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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Coastal Flooding and Socioeconomic Change in Eastern England in the Later Middle Ages

James A. Galloway

Environment and History 19 (2013): 173-207. doi: 10.3197/096734013X13642082568615

The coasts and coastal wetlands of Eastern England, like other lands around the North Sea basin, were subjected to recurrent and sometimes devastating floods in the later middle ages. Some towns and many rural settlements were destroyed or relocated, while others sustained repeated loss of life and property. Agricultural lands reverted to inter-tidal conditions in some areas, while major changes in land use occurred elsewhere. Coastal industries such as milling and peat-digging suffered, while estuarine fisheries expanded onto flooded farm-land. The changes were complex and can only be fully understood in terms of the interaction of environmental and socioeconomic processes. Population decline and economic recession changed the parameters within which risk and opportunity were evaluated after the middle of the fourteenth century.

KEYWORDS: Flooding, Medieval England, nature-induced disasters, coastal environment, agriculture

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