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.
- 16th century