“So One Would Notice the Good Navigability”: Economic Decline and the Cartographic Conception of Urban Space in Late Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Bruges

Bart Lambert, Jan Dumolyn, Brecht Dewilde, Bram Vannieuwenhuyze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

During most of the late medieval period, the Flemish city of Bruges acted as the main commercial hub of north-western Europe. In the course of the fifteenth century, however, Bruges lost much of its allure as an economic metropolis. One of the most urgent challenges the urban authorities were facing was the navigability of the waterways in and around the city. While the city government made structural investments to remedy the problems, written sources constantly emphasized how important it was that Bruges remained accessible from the sea. During the same period, the earliest preserved maps of the city and its environment emerged. Drawing on the work of Henri Lefebvre, this article argues that these visual representations were informed by the same commercial ideology. Despite, or exactly because of, the city's decreasing maritime accessibility, they conceived Bruges as a place that could easily be reached by trading ships and where merchants could trade in the best possible circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-25
Number of pages24
JournalUrban History
Volume45
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Bruges
  • cartography
  • trade
  • 16th century
  • navigation

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