When large parts of the south-western Netherlands flooded in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the main cause was insufficient maintenance of the sea defences. The subsequent re-embankment of the polders resulted in changes to both soil conditions and property relations in the region. The Church and the local peasants lost land and members of the urban bourgeoisie became the most important landowners. Unlike their risk-averse predecessors, these capitalist landlords were prepared to invest in drainage. They were also able to organise state support for those polders that were at risk of flooding. Tenant and yeomen farmers had an equally important role as they maintained the fertility of the soil and were prepared to invest in the upkeep of the flood defences.