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3 - “The Fattened Land Turned to Salted Ground”

The Christmas Flood of 1717 in Groningen

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2022

Adam Sundberg
Affiliation:
Creighton University, Omaha
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Summary

The Christmas Flood of 1717 was likely the deadliest coastal flood in North Sea history. The storm impacted the entire southern coast of the North Sea basin, but the majority of its more than 13,000 victims lived in marginalized communities in the northern Netherlands and coastal Germany. This chapter investigates the origins, impact, and response to the Christmas Flood on the province of Groningen. The Netherlands had a long history of coping with coastal flooding, and moralists, state officials, and dike authorities exploited the cultural memory of previous floods to advocate solutions. The city of Groningen and its rural hinterlands wielded the past to divergent ends in their efforts to reframe financial responsibility for reconstruction. Provincial technocrats balanced tradition with the rhetoric of improvement to build support for new and improved seawalls. Moralists emphasized the unprecedented severity of the flood to scale up its significance and embed it in broader decline narratives. It argues that the Christmas Flood revealed the diverse ways that the past could be wielded to promote and resist change following natural disasters.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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