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Consuming maps and producing space. Explaining regional variations in the reception and agency of mapmaking in the Low Countries during the medieval and early modern periods

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2014

Department of History, University of Antwerp.
Department of History, University of Antwerp.
Department of History, University of Antwerp.


The acceptance of mapmaking in medieval and early modern Europe was neither a uniform nor a linear process. Comparing two neighbouring regions in the Low Countries, we explain the varying appetite for maps and mapmaking first by unravelling how people dealt with space before the introduction of modern mapmaking and, second, by identifying the actors that actively promoted its adoption. In regions where local elites had already been considering space as a commodity with a preference for clear-cut, geometric forms before the introduction of mapmaking, the latter was enthusiastically accepted and rapidly became instrumental in propagating this ‘modern’ concept of space. Other regions did not develop this appetite for mapmaking and continued to prefer different and more negotiable representations of space.

Consommer des cartes et reproduire l'espace. expliquer les variations régionales concernant l'accueil et l'initiative de cartographie développée aux pays-bas durant les époques médiévale et moderne

En Europe médiévale et moderne, accepter la cartographie n'intervint en rien selon un processus uniforme ou linéaire. Les auteurs comparent deux régions voisines aux Pays-Bas et expliquent que l'appétit pour les cartes et la cartographie variait : d'une part ils éclaircissent comment les gens traitait l'espace avant l'introduction de la cartographie moderne et, d'autre part, ils identifient les acteurs qui ont favorisé activement l'adoption de cette dernière. Dans les régions où les élites locales envisageaient déjà l'espace comme une marchandise, avec une préférence pour des formes géométriques bien claires avant l'introduction de la cartographie, celle-ci fut acceptée avec enthousiasme et devint rapidement un agent de propagation de ce concept «moderne» de l'espace. Dans d'autres régions, ce goût pour la cartographie ne s'est pas développé et les gens ont continué à y préférer des représentations différentes et plus négociables de l'espace.

Der konsum der landkarten und die produktion des raumes. wie sich regionale variationen in der rezeption und vermittlung der kartenherstellung in den niederlanden während des mittelalters und der frühen neuzeit erklären lassen

Die Akzeptanz der Landkartenherstellung im mittelalterlichen und frühneuzeitlichen Europa war weder ein einheitlicher noch ein linearer Prozess. Wir vergleichen zwei benachbarte Regionen in den Niederlanden, um Veränderungen im Appetit auf Karten und Kartenherstellung zu erklären, indem wir erstens herauszufinden versuchen, wie Leute vor der Einführung der modernen Kartenherstellung mit dem Raum umgingen, und zweitens die Akteure identifizieren, die deren Verbreitung aktiv beförderten. In Regionen, in denen die örtlichen Eliten bereits vor der Einführung der Kartenherstellung den Raum als Ware angesehen und eine Präferenz für eindeutige geometrische Darstellungsformen entwickelt hatten, wurden solche Formen enthusiastisch angenommen und erwiesen sich als Vehikel für die Propagierung eines ‚modernen’ Raumkonzeptes. Andere Regionen dagegen entwickelten keinen solchen Appetit auf Kartenherstellung und bevorzugten weiterhin unterschiedliche und stärker verhandelbare Raumdarstellungen.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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33 Soens, T., ‘Floods and money. Funding drainage and flood control in coastal Flanders (13th–16th centuries)’, Continuity and Change 26, 3 (2011), 333–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 Ciriacono, S., Building on water (New York, 2006)Google Scholar.

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37 Harvey, P., ‘Medieval local maps from German-speaking lands and central Europe’, Die leidenschaft des Sammelns. Streifzüge durch die Sammlung Woldan 1 (2010), 113–32Google Scholar, here 127.

38 Skelton, R. A. and Harvey, P. D. A. eds., Local maps and plans from medieval England (Oxford, 1986)Google Scholar and various contributions in the latter's Manors and maps in rural England from the tenth century to the seventeenth (Farnham, 2010).

39 Another example is found for the medieval dike of Artois near Bouchoute: Gottschalk, M. K. E., De Vier Ambachten en het Land van Saaftinge in de middeleeuwen: een historisch-geografisch onderzoek betreffende Oost Zeeuws-Vlaanderen c.a (Assen, 1984)Google Scholar.

