between 11,000 and 14,000 victims. In 1570, 1634, and 1686 the same region had also suffered exceptionally high numbers of casualties during storm surges, in striking contrast with other parts of the North Sea area. The lethal character of storm surges in this particular region and period remains to be explained. In this article the social bias among the victims is revealed, with cottagers and labourers being particularly exposed to the deadly impact of the storm surge. Unsafe living conditions, with people settling on low-lying spots or close to sea-walls, directly exposed people to an untimely death in a flood disaster. However, this article argues that the analysis of vulnerability should not stop there, but rather look for the root causes of vulnerability, which made people ignore obvious risks. In the case of the Wadden Sea flood disasters, social polarization, declining local access to political decision making, and the enclosure of common saltmarshes all contributed to an environment in which killer floods could occur. All too often disaster history fails to pay attention to the social profile of the victims. More attention on disaster victims could significantly improve our understanding of why some natural hazards turned into full-blown disasters, and others not.
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Keywords: 1717 Christmas Flood; Wadden Sea Area; drainage; flood disasters; flood protection; social inequality; victims; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2018

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  • Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis (TvG) bestrijkt als enig Nederlandstalig historisch-wetenschappelijk tijdschrift de geschiedenis van alle tijden en van de hele wereld. TvG biedt auteurs uit de geschiedwetenschap en aanverwante disciplines een gereputeerd, Nederlandstalig podium voor kwalitatief hoogstaand en origineel onderzoek. Sinds zijn eerste verschijning in 1886 is Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis uitgegroeid tot een historisch tijdschrift dat wetenschappelijkheid op succesvolle wijze combineert met toegankelijkheid, dat inspeelt op actuele trends, dat respectvol omgaat met historiografische tradities, maar ook openstaat voor experiment en interdisciplinariteit. Het tijdschrift biedt een cruciale brugfunctie tussen enerzijds het internationale onderzoeksveld en anderzijds geschiedenisstudenten en -docenten, en een anderszins geïnteresseerd publiek.

    Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis (Journal of History) is the only Dutch scholarly history journal that covers history for all periods and worldwide. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis is a general historical journal, which means that it covers all historical disciplines and related disciplines. Since its founding in 1886 Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis has grown into a key journal that combines academic research on historical topics with accessibility to an audience within and outside academia.
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