Mapping Historical Leiden: A Dynamic and Digital Atlas (Phase 1)

The online map application Mapping Historical Leiden facilitates an integrated analysis of historical, archaeological and buildings archaeological data from Early Modern Leiden, as well as offering accessible presentation of these data to a broader public through Heritage Leiden and Region’s website.

A town in a turbulent transition

Prior to the Siege of Leiden (1573–1574), the town was a medium-sized textile centre with about 12,000 inhabitants. This was still the case at the time of the 1581 census. Shortly after, Leiden welcomed hundreds upon hundreds of refugees fleeing the war engulfing the southern Netherlands, and in less than two decades, the population of Leiden doubled. The explosive demand for housing must have had an enormous effect on the town’s community as the town walls were not expanded.

Many detailed historical, cartographic and archaeological sources are known from this period, and Mapping Historical Leiden uses cutting-edge computer applications to link different datasets based on these sources. Analysis will generate a detailed understanding of the rapidly shifting nature of the buildings environment, particularly the spatial inequality and disparities over time (1557–1606).

A cadastral map avant la lettre (c. 1585) of Leiden

Real estate and property have been registered and mapped systematically in Leiden since c. 1825. As early as 1585, Leiden town councillor Jan van Hout put together a ‘cadastral’ map of the town of Leiden. This series of maps is known as the Straten- en Grachtenboek (Book of Streets and Canals; De Baar 1985).

Who lived where?

This cadastral map avant la lettre is vital in linking tax records and the property registry of a  specific location (Van der Vlist 2001). For example, we know that the baker Ysbrantsz of Maarsmansteeg 12 had seven hearths as recorded in the Tax Register on Chimneys for 1606.

Thirteen of the historical registers have been transcribed and are digitally accessible in the Dröge database. At present, however, querying the database is not only time consuming, but also requires a certain expertise in databases. Mapping Historical Leiden (Phase 1) will ensure that every visitor to Heritage Leiden and Region’s website will be able to access the entire history of houses in the bon Wanthuis with one mouse click.

Scientific relevance

In his 1975 monumental atlas, architect Van Oerle demonstrated that by combining data from tax records and the Straten- en Grachtenboek, a high-resolution image of the town could be generated. Since 1975 much more historical research has been carried out.

The historical GIS-application Mapping Historical Leiden links several types of data: cartographic, historical buildings, archaeological and historical data. This linkage allows complex queries at several levels (micro, meso and macro): the town as a whole, individual neighbourhoods, building blocks or plots.

The Rijnlandse Roede, the regional unit of measurement in the Early Modern period. The vertical black bar (a voet) and the two black dots a roede apart are affixed on the exterior of Leiden’s town hall. The roede has been divided into 12 voeten, and the two red lines on the photograph have been added to highlight the measurements.

The Rijnlandse Roede, the regional unit of measurement in the Early Modern period. The vertical black bar (a voet) and the two black dots a roede apart are affixed on the exterior of Leiden’s town hall. The roede has been divided into 12 voeten, and the two red lines on the photograph have been added to highlight the measurements.

Example of a research question

The map application includes information from old and new buildings archaeological projects. This makes it possible to investigate whether water facilities (wells, cisterns) and waste facilities (cesspits, sewers) were the privilege of Leiden’s wealthy elite in the late 16th and 17th centuries or whether all inhabitants had access to them.

Why a consortium?

To realize the map application, a consortium has been formed consisting of Leiden University, University of Amsterdam and Heritage Leiden and Region.

Leiden University

Van Oosten (Leiden University), project manager, is an historian and archaeologist and the author of De stad, het vuil en de beerput , an historical-archaeological book on sanitation infrastructure in urban Dutch society (in press). She lectures on urban archaeology and is familiar with Heritage Leiden and Region.

She was team leader of the project DANS Small-Data Project (DANS Kleine Data Project) Mapping Pre-industrial Sanitation Infrastructure in the Town of Haarlem for which a map application with similar features was developed.


University of Amsterdam

Van Steensel (University of Amsterdam) is a social economic historian of the late Medieval and Early Modern period, who focuses on the institutional and social economic history of Leiden. Historical GIS-applications have a major role in his research. In addition, he is a member of Amsterdam’s Centre for Urban History and Centre for Cultural Heritage and Identity, a platform for staff and students who participate in research projects that have been set up by heritage institutions and private partners.

Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken/Heritage Leiden and Region

Established in May 2013, Heritage Leiden and Region manages the regional historical archives and carries out and coordinates archaeological and buildings archaeological projects in Leiden. This municipal service currently has a staff of 50, and approximately 90 volunteers assist in its operations on a weekly basis.

Heritage Leiden and Region is not only the regional knowledge hub of the history of Leiden, but is at the cutting edge of digitisation. Its website was awarded first prize in the category ‘government’ for its open-access approach. In the heritage sector, Heritage Leiden and Region is a trailblazer in public outreach through sophisticated websites, virtual maps and apps. The academic need for a research tool such as Mapping Historical Leiden aligns perfectly with the mission of and expertise offered by Heritage Leiden and Region.

A segment of a map by Van Oerle, 1975. Visible is a part of the bon (neighbourhood) Wanthuis including the river Rhine, Breestraat  and Maarsmanseeg. Maarsmansteeg 12 is outlined in red. To create this map, Van Oerle linked information from the tax registry Vetus 1585 and the Oud Belastingboek 1601 with the data from the Straten- en Grachtenboek. The 50/50 black and white circle at Maarmansteeg 12 means that the owner was taxed between 31 and 50 guilders in 1585. The ‘P’ indicates that the owner was involved in the food industry. (Source map: H.A. van Oerle, 1975: Leiden binnen en buiten de stadsvesten, Brill, volume 2, Map 7a.)

A segment of a map by Van Oerle, 1975. Visible is a part of the bon (neighbourhood) Wanthuis including the river Rhine, Breestraat and Maarsmanseeg. Maarsmansteeg 12 is outlined in red. To create this map, Van Oerle linked information from the tax registry Vetus 1585 and the Oud Belastingboek 1601 with the data from the Straten- en Grachtenboek. The 50/50 black and white circle at Maarmansteeg 12 means that the owner was taxed between 31 and 50 guilders in 1585. The ‘P’ indicates that the owner was involved in the food industry. (Source map: H.A. van Oerle, 1975: Leiden binnen en buiten de stadsvesten, Brill, volume 2, Map 7a.)

Experts and critical test panel/advisory board

The consortium of institutions is actively supported   by the work of Jan Dröge, MA (Dröge, Bureau voor de Bouwhistorie), a buildings historian and expert on Leiden’s history. He has volunteered countless hours transcribing historical registers and has created the datasets that will be used in the project.  

In addition, a test panel/advisory board has been established consisting of Emiel van der Hoeven, MA (volunteer at Heritage Leiden and Region) and two academic researchers, PhD candidate Marcel IJsselstijn (Leiden University) and Prof. Bram Vannieuwenhuyze (University of Amsterdam).

Results & Conclusions

The results will be available at Historisch Leiden in kaart

Follow-up: Towards Phase 2

Mapping Historical Leiden lays the groundwork for the development of a research portal and interactive presentation of Leiden’s history geared towards a broad public audience. During Phase 1, one neighbourhood will be incorporated into the map application and a best practice manual will be produced. A further funding application will be submitted to incorporate the other 26 historical neighbourhoods of Leiden into the atlas.

Additionally, the map application will be used in Van Steensel’s ongoing Veni research.

Excavating a cesspit in Leiden at the project Ir. Driessenplein (better known as Albert Heijn Hooigracht) on 6 January 1987.

Excavating a cesspit in Leiden at the project Ir. Driessenplein (better known as Albert Heijn Hooigracht) on 6 January 1987.

Literature

Baar, P.J.M. de, 1985: ‘Jan van Hout en zijn Stratenboek en Grachtenboek’, in: Ups en Downer. Bundel artikelen bij het afscheid van mr. W. Downer als gemeentearchivaris van Leiden , Leiden, 5–18.

Dröge, J., n.d.: ‘Vestmeesterrekeningen. Leiden 1460–1465’, bronpublicatie beschikbaar op .

Oerle, H.A. van, 1975: Leiden binnen en buiten de stadsvesten. De geschiedenis van de stedebouwkundige ontwikkeling binnen het Leidse rechtsgebied tot aan het einde van de Gouden Eeuw, 2 delen, Leiden.

Oosten, R.M.R. van, in press: De stad, het vuil en de beerput. De opkomst, verbreiding en neergang van de beerput in stedelijke context, Leiden: Sidestone Press.

Vlist, E. van der, 2001: ‘De bonboeken te Leiden’, in: G.A.M. van Synghel (ed.), Bronnen betreffende de registratie van onroerend goed in de Middeleeuwen en Ancien Régime , Den Haag, 83–104.

Last Modified: 06-01-2016