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41 Rijksarchief Gent, Belgium (hereafter RAG), Kaarten & Plans, 2647.

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43 Maeyer, P. De, De Vliegher, B. M. and Brondeel, M., De spiegel van de wereld: fundamenten van de cartografie (Ghent, 2004)Google Scholar. Scale 1:11520. The maps by Ferraris have been recently scanned on high resolution and can be accessed at [accessed 22 August 2012].

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48 Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’.

49 For a study on verbal maps: ibid.

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51 Examples can be found in, for instance, these bye-laws: Longé, G. De, Coutumes d'Herentals, de casterlé, de Moll, Balen et Desschel, de Gheel, de Hoogstraten, de Befferen et de Putte et féodales du pays de Malines (Brussels, 1878)Google Scholar; Koyen, M., ‘Keuren van Ravels’, Oudheid en Kunst 41, 2 (1958), 319Google Scholar; Verhoeven, P. J., ‘Keuren van Calmpthout’, Oudheid en Kunst (1907), 45–6Google Scholar. And for England: Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’.

52 Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’, 192.

53 Translation from Geïntegreerde Taalbank, [accessed 15 July 2012].

54 Abbey Archives Tongerlo, Belgium (hereafter AAT), Section IV, Bundle Kalmthout-Essen-Huibergen, 110, 1.

55 AAT, Section IV, Bundle Kalmthout-Essen-Huibergen, 110.

56 AAT, Section IV, Bundle Kalmthout-Essen-Huibergen, 101–104.

57 AAT, Section IV, Bundle Kalmthout-Essen-Huibergen, 110.

58 Smail, Imaginary cartographies.

59 AAT, Section IV, Bundle Kalmthout-Essen-Huibergen, 109.

60 Verhoeven, ‘Keuren van Calmpthout’. For similar practices, see Winchester, A., Harvest of the hills. Rural life in northern England and the Scottish borders 1400–1700 (Edinburgh, 2002)Google Scholar.

61 ‘per medium mori nullam fecit limitationem, que inter illas duas metas terre et morum per longum tempus inculte remanebunt’: Augustyn, B., ‘Bijdrage tot het ontstaan en de vroegste geschiedenis van de Wase Polders van de oudste tijden tot circa 1400’, Annalen van de Koninklijke oudheidkundige kring van het Land van Waas 80, 50 (1977), 5136Google Scholar.

62 Burke, ‘Performing history’; Dumolyn, J. and Haemers, J., ‘Patterns of urban rebellion in medieval Flanders’, Journal of Medieval History 31 (2005), 369–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Haemers, J., ‘A moody community? Emotion and ritual in late medieval urban revolts’, Urban History 5 (2005), 6381Google Scholar; Pössel, ‘The magic of early medieval ritual’.

63 Gottschalk, M. K. E., Historische geografie van westelijk Zeeuws-Vlaanderen (Assen, 1955–1958), 120–1Google Scholar.

64 RAG, fonds Boudeloabdij, cijnsboek 1261–1262, published by Vossen, K., ‘Het ontstaan der Parochies in het Land van Waas’, Annalen van de Koninklijke oudheidkundige kring van het Land van Waas 55, 2 (1942), 85133Google Scholar, 129–30.

65 For similar cases of conflicts, see Jack, S., ‘The “debatable lands”, terra nullius, and natural law in the sixteenth century’, Northern History 41, 2 (2004), 289300CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66 Gottschalk, Historische geografie, 120–1.

67 On the ommelopers, see de Kraker, A. M. J., ‘De Vlaamse en Zeeuwse ommelopers in de veertiende, vijftiende en zestiende eeuw’, in Synghel, Geertrui Van ed., Bronnen betreffende de registratie van onroerend goed in Middeleeuwen en Ancien Régime (The Hague, 2001), 166231Google Scholar; Soens, T., De spade in de dijk? Waterbeheer en rurale samenleving in de Vlaamse kustvlakte (1280–1580) (Ghent, 2009), 55–7Google Scholar. Alternative names are overloper, everingboek, waasboek and veldboek.

