Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Many years ago, as I was finishing up work on my doctoral dissertation, my graduate adviser, Tony Grafton, told me that when I was ready to start thinking about a second book project, I might want to look into the draining of the Fens. He seemed to remember that there were abundant sources for such a project, he said, and thought it might be right up my alley. ...

Note on the Text

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Introduction. The Unrecovered Country: Draining the Land, Building the State

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pp. 1-14

The possibility of draining the English Fens had been considered and debated for at least a generation by 1616, when Ben Jonson satirized the whole idea by having Merecraft pitch it to the greedy and buffoonish Norfolk gentleman Fitzdotterel as a surefire, get-rich-quick scheme in The Devil Is an Ass.1 Merecraft was Jonson’s caricature of a projector, ...

Part I. Popular Politics, Crown Authority, and the Rise of the Projector

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1. Land and Life in the Pre-drainage Fens

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pp. 17-49

Negative contemporary depictions of the early modern fens were commonplace; the above passage, while more expressive than most, is representative of the genre. Such descriptions emphasized the region’s waterlogged and putatively barren soil, the foul and unhealthy air, and the poor, rude, and sickly inhabitants. ...

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2. State Building in the Fens, 1570–1607

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pp. 50-80

In July 1597, the Elizabethan Privy Council wrote to the commissioners of sewers in “Lincoln, Norfolk and other counties adjoining,” in support of a recently proposed drainage project slated to take place in the villages of Upwell and Outwell in the Isle of Ely, and Denver in Norfolk. The projectors, they wrote, had already reached agreements with the chief landlord and his tenants to drain their fens, ...

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3. The Crisis of Local Governance, 1609–1616

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pp. 81-108

The commissioners of sewers in the Isle of Ely faced a thorny administrative challenge in the autumn of 1609, one that threatened to undermine their ability to manage the region’s drainage affairs. They had determined that the “ancient drains” of the Isle had been “of long time neglected,” and were thus “lost and grown [i.e., silted] up, to the great loss & hurt of the said countries.”1 ...

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4. The Struggle to Forge Consensus, 1617–1621

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pp. 109-138

In November 1616, the Privy Council affirmed that commissions of sewers could build new drainage works, levy taxes generally on entire communities, and imprison anyone who proved to be obstinately disobedient, all without fear of being sued in a common law court. The councilors reasoned that if the commissioners were to combat the worsening floods ...

Part II. Drainage Projects, Violent Resistance, and State Building

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5. Draining the Hatfield Level, 1625–1636

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pp. 141-178

In the early afternoon on Wednesday, 13 August 1628, an English laborer named John Kitchen was walking to the village of Haxey in Lincolnshire. Kitchen worked for Cornelius Vermuyden (1590–1677), the Dutch land drainer and projector commissioned by King Charles I to drain the fenlands that spanned several royal estates in the area, ...

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6. The First Great Level Drainage, 1630–1642

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pp. 179-216

In 1620 or so, an anonymous fenland commentator offered a scathing critique of the would-be Great Level drainage projectors, Sir William Ayloffe and Sir Anthony Thomas. Rather than criticizing the details of their proposed project, which they had refused to reveal, he attacked the very notion of “the keeping dry of all fens winter and summer,” ...

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7. Riot, Civil War, and Popular Politics in the Hatfield Level, 1640–1656

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pp. 217-248

The manor of Epworth saw considerable unrest throughout the English Civil War and the Interregnum. The chief manor in the Isle of Axholme in northern Lincolnshire, Epworth had been a hotbed of anti-drainage sentiment ever since Sir Cornelius Vermuyden and his fellow Participants had drained the Hatfield Level and taken possession of 7,400 acres of their common waste, ...

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8. The Second Great Level Drainage, 1649–1656

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pp. 249-297

In 1658, the mathematician and surveyor Jonas Moore published A Mapp of ye Great Levell of ye Fenns.1 Moore was the principal surveyor employed by the group of investors who had succeeded at last in draining the area in question, commonly referred to as the Adventurers, and they had commissioned him “to survey the Great Level of the fens ...

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Epilogue. The Once and Future Fens: Unintended Consequences in an Artificial Landscape

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pp. 298-314

In May 1657, shortly after the Adventurers in the Great Level project had commissioned him to produce a learned history of land drainage in England as a monument to the company’s triumph in the Fens, William Dugdale embarked on a personal tour of the region he was to write about. His itinerary took him throughout the Great Level and the Hatfield Level, ...

Abbreviations

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pp. 315-316

Notes

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pp. 317-366

Glossary

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pp. 367-368

Bibliography

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pp. 369-386

Index

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pp. 387-398