Windmills and Waterways: Holland's Constant Battle Against Water with Alette Fleischer - Context Travel

Windmills and Waterways: Holland's Constant Battle Against Water with Alette Fleischer

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"God had created Earth, except Holland; They built their own land", said the 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire. Holland is so low-laying, that the Dutch are fighting a constant battle against water. This seminar will cover hundreds of years of Dutch history, chronologically discussing how the Dutch protect and construct their country from the constant enemy: water.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch kept their feet dry by building dykes and dams, constructing drainage canals, and placing windmills. This way, the Dutch not only protected their cities from flooding but it enabled them to create new land. Between the years 1000 and 1300 the Hollanders changed the environment from moist bog into a production landscape with intricate waterways for transportation and drainage. The fields on which they lived, built their homes, villages, and towns gradually began to sink. Harvesting bog for fuel (peat) and general subsidence due to drainage, made Holland become ever lower laying. The battle against salt and freshwater had started.

Storms and high-tides led to the formation of several big lakes in the 13th to 15th centuries. The ingenuity of the Dutch to reclaim the lost land resulted in a few technological inventions: windmills and land-surveying instruments. Lakes became land, marshy soils elevated into dry terrains, and canals built for drainage and transportation. Holland and windmills became almost synonymous, yet of all the thousands of windmills that were built to conquer water, only a handful are still standing.

The 19th and 20th centuries came with new inventions: steam pumps, diesel engines, electrically powered engines. Today, with three years of consecutive drought, we actually have a water shortage, which leads to further subsidence. How can the Dutch keep Holland safe with the global climate change drawing into a close? Led by an expert on 17th-century garden and landscape history, Alette Fleischer, this interactive seminar will provide an in-depth look at how the Dutch protect and construct their nation, then and now. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with increased awareness on how to rethink the impact of climate change.

Amsterdam-born Alette Fleischer has a degree in Art History and a PhD in 17th Dutch History, focusing on gardens, science, and technology. She has curated several exhibitions, publishes articles, presents lectures, and a proud Context Expert. For Context Travel, Alette has led the Rijksmuseum tours many times. Motto: staying curious is key for being a good historian.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.