chapter  6
Economic Growth and Cultural Flowering in the Thirteenth Century
Pages 26

Although the movement of land clearance slowed in Flanders after 1175, it resumed after 1215 with the poldering and clearance of the infertile wastelands of the north. Much of the motive for clearance in the north was the growing use of peat as a fuel. Philip of Alsace and his successors encouraged peat production, which was a regalian right, but the princes were not in a position to exploit the bogs directly. Beginning with Countess Joan, they thus sold and leased them. These

The exploitation of the peat bogs tells us much about the reclamation movement and the administrative faculties of the Flemish rulers in the thirteenth century. The moor of Aardenburg is already mentioned in the count's General Receipt of 1187. The name Meetjesland, which is still used for the area around Eeklo, is an early medieval toponym indicating division of the land into measures (meten) for peat exploitation. A text of 1313 shows that the bog between Aardenburg and Kaprijke was divided into parcels of standard size, which shows considerable administrative sophistication. The peat plots were separated by a network of drainage ditches that were dug in the thirteenth century by the count's officials, then linked to the major canals to take peat to the cities. A dike, mentioned in the thirteenth century, separated the moors of Eeklo and Aardenburg. Today it divides two water courses and is a parish border. As the peat bogs played out, canals lost their usefulness, and dikes were converted to land roads. Sheep could also be raised in the peat areas, and cloth making became important.4