Unwanted Nature. The Persecution of Nuisance Animals in Flanders and Brabant During the Medieval and Early Modern Era, 1400-1600.

01 November 2021 → 31 October 2026
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Early modern history
    • European history
    • Landscape and ecological history
    • Medieval history
    • Socio-economic history
human-animal relations environmental history late medieval and early modern history
Project description

This project examines attempts to exterminate 'nuisance animals', species that are considered harmful to human interests, in the County of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The research objective is to connect long-term political, socio-economic, and environmental transformations in the Low Countries to changes in human attitudes towards wild animals, and the methods used to hunt them. It will also assess the ecological consequences of the extermination process. Flanders and Brabant might have played a pioneer role in a European perspective, given that they were two of the wealthiest and most densely populated territories, and intensified the persecution of unwanted species much earlier than other regions. In these principalities the extermination of animals such as wolves, crows, and otters was already well developed by the early 1400s, and could be stimulated through three different hunting methods. The project is based on two types of sources, laws/customs and fiscal accounts, which provide information on both the legal context and what happened in practice. By connecting environmental, social, political, and economic aspects of the history of the Low Countries to the hunting of nuisance animals, this project engages with current debates on humans' 'environmental footprint', human-animal relations, and biodiversity loss, and provides a historical framework that can be applied to other European regions as well.