More than most countries, the Netherlands bear the imprint of man. According to a French saying, God may have created the world, but the inhabitants of the Low Countries shaped their own lands. Through the ages, natives of the Netherlands did indeed overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable to foreigners. In the early modern period, the Netherlanders were even said to have developed their expertise in international commerce out of necessity. A Muslim traveler to the Netherlands noted in tenth century that there was "no firewood in their country to burn for their needs," but, he added, "they have a kind of mud which they use as fuel."
This conference attempts to bring together papers about the historical relationship between the Netherlanders and their environment. How did the environment shape the history of the Low Countries, and how did the residents shape their environment? For instance, what challenges did the Little Ice Age bring? How was the battle waged against wind and water (dikes, terps), and how was geography used to defend (inundations as a weapon in wartime) and improve life (mills, polders, the use of river systems and the digging of canals for purposes of transport). How did travelers and emigrants view geographical and environmental differences abroad and in the colonies? Did Netherlanders view their lands as God-made or the outcome of a continual transformation? When did they begin to enjoy and beautify the landscape? What was the impact of pollution? Finally, what was the relation between landscape and memory, between geography and how the Netherlanders made sense of the world?
Paper proposals, including a brief abstract, should be sent to Wim Klooster and/or Laura Cruz by February 11, 2005.
Dept. of History
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723
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