Building the World

An Army of Peace?


Aerial view of the dike system in the Netherlands, from NASA, at

Dikes not only saved the Netherlands from floods, but perhaps from war as well. The thousand-year-old dike army can be regarded as an authentic progenitor of the concept of “an army enlisted against nature” as proposed by William James in the essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.” Around the year AD 1100, west-Friesland had built an enclosure dike (omringkijk). At the same time, the Frisians established a “dike peace” or strongly enforced consensus that whenever a dike was endangered, family feuds must cease forthwith so that all available manpower could be mobilized to reinforce the dikes.

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Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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