1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drente

DRENTE, a province of Holland, bounded N. and N.E. by Groningen, S.E. by the Prussian province of Hanover, S. and S.W. by Overysel, and N.W. by Friesland; area, 1128 sq. m.; pop. (1900) 149,551. The province of Drente is a sandy plateau forming the kernel of the surrounding provinces. The soil consists almost entirely of sand and gravel, and is covered with bleak moorland, patches of wood, and fen. This is only varied by the strip of fertile clay and grass-land which is found along the banks of the rivers, and by the areas of high fen in the south-eastern corner and on the western borders near Assen. The surface of the province is a gentle slope from the south-west towards the north-east, where it terminates in the long ridge of hills known as the Hondsrug (Dog’s Back) extending along the eastern border into Groningen. The watershed of the province runs from east to west across the middle of the province, along the line of the Orange canal. The southern streams are all collected at two points on the southern borders, namely, at Meppel and Koevorden, whence they communicate with the Zwarte Water and the Vecht respectively by means of the Meppeler Diep and the Koevorden canal. The Steenwyker Aa, however, enters the Zuider Zee independently. The northern rivers all flow into Groningen. The piles of granite rocks somewhat in the shape of cromlechs which are found scattered about this province, and especially along the western edge of the Hondsrug, have long been named Hunebedden, from a popular superstition that they were “Huns’ beds.” Possibly the word originally meant “beds of the dead,” or tombs.

Two industries have for centuries been associated with the barren heaths and sodden fens so usually found together on the sand-grounds, namely, the cultivation of buckwheat and peat-digging. The work is conducted on a regular system of fen colonization, the first operation being directed towards the drainage of the country. This is effected by means of drainage canals cut at regular intervals and connected by means of cross ditches. These draining ditches all have their issue in a main drainage canal, along which the transport of the peat and peat-litter takes place and the houses of the colonists are built. The heathlands when sufficiently drained are prepared for cultivation by being cut into sods and burnt. This system appears to have been practised already at the end of the 17th century. After eight years, however, the soil becomes exhausted, and twenty to thirty years are required for its refertilization. The cultivation of buckwheat on these grounds has decreased, and large areas which were formerly thus treated now lie waste. Potatoes, rye, oats, beans and peas are also largely cultivated. In connexion with the cultivation of potatoes, factories are established for making spirits, treacle, potato-meal, and straw-paper.