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“So One Would Notice the Good Navigability”: Economic Decline and the Cartographic Conception of Urban Space in Late Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Bruges

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Publication details

JournalUrban History
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Aug 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 3 Oct 2016
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)1-24
Early online date3/10/16
Original languageEnglish


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.

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© Cambridge University Press, 2016. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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