Student information

MSc thesis subject: Hostile ground or valuable land? Bog ownership and value according to the 1830 cadastral mapping

Raised bogs (hoogvenen) are peat moss-dominated wetlands consisting of organic soils, and once covered large parts of Northwest Europe and the Low Countries in particular. Most bogs have disappeared since the Middle Ages, leaving numerous cultural remains in the landscape such as specific place-names and parcellation types.
Previous research on bog use history in the Low Countries has mainly focused on episodes of large-scale reclamation and commercial peat exploitation. In contrast, human perceptions and uses of bogs beyond these destructive episodes have been studied less intensively.

Persistent clich├ęs describe bogs as remote, hostile, dangerous and poorly accessible places. However, historical and archaeological evidence demonstrates that bogs were integral parts of human settlement territories and were used in various ways. Well before large-scale peat exploitation and reclamation took place many bogs were already contested lands, suggesting substantial utility value.

In this project, you will use the first Dutch nation-wide cadastral mapping (1830) to gain better understanding of the real value of bogs to humans and of the factors determining the survival or disappearance of bogs.

Data and Methods
You will have access to the complete 1830 cadastral mapping of the formerly bog-rich Northern and Eastern Netherlands (data from HISGIS). Data include detailed land parcellation maps and information about land owners, land use types, estimated value of the land, and local field-names.
In a comparative approach using eg ArcGIS, these data will be analysed to better understand why some bogs have completely disappeared through human action since 1830 while others have persisted until present. Literature and/or archival sources will be used to substantiate and explain the findings.

Project team
You will be part of the Home Turf project team (, and your project results will likely be used by ongoing and future studies on past and present human use and perceptions of bog landscapes.

Theme(s): Modelling & visualisation, Integrated Land Monitoring