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"No doubt the best manner of approaching Antwerp is by the Scheldt on one of the big steamers that dock so comfortably along the river." --Promenades of an Impressionist (1910) by James Huneker

This page Scheldt is part of the Belgium series  Photo: Antwerp quays in the South of Antwerp, at the former Zuidersluis
This page Scheldt is part of the Belgium series
Photo: Antwerp quays in the South of Antwerp, at the former Zuidersluis

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The Scheldt (Dutch: Schelde, French Escaut, Latin Scaldis) is a 350 km long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands. Its name is derived from an adjective corresponding to Old English sceald "shallow", Modern English shoal, Low German schol, Frisian skol, and Swedish skäll "thin".


The Scheldt estuary has always had considerable commercial and strategic importance. In Roman days it was important for the shipping lanes to Britannia. The Franks took control over the region c. 260 and at first interfered with the Roman supply routes as pirates. Later they became allies of the Romans. With the various divisions of the Frankish Empire in the 9th century, the Scheldt eventually became the border between the West and the East Empire, which later became France and the Holy Roman Empire.

This status quo remained intact—at least on paper—until 1528, although by then both Flanders on the western bank and Zeeland and Brabant on the east were part of the Habsburg possessions of the Seventeen Provinces. Antwerp was the most prominent harbor of Western Europe. After this city fell back under Spanish control in 1585 the Dutch Republic took control of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, a strip of land on the left shore, and closed the Scheldt for shipping. This shifted the trade to the ports of Amsterdam and Middelburg and seriously crippled Antwerp—an important and traumatic element in the history of relations between the Netherlands and what was to become Belgium.

Access to the river was the subject of the brief 1784 Kettle War, and—in the French Revolutionary era shortly afterwards—the river was reopened in 1792. Once Belgium had claimed its independence from the Netherlands in 1830 the treaty of the Scheldt determined that the river should remain accessible to ships headed for Belgian ports, nevertheless, the Dutch government would demand a toll until july 16th 1863.

In World War II the estuary once again became a contested area. Despite allied control of Antwerp, in September 1944 German forces still occupied fortified positions throughout the Scheldt estuary west and north, preventing any allied shipping to the port. In the Battle of the Scheldt, the Canadian First Army successfully cleared the area, allowing supply convoys direct access to the port of Antwerp by November 1944.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Scheldt" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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