Flooding as a Military Strategy

Flooding is part of life in the Netherlands. But, at least since the sixteenth century, humans have deliberately instigated floods as a military strategy.

During the Dutch Revolt (1566-1648), dykes were periodically opened in order to flood portions of the countryside in the Netherlands as a defensive measure against advancing armies. Strong religious motivations shaped the civil conflict in the Netherlands, as the Spanish Army of Flanders and local Catholics attempted to suppress a rebellion by militant Dutch Calvinists. One of the most famous incidents of deliberate flooding occurred in 1584, when Dutch forces under William of Orange destroyed seawalls in an attempt to protect the city of Antwerp, which was besieged by Spanish troops.


Adriaan de Kraker (Assistant Professor,  VU University Amsterdam) has been researching deliberate flooding from 1500 to the present. He argues that “the plan got completely out of hand. … It came at the expense of the countryside of northern Flanders, now Zeeland Flanders, some two thirds of which was flooded.”

Flooding continued to be used periodically as a military strategy during later wars in the Netherlands.


Adriaan de Kraker’s article is available online at Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. The European Geosciences Union reports on de Kraker’s research.

This entry was posted in Catholicism and Religious Violence, Christianity and Religious Violence, Civilians and Religious Violence, European Wars of Religion, Protestantism and Religious Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Flooding as a Military Strategy

  1. Reblogged this on Brian Sandberg: Historical Perspectives and commented:

    Flooding as a Military Strategy

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