Water, part 1
Water = Land
The history of Holland is mainly a history of water. Imagine that one thousand years ago there was nothing here but inaccessible marshes. The nobility urgently wanted farmers to develop the empty land, and was willing to pay a high price for it: Unlike the rest of Europe, farmers got property rights. Of course they had to pay taxes, 10 percent of the harvest, but they were independent.
The roots of democracy in Holland are in the fight against water.
Unique for the world, in the 12th century so called 'waterschappen' were formed for general control on all matters concerning water, with power exceeding the power of local nobility.
Due to soil pressure, the land level dropped whereas the water level remained the same. In the last thousand years the surface of land has dropped at some places 6 to 8 meters!
So ditches and canals had to be dug,
mills had to be built to pump the water out of the polders,
work that was taken care of by steam engines later on.
And it never stops. A newly built town quarter, Bloemendaal, needs repairs due to soil pressure so often that the town of Gouda is officially broke. The Dutch government has taken over all financial responsibilities.
Here in Gouda we call it 'the black hole of Bloemendaal'.