War, climatic stress and environmental degradation during the 15th and 16th centuries. The case of the north Flemish coastal landscape in the estuary of the Western Scheldt
de Kraker, A.M.J. (2019). War, climatic stress and environmental degradation during the 15th and 16th centuries. The case of the north Flemish coastal landscape in the estuary of the Western Scheldt, in: Kiss, A. et al.The dance of death in late medieval and renaissance Europe: environmental stress, mortality and social response. pp. 66-85. https://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780429491085-5
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the late medieval coastal landscape south of the Western Scheldt estuary gradually degraded. This was caused by factors such as storm surges, large-scale peat cutting and short civil wars. This chapter demonstrates how the interplay of these factors led to the final disappearance of this landscape. After flooding events, repairs were usually undertaken, but generally more land was lost than re-gained. After each war, damaging effects could be controlled, except for large-scale strategic inundations. Meanwhile, the vast moor lands continued to be systematically cut, causing a general subsidence of the surface level of several meters. Once such an exhausted area flooded either during storm surge or war time, it was beyond repair. The final blow to the landscape was given during the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) when the area became a theatre of war. First the All Saints’ Flood of 1570 contributed to the general distress of the area, followed by years of raids carried out by rebels from the sea. In 1584–1586, large-scale strategic inundations so badly affected both the former moor lands and the polder area that it meant the end of the late medieval landscape.
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