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Waterland Historical Context

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For centuries the fens of eastern England were vast desolate marsh areas. Patches of firm ground were interspersed with rivers, pools, and reed-beds. The rivers could be navigated only by shallow-bottomed boats. The fens harbored abundant bird life and sea life, especially eels (as Waterland makes clear).

The first attempts to drain the fens were made by the ancient Romans. In the sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I also wished to undertake the project to improve the region's agricultural yields. But it was not until the seventeenth century that drainage of the fens took place on a large scale. This was a massive engineering project that caused enormous ecological changes in the region and took several decades to accomplish. The impetus came from the Duke of Bedford and wealthy investors in London who wished to increase the value of the land they owned, which they could...

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This section contains 558 words
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