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Environment and History

Conquest and Incorporation: Merging French-Style Central Government Practices with Local Water Management in Seventeenth-Century Maritime Flanders

Raphaël Morera

Environment and History 23 (2017): 341-362. doi: 10.3197/096734017X14979473873849

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How does a new power impose new practices in water management and how does it deal with inherited customs and institutions? How, in practice, does the change of legal order, underpinned by territorial conquest, manifest itself? This article questions how the change of sovereignty affected water management in the border region of modern France and Belgium in the seventeenth century. In 1662 King Louis XIV of France bought the city and the territory of Dunkirk from the King of England. Maritime Flanders, as it was called from then on, became the northern border of the Kingdom of France. Water management was a major issue from the outset. The French administration restored the local water management institutions and integrated them into its own institutional framework. Doing so, the French deployed very harsh control under the authority of the intendant of Lille, the representative of the King in the whole of Flanders. By thus providing water to the port of Dunkirk and by planning large scale temporary defensive inundations, the French monarchy succeeded in militarising the regional water management.

KEYWORDS: Water governance, early modern history, France, Low-Countries

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