Datasets – Waterboards – The Netherlands


This database is based on an earlier database of Dutch waterboards, created between 1987 and 1991. The latter database was an initiative of the members of the Vereniging voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis (Association for the History of Water Management),  among whom many archivists and other staff members of waterboards. They felt the need to document the history of the traditional small-scale waterboards which were disappearing swiftly as they merged into ever larger organisations. The leaders of this project were Ludy Giebels, then archivist of the hoogheemraadschap (regional waterboard) van Rijnland, and Chris Streefkerk, then secretary of the Vereniging voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis. Streefkerk designed the database (in DataPerfect), while Giebels was in charge of the collection and processing of the data. Questionnaires were sent to all waterboards and public archives in 1987. For each polder and other waterboard a separate questionnaire had to be used, which contained questions concerning the state of its archives and the availability of an inventory. The answers were entered into the database and changes were taken into account until 1991.

In 1996, a copy of the Giebels-Streefkerk-database was deposited at the Nederlands Historisch Data Archief (NHDA), a forerunner of DANS where digital historical datasets could be stored (L.A.M. Giebels, Archives of the waterboard districts, 1255-1980, NHDA D 0047). In the 1990s the Noordhollands Archief in Haarlem planned to update the database and make it publicly accessible in its reading room, but this plan has never been carried out. In 2007, Jan van de Noort made a list in pdf-format on the basis of the database, showing the names of the waterboards with part of the data collected. As the database was a collective project of the members of the Vereniging who filled out the questionnaires, it is owned by the Vereniging.

In the years 2008-10 the Giebels-Streefkerk database has been revised by Milja van Tielhof, as part of Data Infrastructures for the Study of guilds and other forms of collective action-project, carried out at Utrecht University. In December 2008 the University of Utrecht obtained permission from the Vereniging voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis to revise and expand the database and make it accessible online. It was then been converted from DataPerfect to Microsoft Access, after which it was revised and complemented.

Main table

The Main Table provides the basic data on each waterboard, such as name, location, size et cetera.

ID_WBId within ‘Waterboards’ dataset.
WaterboardName of the waterboard.
Number (situation 1990)This number indicates the position of the waterboard within the ‘family tree’ of waterboards according to the situation in 1990. It shows the many mergers of waterboards in the twentieth century, but it has not been brought up to date so the most recent mergers are not shown. The first part of the number indicates the province (e.g. 09 indicating Zeeland, 06 Utrecht and 08 South Holland, and 17 part Gelderland part Utrecht). The rest of the number indicates the affiliation (e.g. 09 > 01 > 00, 09 > 01 > 02 and 09 > 01 > 03 being three waterboards that merged into 09 > 01 >00). The numbers are specified in the table ‘Explanation of numbers’.
Location This is the village or town that best indicates where the waterboard is located. This village or town can be within or near the waterboard. To determine the locations, we used Grote Historische Atlas van Nederland 1839-1859 (1990) (1: 50.000).  
Postal codeThe postal code of the location (anno 2010).
Precision start yearSpecification of the start year: b (=before), a (=after), c (=circa) or ? (=unsure).
Start yearYear of foundation of the waterboard or of the oldest reference to it.
Precision end yearSpecification of the end year: b (=before), a (=after), c (=circa) or ? (=unsure).
End yearYear of dissolution of the waterboard or most recent reference to it.
Remarks on datesRemarks on start year and end year.
RegionRegion in which the waterboard in located.
Type of waterboardsThis field gives information on the type of waterboard. As there is no generally accepted classification of waterboards, we decided to classify them in a way most suited to the theme of the research programme: corporate collective action. This resulted in four types of local waterboards and a collective category of larger waterboards. The four types of local waterboards are bedijking; droogmakerij; polder or old polder; and waterkering calamiteus waterschap. As in the glossary, they are defined as follows. A bedijking is a polder, created in an embankment project from sea or river water. Most of the waterboards in the province Zeeland are of this type. A droogmakerij is a polder, created in a drainage  project out of a natural lake or out of broad meres.  Most of them are found in the provinces Holland and Utrecht, although they are a minority compared to the more common ‘polder’. The type that is called polder or old polder in this database, is a polder that does not owe its existence to land reclamation projects like drainage or embankment projects. Polders are located on old land and are therefore also called old polders. Contrary to bedijkingen and droogmakerijen they do not have a written foundation document marking the start of their existence, instead developing slowly and organically. Droogmakerijen, bedijkingen and (old) polders all share the following characteristic that distinguishes them from ordinary lands: they are areas in which the level of the water can artificially be controlled, independently of its surroundings. The fourth type of local waterboard is Waterkering van een calamiteuze waterschap. This is a waterboard exclusively administering the shoreline defense of a polder that had been declared distressed (calamiteus). From the last decade of the eighteenth century it was possible for polders to declare themselves distressed (calamiteus) which meant that they were unable to maintain their works and in urgent need of help. Distressed polders were supported but also supervised by the provincial estates and they were entitled to financial help from surrounding polders. An Act of 1872 created the possibility to separate the administration of the shoreline defense of a calamiteus polder from the polder itself and so create an extra waterboard. The polder itself continued to exist and took care of the inland works. The institution administering the shoreline defenses was called ‘waterkering van een calamiteus waterschap’. They are a highly specialized kind of waterboard and are mostly found in the province Zeeland. Due to the supervision of the authorities their corporate character is less than that of other waterboards. The category of regional or supra-local waterboards is not a real type as it lacks uniformity. It was only for practical reasons that we decided to lump all supra-local waterboards together in this heterogeneous category. It includes co-operations of a few polder boards sharing drainage works and large integrated organisations like the hoogheemraadschap van Delfland that supervised the local waterboards in its territory. In a small number of cases the field may contain the information: ‘no waterboard’. Most of these cases concern communalities: villages or towns. These are only included in the database because they were sometimes the precursor or the successor of a waterboard. Waterboards that are included two or more times in the database, also for reasons of affiliation, are classified as type: ‘no waterboard: double’.  
Surface (in ha)The real surface of the territory administered by the waterboard, in ha. Sources used for this and the next three fields on surfaces are as follows. For waterboards in the province of Zeeland, the surfaces are taken from the introduction to the archive inventories, which give the result of the measurements undertaken during the mergers around the middle of the twentieth century. For Delfland, the surfaces are taken from the  Beschrijving van de provincie Zuid-Holland behoorende bij de Waterstaatskaart (editions 1937 and 1967). For Eemland/ Vallei & Eem, the surfaces are taken from the Beschrijving van de provincie Utrecht behorende bij de waterstaatskaart (1968).
Surface (other)The real surface of the territory administered by the waterboard, in other measure than ha.
Taxable surface (in ha)In many waterboards the taxable surface was smaller than the real surface because part of the lands was exempt from the levy of the waterboard. This was often because the poor quality of the soil precluded a profitable exploitation. This field gives the taxable area, in ha.
Taxable surface (other)This field gives the taxable area, in other measure than ha.
 General remarks Besides other remarks, in this field is noted when there is only one landowner. Strictly speaking, these waterboards are private undertakings and not institutions of collective action.
Also known asName variants of the waterboard. 