68 Soens, ‘Floods and money’.

69 Ciriacono, Building on water.

70 ‘dat de geoctroyeerders sullen hebben over te leveren aen den raedt van state perfecte caerten van de lande ende jurisdictiën, met het district ende van thienden ende thiende-heffers’ [‘that the licensees be obliged to hand over to the government perfect maps of the land and its jurisdiction, including districts, tithe allocation and the collectors of tithes’], in Wolters, Mathias-Joseph, Recueil de lois, arrêtés, règlements etc., concernant l'administration des eaux et polders de la Flandre orientale (Ghent, 1869), 182Google Scholar.

71 ‘geswoore lantmeters daer de separatie ende afdeelinge, beneffens de groote cavelsloten daer van te doene’, in Ibid., 231.

72 See also Reh, W., Steenbergen, C. M. and Aten, D., Sea of land: the polder as an experimental atlas of Dutch landscape architecture (Amsterdam, 2007)Google Scholar.

73 Herva and Ylimaunu, ‘What's on the map?’, 99.

74 For example, Rijksarchief Beveren, Belgium, Polder archives 14, 108: dispute on tithes in the Oud Arenbergpolder between St Peter's Abbey in Ghent and the priest of Kieldrecht (1728).

75 RAG, Raad van Vlaanderen, 21350.

76 For example, Embankment license Oud-Arenbergpolder 1667. Published in Wolters, Recueil de lois, arrêtés, règlements etc. and RAG, Raad van Vlaanderen, 21 350 (1762): ‘Every landholder has to be pleased with the plots he obtains without making any case or to pretend that his previous lands were better or worse than the ones they now obtained … without making any difference if they were in one or another area.’

77 Algemeen Rijksarchief Brussel, Belgium (hereafter ARA), Jointe des terres contestées, 511.

78 ‘enige Heydensche ofte Egyptische volkeren, lediggangers, landloopers, vagebonden in generaal alle suspecte persoonen’: ARA, Jointe des terres contestées, 511.

79 Mukerji, From graven images, 81.

80 AAT, Section II, 292–3, Farm descriptions 1510, Rijksarchief Antwerpen, Belgium (hereafter RAA), Oud Gemeentearchief (hereafter OGA), Loenhout, 1602; 3823; RAA, OGA, Gierle, 344.

81 Goris, Een kaartboek.

82 Ibid.

83 Huussen, Jurisprudentie en kartografie. To compare with maps of other regions: Augustyn, B., ‘Zestiende-eeuwse polderkaarten: spiegel der eigentijdse landmeetkundige verworvenheden of uiting van traditionalisme’, in Der Haegen, Herman Van, Daelemans, Frank and Ermen, Eduard Van eds., Oude kaarten en plattegronden: bronnen voor de historische geografie van de Zuidelijke Nederlanden (16e–18e eeuw) (Brussels, 1986), 75104Google Scholar; Mertens, J., ‘Lokale grensgeschillen en cartografie in de 16de eeuw’, in Van Der Haegen, , Daelemans, and Van Ermen, , Oude kaarten en plattegronden, 105–17Google Scholar.

84 Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’.

85 RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 721, 744, 894, 949.

86 RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 721, Trial between Arendonk and Postel concerning boundary markers and cross-boundary peat digging.

87 AAT, Section IV, Funds of Essen-Kalmthout-Huibergen, 721, 6.

88 Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’.

89 RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 721, 10, 1731.

90 Mukerji, ‘Cartography, entrepreneurialism and power’.

91 RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 721, 744, 949.

92 Fletcher, ‘The parish boundary’; Whyte, Inhabiting the landscape.

93 Pössel, ‘The magic of early medieval ritual’. This time we have evidence that village communities had to attend, in order to acknowledge the limits. RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 721, 10.

94 RAA, OGA, Arendonk, 744, 12–13.

95 Tilborghs, E., ‘De privatisering van de gemeentelijke heide in de Antwerpse Kempen gedurende de negentiende eeuw’, Tijdschrift van de Belgische Vereniging voor Aardrijkskundige Studies 2 (1988)Google Scholar; Tilborghs, E., ‘De ontginning van de tijdens de negentiende eeuw geprivatiseerde gemeentegronden in de Antwerpse Kempen: drie case-studies’, Tijdschrift van de Belgische Vereniging voor Aardrijkskundige Studies 1 (1989)Google Scholar; H. Willems, ‘De ontginningen van de Antwerpse Kempen in de achttiende eeuw’ (unpublished PhD thesis, KU Leuven, 1962).

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