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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Explaining an Unstable Landscape: Claiming the Islands of the Early-Modern Rhône

Pierre Claude Reynard

Environment and History 19 (2013): 39-61. doi: 10.3197/096734013X13528328439036

The powerful floods of the early-modern river Rhône, in south-eastern France, frequently reshaped shorelines, unpredictably destroying and creating hundreds of islands of all sizes. The claims occasioned by these transformations triggered countless and often complex disputes that, in turn, generated reflections on the origins of these ‘new’ lands. These interpretations, intended to advance complex legal arguments, varied along the river. A clear north-south contrast emerges from surviving documents that show that explanations of the emergence of alluvial lands were suited to the socio-economic structures of the northern and southern sections of the Rhone and, more particularly, the relative balance of private/common property.

KEYWORDS: Early-modern Rhone, alluvial lands, map-making, socio-economic structures

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