Flooding as a Military Strategy
Cluster for the Study of Religious Violence
Flooding is part of life in the Netherlands. But, at least since the sixteenth century, humans have deliberately instigated floods as a military strategy.
During the Dutch Revolt (1566-1648), dykes were periodically opened in order to flood portions of the countryside in the Netherlands as a defensive measure against advancing armies. Strong religious motivations shaped the civil conflict in the Netherlands, as the Spanish Army of Flanders and local Catholics attempted to suppress a rebellion by militant Dutch Calvinists. One of the most famous incidents of deliberate flooding occurred in 1584, when Dutch forces under William of Orange destroyed seawalls in an attempt to protect the city of Antwerp, which was besieged by Spanish troops.
Adriaan de Kraker (Assistant Professor, VU University Amsterdam) has been researching deliberate flooding from 1500 to the present. He argues that “the plan got completely out of hand. … It came at the expense of…
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