History of the sea

De zee vroeger


Another theme that VLIZ focuses on is the history of the sea. By knowing how people used to interact with their environment, we not only understand their historical activities, but also how things might be different in the present or future.

A general overview of all existing literature on the history of the Central Coast can be found through the website the "Bibliography of the Central Coast (BMK).

The genesis of the VLIZ itself (founded in 1999) goes back to the 19th century. Pierre Joseph and later Eduard van Beneden managed a marine laboratory on Ostend's East Bank. This international pioneering role was continued by later research centers such as the ZWI [Zeewetenschappelijk Instituut] and the IZWO [Instituut voor Zeewetenschappelijk Onderzoek]. The Science Treasures project makes this marine scientific history accessible.

Sea fishing and oyster farming in the North Sea

The analysis of (the history of) marine fisheries is one of the main concerns of the VLIZ. Not only the composition and statistics of the fishery; the main species and their ecological requirements, deserve our attention, but also the legislative framework and societal interests associated with it. In fact, in addition to an overview of this information, a thorough investigation of how the fishing fleet in Belgium used to be composed and who was active in it has already been carried out through our database of Marine Fisheries.

Oysters have also always played a special role in local fisheries and are part of our identity for good reason. Farming on a (semi-)industrial level goes back to the mid-18th century and later had numerous ramifications in various coastal municipalities (Ostend, Nieuwpoort, Blankenberge and Zeebrugge). A detailed overview can be found here.

Maritime archaeology and maritime heritage

Strictly speaking, maritime archaeology also belongs to the broader history of the landscape. This is the discipline that studies wrecks and cargo on the bottom of the North Sea, one of the busiest navigated seas in the world. These range from early modern wooden vessels to steel submarines or aircraft wrecks from the two World Wars.

There are also lesser-known forms of heritage that are explored at the VLIZ.

Seascapes Past & Future 

Landscape, oceanographic and geological history also keep the VLIZ busy on a daily basis. Paleolandscapes and drowned landscapes such as the history of the famous island of Testerep are just a few of the themes addressed within the research group on 'Seascapes Past & Future' of the VLIZ. There is also a particular focus on historical map material, which can help reconstruct the evolution of a landscape. Some of this map material was made available through the Hisgiskust project.

Maritime Society & History

This research group studies the interaction between people and the sea from economic, sociological and historical perspectives. Important themes within maritime history in the 17th and 18th centuries are research into privateers' letters on the one hand and international trade from Ostend on the other. Another theme is the development of tourism from the end of the 18th century until the First World War. Ostend played an important role in this.



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