The first windmills that were used in Holland for water draining are mentioned in written documents in the year 1414. Windmills used for graining, have existed there 200 years before that. The oldest known documents that mentions a windmill are the privileges offered to the city’s bourgeois, in 1274. The feudal senior could give the right of building a windmill, to constrain the workers to bring cereals to his windmill, and to forbid the construction or the planting of trees near the windmill for ensuring the strongest wind.
In the following years, windmills spread over Holland. Old towers that used to be used for keeping gun powder were converted into mills. But the real development of Dutch windmills takes place at the end of the XVI century and the beginning of the next one. The windmills started to be used more and more to make all sorts of manufactures. They were built from heavy wood, brought in ships from heavily forested lands from around the Baltic Sea.
The cheapest energy source for the Dutchmen was the force of the wind. Bigger and stronger windmills could drain large quantities of water. That was incredibly necessary as the land of Holland was constantly in the danger of being drowned by water. As its territory was under the sea level, many great cities like Amsterdam and Haarlem were threaten to be flooded. As an example of the power of the mills, in just one year, the Beemster Lake was emptied by 26 windmills.
Around the year 1850, approximately 9000 windmills were functional in Holland, probably the greatest number that ever existed there. After that date, their number started to decrease. By the end of the XIX century there were only 2500 windmills left.
In 1920, an initiative for creating an association to protect the windmills was beginning to take shape. This association was born in 1923, in Amsterdam. As result of a petition the Dutch society of windmills wrote, in 1924 a letter to the minister of Education, Arts and Science that highlighted the importance of preserving these monuments. Similar letters were sent in 1930 and in 1939.
By the 1st of January 1961, an agreement has become operative and according to it, anyone who maintained a working windmill received a subvention from the state. Most of the times, a windmill owned by an old person, who can’t keep it in working conditions, is taken by the authorities and transformed into a historic monument. Usually, it shelters a museum or it becomes a center of receptions organized in the honor of foreign guests.
Holland greatly owes its existence to the windmills, because, with their help, water was kept from flooding the land and can now hold a growing population.
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