1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Friesland

FRIESLAND, or Vriesland, a province of Holland, bounded S.W., W. and N. by the Zuider Zee and the North Sea, E. by Groningen and Drente, and S.E. by Overysel. It also includes the islands of Ameland and Schiermonnikoog (see Frisian Islands). Area, 1281 sq. m.; pop. (1900) 340,262. The soil of Friesland falls naturally into three divisions consisting of sea-clay in the north and north-west, of low-fen between the south-west and north-east, and of a comparatively small area of high-fen in the south-east. The clay and low-fen furnish a luxuriant meadow-land for the principal industries of the province—cattle-rearing and cheese- and butter-making. Horse-breeding has also been practised for centuries, and the breed of black Frisian horse is well known. On the clay lands agriculture is also extensively practised. In the high-fen district peat-digging is the chief occupation. The effect of this industry, however, is to lay bare a subsoil of diluvial sand which offers little inducement for subsequent cultivation. Despite the general productiveness of the soil, however, the social condition of Friesland has remained in a backward state and poverty is rife in many districts. The ownership of property being largely in the hands of absentee landlords, the peasantry have little interest in the land, the profits from which go to enrich other provinces. Moreover, the nature of the fertility of the meadow-lands is such as to require little manual labour, and other industrial means of subsistence have hardly yet come into existence. This state of affairs has given rise to a social-democratic outcry on account of which Friesland is sometimes regarded as the “Ireland of Holland.” The water system of the province comprises a few small rivers (now largely canalized) in the high lands in the east, and the vast network of canals, waterways and lakes of the whole north and west. The principal lakes are Tjeuke Meer, Sloter Meer, De Fluessen and Sneeker Meer. The tides being lowest on the north coast of the province, the scheme of the Waterstaat, the government department (dating from 1879), provides for the largest removal of superfluous surface water into the Lauwerszee. But owing to the long distance which the water must travel from certain parts of the province, and the continual recession of the Lauwerszee, the drainage problem is a peculiarly difficult one, and floods are sometimes inevitable.

The population of the province is evenly distributed in small villages. The principal market centres are Leeuwarden, the chief towns, Sneek, Bolsward, Franeker (qq.v.), Dokkum (4053) and Heerenveen (5011). With the exception of Franeker and Heerenveen all these towns originally arose on the inlet of the Middle Sea. The seaport towns are more or less decayed; they include Stavoren (820), Hindeloopen (1030), Workum (3428), Harlingen (q.v.) and Makkum (2456).

For history see Frisians.