JEG 1999

Jaarboek voor Ecologische Geschiedenis



Erik Thoen



Petra J.E.M. van Dam

Onkruid verging niet. Het succes van de paling in de Hollandse wateren, 1300-1600


[The eel in Dutch waters (1300-1600)]

This study investigates how changes in hydrology of the Dutch raised bog areas affected the population of eel in the period 1300-1600. The case study focuses on the fishing at the sluices situated on the northern outlets of the Haarlem Lake. The thesis to be tested was formulated first by R. Hoffmann: the habitat of eel increased because water bodies expanded due to peat mining. However, a complex of elements affected the eel habitat. Taken into consideration are river dams, built to withstand the encroaching sea, changes in water quality such as organic purification and temperature rises, and the increase of peat mires. An important explanation for the success of the eel seems to be that humans could nor reach its breeding place and that dams were no great barriers for eel migration. Eel production may have expanded as peat mires increased, but this deserves further research. Future comparative research should also pay attention to acidification of waters.


Dries Tys

De omgang van de mens met overstromingsgevaar in de Belgische kustvlakte tussen de 8ste en de 12de eeuw, enkele aanwijzingen


[Dealing with the threat of inundation in the Belgian coastal plain between the 8th and 12th centuries. Some indications]

In the environment of the early medieval Belgian coastal plain tidal canals were of utmost importance. Through them the tides could reach the inland and they were crucial to the dynamics of the shallows and the accessibility of the coastal plain to humans. This article focuses on how humans dealt with the threat of inundation between the 8th and 12th centuries against the background of the definitive humanisation of the land. On the one hand the known archeological and historical data on the human presence in the coastal area are critically reviewed, on the other hand the medieval landscape of Kamerlings shire is retrogressively examined. The question how the danger of inundation was perceived is dealt with. Subsequently, following Van der Leeuwen Muir, we look into the evolution and the background of the human attitude towards the rhythm of nature.


Karel Leenders

Ecologische aspecten van de middeleeuwse zoutwinning in de Delta


[Ecological aspects of the medieval salt extraction in the Delta]

In the Middle Ages salt was extracted from the drowned bog in the Delta (Zeeland and surroundings). We describe how this was done and look into the ecological aspects of salt winning: the extraction of raw materials and the deposit of waste matter. All relevant literature has been maintaining for centuries that this was detrimental to the preservation of the low countries near the sea. This opinion is examined, as well as the idea that the transition in the 15th century to refining imported salt was due to the exhaustion of the silty bog layer in the delta. A model is elaborated that encompasses both aspects and describes how the agrarian use of peat bog, salt extraction and the formation of clay polders interrelated.


Jan-Willem Oosthoek en Marco Roepers

Beeldvorming van de vos door de eeuwen heen


[The representation of the fox through the centuries]

In November 1997 a new law concerning plant and animal life was voted in me Dutch parliament. This law, which was to reduce the number of freely huntable species, was heartily welcomed by nature and animal enthusiasts. At last the fox would be protected from systematic hunting, a barbaric relict from the past according to the animal lovers. However, hunters protested vehemently and especially resented the fact that they could no longer hunt foxes, while these animals, they insisted, killed cattle and spread tapeworms and diseases like rabies. The bad reputation of the fox has a long past: This article chronologically reconstructs the sources of the negative image of the fox, using several influential texts. We also offer an explanation for the emotional reactions fox hunting causes.


Wim Ravesteijn

Irrigatie en koloniale staat op Java: de gevolgen van de hongersnoden in Demak


[Irrigation and the colonial state on Java: the consequences of the Demak famine]

In 1848-1850, 1872 and 1902 Demak, an area in Middle Java (Indonesia), suffered severe famines caused by crop failure. The first disaster struck at a moment when the Dutch and Javanese administrations put the local population to the limit. On top of that the fertility of the region, once known for its rich rice harvest, had dwindled because of a deterioration of the water situation. Subsequently, Dutch engineers built a modern dam for irrigation. However, the situation remained precarious, possibly owing to ecological deterioration from deforestation elsewhere. After the second famine, colonial engineers built the first complete irrigational system on Java after thorough investigations. Following the third famine these waters were expanded with an intricate system of technical water control. Thedramatic events had an essential impact on the development of irrigation in general on Java - the Demak techniques spread - and the formation of a modern colonial state in Dutch India - e.g. the creation of the Indian Water Administration and the general humanisation of colonial rule. This article focuses on the technical aspects of irrigation and the political-administrative consequences of the famines. The evolution is described and analysed from a coherent social and ecological perspective, in which interrelations are more important than (first) causes. This way one-sided conclusions are avoided. Finally, the article is a plea for more theorisation of the subject.


Christophe Verbruggen

De reacties op vroege vormen van vervuiling. De chemische nijverheid te Gent, 1820-1892


[Reactions to early forms of industrial pollution. The case of the Ghent chemical industry (1820-1892)]

This article investigates the question whether the reactions to industrial pollution changed in the 19th century. During the Ancien Régime government policy tried to establish a peaceful coexistence. Because of the industrial development the necessity of a central policy, based upon scientific research, became more urgent. The preceding discussions about the legislation and the arguments of the political actors, are discussed in the first part. The next question tackled is how the liberal city council of Ghent applied the scientific evolution and the new legislation in its policy. The author concludes with a description of the changing attitude towardschemical industry among the citizens of Ghent. In the Ghent case three criteria determined society’s interest in environmental problems: first of all the danger for the public’s health, secondly the danger for the individual’s well-being and thirdly, but to a much lesser extent, the danger for nature and the environment.