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Reading: The water supply of early modern Amsterdam: A drop in the bucket?


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Research Article

The water supply of early modern Amsterdam: A drop in the bucket?


Filip Van Roosbroeck

Universiteit Antwerpen, BE
About Filip

After graduating from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2009 with an MA in History, Filip Van Roosbroeck went on to read for an MSc in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at the University of Oxford. In 2016, he defended his Ph. D. thesis at the University of Antwerp, which was entitled: "To cure is to kill? Cattle plague, state intervention and veterinary knowledge in the Austrian Netherlands, 1769-1785". Afterwards, he worked as a postdoc at the Huygens ING institute for Dutch history in Amsterdam on a project regarding water infrastructure and consumption in early modern Amsterdam and Rotterdam. He is now working outside academia and, while occasionally missing the archives, he certainly relishes finally having some semblance of job security and work-life balance.

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It is often suggested that early modern Amsterdam was a thirsty city, in dire anticipation of the technological solutions that would finally provide it with the necessary quantities of potable water in the nineteenth century. However, a piped water system would have been technologically possible even a century before it was finally implemented, and in 1748 was even explicitly considered, but rejected as too inflexible and too vulnerable to sabotage. I consider this decision in its context, and show that while Amsterdam’s system of provisioning changed throughout the early modern era, it was nonetheless able to meet the requirements of the city’s population and its government.

How to Cite: Van Roosbroeck, F., 2019. The water supply of early modern Amsterdam: A drop in the bucket?. TSEG - The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 16(2), pp.71–91. DOI:
Published on 19 Oct 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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