Danube Floods Present and Past: Exploring Historic Precedents Through the Arcadia project

Post by Andreas Grieger

Germany is currently experiencing record floods along some of its major rivers. Earlier this week, the Danube surpassed its historical flood mark from 1501 and reached an unprecedented height of 12.60m, flooding the entire historic district of the city of Passau. Other Central European countries are also suffering from or are preparing for one of the worst floods in European history.

With its waters rising, the Danube has emerged as a major threat for Central Europe; the flood wave is now reaching Germany’s neighboring country, Austria. As can be seen in a selection of articles from the Arcadia project – a collaboration between the Rachel Carson Center’s Environment & Society Portal and the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) – the Danube and its constant floods have shaped and changed human-nature relations for centuries.

Especially in Vienna, where the river has always been vital to the city, floods have regularly caused major destruction. In his historic analysis, Severin Hohensinner shows how river regulation since the fourteenth century has gradually moved the Danube away from Vienna, marking the beginning of 500 years of human intervention to protect the city from floods. (“The struggle with the river: Vienna and the Danube from 1500 to the present.”)

Transformation of the Viennese Danube river landscape between 1529 and 2010. All rights reserved © 2012 Bernhard Lager & Severin Hohensinner (FWF Project-No. P 22265-G18)

Hohensinner explores this history of major Danube regulation even further in his fascinating Arcadia case study, “Floodplain regulation in Austria’s Machland.”

The constant threats posed by Danube floods also led to the development of the first efficient warning measures during the nineteenth century. Michael Neundlinger looks at how the introduction of wide-reaching telegraph networks enabled Habsburg authorities in Vienna to protect the most important city of the empire in “Disaster ahead: How Danube floods created telegraph networks.”

Viennese city dwellers are rescued after massive floodings in 1847. All rights reserved © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv Austria, Vienna.
Painting by Leander Russ (1847)

Arcadia covers these and many more fascinating topics, enabling the user to explore the various themes and issues of environmental history.

For more information about how you can share a history of flooding or a piece on another subject relating to the nature-society relationship, please visit the Arcadia home page or contact us at arcadia (at) carsoncenter.lmu.de.

4 Comments on “Danube Floods Present and Past: Exploring Historic Precedents Through the Arcadia project

  1. Pingback: » Floods present and past: Exploring historical precedents through the Arcadia project

  2. Pingback: Floodplains are Plains that Flood – The Saltbush Club

  3. Big floods have been around for at least 500 years of recorded history. Just look at some of the flood markers on buildings near the rivers. I am not at all certain this is climate change as much as it is man changing the shape of rivers and more people crowded near the rivers.


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