'Een divertissant somertogje': transport innovations and the rise of short-term pleasure trips in the Low Countries, 1600-1750
Faculty of Arts. History
The Journal of transport history. - Manchester
, p. 78-97
University of Antwerp
Classic textbooks on the Grand Tour seldom examine cross-currents between transport innovation and travel behaviour. Often they relate tall stories of bumpy rides, broken shafts, impassable mountain paths, violent hold-ups or Moorish pirates. Using a body of Dutch and Brabantine travel books in manuscript, the author counters these stereotypes with a more subtle image of the links between early modern transport and travel. He argues that innovations like track boats and surfaced roads made travelling safer, cheaper and more comfortable at the close of the seventeenth century in the Low Countries, in the urban hinterland of Paris and London and along the lower Rhine, triggering a novel formula for travel behaviour. Short-term pleasure trips became the vogue. Such innovations seemed to encourage the democratisation of travel as more and more businessmen, women, hard-working diplomats and people of the middling sort were able to travel thanks to regular fast, safe, low-priced services. Moreover, better roads and broad canals helped open up inaccessible towns and regions such as Hainaut, Liège, Namur and West Friesland (or Louvain, Mons, Spa or Hoorn on a minor scale), enhancing their appeal to domestic and foreign travellers.