De vissersdorpen aan de Hollandse kust | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 5, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 2468-2187
  • E-ISSN: 2468-2195


The fishing villages on the coast of Holland

Very little systematic research has been done in the early history of fishing villages on the Dutch coast. In 2001, the English historical-geographer Harold Fox designed a model for the origin of the fishing villages on the coast of Devon. In this model, he describes an original situation in which farmers in inland villages were also part-time fisherman and owned a boat and a boatshed on the beach. Population growth led to labour division and to the emergence of specialised fishing villages. The two most probable periods in which this development took place were the 12th to early 14th centuries and the 16th century.

The available data for the coast of the county of Holland point to the first of those periods. Place-names relate the fishing villages to the inland agrarian villages: Egmond aan Zee (‘Egmond at Sea’) exists beside Egmond-Binnen, Wijk aan Zee beside Beverwijk and Katwijk aan Zee beside Katwijk aan de Rijn etc. It is improbable that these fishing villages existed before the 12th century, but during the middle of the 14th century most seem well-established, so a foundation around the 13th century seems probable. Two fishing villages, Berkheide and Ter Heijde, that were founded late in the 14th century, remained small and Berkheide even disappeared.

Although many of the medieval fishing villages have (partly) disappeared by coastal erosion, the village plans show remarkable similarities, with a main road from the beach to the inland markets and some parallel roads that join each other on the east side of the village. Only during the 19th century, these villages developed some agriculture (potato gardens in the dunes) and a new economic basis in tourism.


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