Trivia

Hard

The Primary Historical Purpose Of The Windmills Found Throughout The Netherlands Was?

Forge Fanning
Grain Milling
Electricity Generation
Water Pumping
Photo of a windmill, or more likely, a windpump.
Smudge 9000/Flickr

Answer: Water Pumping

Once peppered with thousands of windmills, around 1,200 historical examples survive to this day in the Netherlands and serve as cultural icons and great places for tourists to visit and learn about the history of the country. Copious windmills might be part of the overall aesthetic of the Netherlands, but they were so much more than just decoration.

The history of the Netherlands is an epic battle against the sea. The name of the country literally means “lower countries” and over the centuries, the Dutch used windmills extensively as wind-driven water pumps to suck up water and push it back into the ocean. By employing elaborate dikes and other water control measures combined with the power of the windmills, they were able to reclaim huge amounts of land that were previously uninhabitable. Around 50 percent of the entire country is below sea level (and needs protection from ocean waters) and approximately 17 percent of that land was previously submerged before being reclaimed from the ocean.

While on the subject, there’s an additional bit of trivia to address. Although the structures are widely referred to as “windmills” (due to their widespread use around the world as energy sources for mill stones), it’s more accurate to refer to the structures we’ve described (and seen here in the photo) as “windpumps”. On a much smaller scale, it’s very common to see old windpumps on farmland. If you’re ever driving by an old farm and see what looks like a giant old rusty weather vane out in a field, most likely what you’re looking at isn’t a weather vane at all, but a modest windpump that was used in the past (and sometimes even now) to pump up water for crop irrigation and other uses.

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