Department of Sociology and Social Work

Research project by SocMap - Sociological Mapping

Living on the Edge - Risk, Resources, Resilience and Relocations in the Western Limfjord, ca. 1750-1900

Living on the Edge - Risk, Resources, Resilience and Relocations in the Western Limfjord, ca. 1750-1900

Living on the Edge seeks to explore the risks, ressources, resilience and relocations of small settlements on Agger Tange in western Jutland from the period c. 1750-1900.

Last modified: 01.08.2019

On a stormy winter night in 1825, the North Sea breached the slender isthmus, Agger Tange in the north-western part of Denmark, and flooded the hinterland. The brackish Limfjord now permanently turned saline. Agger Tange had separated the North Sea from Denmark’s largest and economically most important fjord, Limfjorden, an estuary with rich eel and herring fisheries, and a local highway of transportation. No lives were lost immediately, but the breach set off a series of subsequent catastrophies and human attempts to curb the impact of nature’s frequent storms and floods. Coastal vegetation was stripped in many places, while the salt water intrusion stressed some of the local marine fauna to the brink of destruction (Poulsen, Holm, MacKenzie, 2007).

The area was frequently hit by violent storms and floods throughout history (Gram-Jensen, 1985), and the perils of the sea and the prevailing westerlies provided daily struggles between man and nature.

The project use a spatial, temporal and conceptual framework, examining the hypothesis that coastal communities on Agger Tange formed a number of historically contingent socio-ecological niches shaped by the entanglements of environmental forcing, natural resource exploitation and human agency, locally and nationally. Thus, the inhabitants of the small settlements had over the centuries adapted to a lifestyle with income from both fishing, small production and agriculture, which was gradually remedied and challenged by modernization measures. Consequently, during the 19th century, a total recalibration of the coast was created, with new dikes, groynes, a modern port, telegraph service, and modern meteorology, but also new revivals led by ’Indre Mission’. Everything new and modern became a challenge for the coastal communities and provided fertile ground for new socio-ecological niches. The project will, through empirical studies, challenge the existing understandings of cohesion and community in coastal communities.

Our abilities as socities to cope with, through mitigation and adaptation, the human coastlines, we have created in the anthropocene, are crucial for human survival. Juxtaposing these current challenges with historical narratives adds some much needed depth in time and a perspective for the future we shall live in.

SocMap member Rolf Lyneborg Lund is part of the research team.

The project is led by professor Bo Poulsen, Department of Politics and Society and funded by The Independent Research Fund Denmark | Humanities. It has a budget of 2.9 million Danish Kroner and runs from 2019 to 2022.

Contact information:

Associate professor Rolf Lyneborg Lund: E-mail:


Start/end date: 1 August 2019 → 30 September 2022

Further project information


Gram-Jensen, Ib (1985) Sea floods: Contributions to the climatic history of Denmark. Klimatologiske meddelelser / Meteorologisk institut; vol. 13. København: Meteorologisk institut.

-Poulsen, B., Holm, P., & MacKenzie, B. R. (2007). A long-term (1667-1860) perspective on impacts of fishing and environmental variability on fisheries for herring, eel, and whitefish in the Limfjord, Denmark. Fisheries Research, 87(2-3), 181-195.

Photo: The Royal Danish Library

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