In many industrialised regions particularly in Britain, rivers have been impounded for use by mills, polluted by multiple point sources and channelised to the very source over many centuries (e.g., Bracegirdle 1973; Lester 1975; Harkness 1982; Holland & Harding 1984; Haslam 1991). Since the 1960s, the ecological recovery of such historically polluted and disturbed rivers in Britain has been remarkable. Long reaches of once black, foetid, fishless watercourses, some almost completely devoid of macroscopic biota, have been transformed into clear streams and rivers with diverse floras and faunas and prolific fish populations. This transformation is perceived to have been the result of a number of factors, including law, public pressure, new technologies, new infrastructure and changes in the economy and industry. Even so, ecological recovery is still poorly advanced in some rivers and the reasons for this have not been explained in any detail. This short chapter uses sets of long-term chemical and biological data from three sites on a Midland river in a preliminary analysis of the possible reasons for the variable rates of ecological recovery and the relationship between the long-term chemical and biological changes in the river. It is part of a series of longer term studies of the problems associated with ecological recovery of polluted rivers (e.g., Langford et al. 2009).
Stripped of all simplistic romanticism, the Battle of the Spurs still retains its prime importance in our history. One barely needs to be reminded of this: it is something that every Fleming is aware of. The event also had far-reaching consequences for the course of world history: the hegemonic position that France had attained in Western Europe during the thirteenth century received its first powerful blow.
For those interested in the study of history, conceived, first and foremost, as an attempt to understand past events, such an unforeseen and, for those living at the time, almost unbelievable occurrence demands explication. And this presumes serious historical research. Certainly, much has been written about the Battle of the Spurs. Amid the works and articles in journals devoted to the subject there are some very thorough scientific contributions. A few have even opened the way for further study, among them two critical studies by Henri Pirenne and the two works by Victor Fris. Nevertheless, many significant problems remained unsolved and certain conceptions of the events continued to be held as valid, even if difficult to reconcile with what is known of the art of warfare in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, our knowledge of the history of Flanders, France and the Low Countries in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries has progressed markedly in recent years. Common perceptions concerning the Battle of the Spurs, and the events with which the battle is associated, need to be corroborated with results gained.
Flanders at the End of the Thirteenth Century
From the tenth century to the beginning of the fourteenth century, Western Europe experienced steady progress in all spheres of the economy. The population grew steadily, thus increasing the number of both consumers and workers, as well as encouraging trade and industry. At the beginning of the period, almost all of the population lived from agriculture and was settled in the countryside; at the end, a considerable number lived in the towns. Trade and industry had grown markedly since the eleventh century, giving rise to increased prosperity in which the inhabitants of the small towns, villages and countryside shared. Land was continually being won from the sea, marshes drained, desolate ground and pasture cultivated. Where once there had been forests, there was now arable land; much progress had been made in agriculture. These four centuries of continual advance did have their crises: famines, epidemics, floods, and so on, but the disasters were, nevertheless, limited geographically and could not interrupt the general course of progress.
The fourteenth century contrasted sharply with this. Repeated famines and epidemics devastated the whole of Western Europe. A widespread famine arose in 1315 and raged until 1317. The Black Death claimed thousands of victims from 1347 until 1351. Only a few regions avoided the direct consequences of such disasters. The general crisis that thus arose was felt everywhere. Unlike in earlier periods, there was no growth in population, not even in the towns; and scarcely any new arable land was won.
There has been no complete and critical study of the terrain that deals with all problems arising from a reconstruction of the Battle of Courtrai. Almost all the material required was nevertheless gathered and examined in the valuable contributions presented by Sevens. However, the studies, which complement and correct each other, are not very well known. It thus comes as no surprise that several historians working after Sevens completely ignored his work.
Researchers who have examined the Battle of the Spurs were naturally very concise in dealing with the terrain. There were several solutions proffered on it that differ markedly from each other. For this reason there are now four viable reconstructions of the battlefield. The best known and most generally accepted reconstruction is that provided by Sevens and Fris, which is in reality a slight improvement on the map given by Moke, Köhler and Frederichs. Funck- Brentano established another version that was first accepted in 1892 by Sevens although he rejected it definitively in 1902. In 1931 the solution presented by Funck-Brentano was still seen as possible by Delfos.
Delfos did, however, propose another map. The most recent reconstruction of the battlefield has been proffered by Baron M. de Maere d'Aertrycke who did not follow his earlier opinions based on Sevens's studies. In order to avoid having to continually refer back to the four proposed solutions, they have been reproduced here in simple sketch form. In a concise summary of the versions, which sources the above historians relied upon will also be shown.
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