Table ‘Archives’

This table provides specific information about the location of the archivals instutions visited and the designation of the archival documents found.

ID-ArchID within ‘Archive’ dataset.
ID_WBId within ‘Waterboards’ dataset.
LocationThis is the village or town that best indicates where the waterboard is located. This village or town can be within or near the waterboard. To determine the locations, we used Grote Historische Atlas van Nederland 1839-1859 (1990) (1: 50.000).
Full_nameName of the waterboard.
Archive fromDate of the oldest documents available.
Archive toDate of the most recent documents available.
Name of archiveName of the archive where the archive of the waterboard is kept. For the selection of waterboards in Delfland, Vallei & Eem and Zeeuwse eilanden, the name of the archive is written in full (e.g. Zeeuws Archief or Gemeentearchief Schouwen-Duiveland). In the other cases, the codes are shown used in the original Giebels-Streefkerk database. These codes consists of a two character abbreviation followed by a six character geographical indication. The abbreviations read:Ga – gemeentearchiefGs –  gemeentesecretarieWa – waterschapsarchiefWs – waterschapssecretarieRa – rijksarchiefSa – streekarchief
InventoryIn this field is listed: the website where the inventory is available online; ‘printed’ indicating that a printed and published inventory exists; ‘unpublished inventory’ indicating a printed or handwritten but not published inventory; ‘other’ indicating some less elaborate document on the global content of the archive. ‘None’ means there is nothing at all available; an empty field indicates there is no information on the inventory.
Name author inventoryName of the author of the inventory.
Year publication inventoryYear the inventory was published.
Title publication inventoryShort title of the inventory.
Series of accounts startsThe first year of a series of year accounts available in the archives.Sometimes incidental accounts resulting from an extraordinary investment precede a continuous series of yearly accounts.
Series of resolutions startsThe first year of a series of resolutions or minutes available in the archives.

Table ‘Numbers’

This table shows the relation of the codes used in the first version of the database (1990) to the geographical entities of the waterboards.

IdID within the ‘numbers’ dataset.
NumberFirst part of the numeric character set that is mentioned for each waterboard in the Main Table in the field ‘number (situation 1990)’.
ExplanationGeographical entity the first part of the numeric character set refers to (mostly one of the  waterboards existing in 1990).

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