Amsterdam & Brussels became the twin capitals of the Kingdom & things started to look more promising for the city & the country.
The new era of optimism would be disrupted by the riots this time of the Catholic & French-speaking South that did not consider itself an integral part of the United Kingdom. The riots that broke out on August of 1829 in Brussels would lead to the London Conference between the major European powers in 1830 that proceeded in the recognition of Belgian independence.
Despite the Belgian secession (1839) the age of Industrial Revolution would be another golden age for the city. The completion of the 26km North Sea Canal in 1876, gave Amsterdam direct access to the sea, making seafaring steamships part of everyday life in the city’s port. New museums, a new train station, theaters like the Carré, the Royal Concert Hall (Concertgebouw) & Hotel Americain were some of the architectural masterpieces of the period.
The diamond trade that had been established by the refugees of the religious persecutions, mostly Jews in the 17th century, had continued well into the 18th with the production of South Africa and Brasil being almost completely absorbed by Amsterdam’s merchants. By the end of the 19th century Amsterdam was the official diamond capital of the world. The opening of the Vereniging Beurs voor den Diamanthandel, the oldest diamond exchange in the world in September 1890, was another step forward in a more-than- three-centuries-old success story.
Although the monopoly of the spice trade with the east had been lost towards the end of the 18th, Amsterdam continued to be one of the largest markets in the world maintaining its momentum well in the 19th century. Many of the city’s Universities, technical & art schools are also founded in the latter part of the 19th along with two of the most famous breweries in the world today, Heineken (1864) & Amstel (1870).
The 1900’s continued in the same pace, with the tramway, the Rembrandt House Museum and the first public library (the library of the university of Amsterdam already existed from the 16th century) all constructed in the first years of the 20th century. The city’s population boomed reaching from 323,784 in 1880 to 647,427 in 1920. The architectural movement of the Amsterdam School provided low-cost housing outside the narrow lines of the old city & brought aesthetic uniformity to its newly built environment.
The Netherlands remained neutral during the First World War but could not avoid a food shortage which culminated with the so called potato riots when a ship containing potatoes for the army reached Amsterdam’s port in 1917. The period of 1920-1930 was a time of recession in the Netherlands & Amsterdam as well as the rest of the world. Decreasing wages and massive unemployment created a sharp increase of poverty that resulted in social unrest and protests up to 1936. The government’s decision to abandon the gold standard relieved some of the pressure and helped the stock market to bounce back.
By the end of 1930’s thousands of German Jews had fled to Amsterdam in hope of an escape from the Nazi regime. The Dutch were famous for their tolerance to all ethnic and religious groups after all. Alas their hopes would be dashed with the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. The Nazis established a government dominated by the German SS and some of the Dutch sympathizers that regarded themselves part of the wider Germanic nation. At the time Amsterdam, the country’s largest city had a population of 800.000 and a Jewish population of about 75,000, which increased to over 79,000 in 1941. More than 10,000 of them were foreign Jews who had found refuge in Amsterdam in the 1930’s.
About 60.000 Dutch Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from the city of Amsterdam. Among them was a young Jewish girl named Anne Frank that would be immortalized after the publication of her diary by her father in 1952. Altogether, at least 80% of the Dutch Jewish community perished.
In the spring of 1945, Canadian forces liberated Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. Although the buildings & infrastructure of the city didn’t suffer much from World War II, the famine & the Jewish persecution took an estimated 10% of the general population.
The capital’s long-established relation with the sea continued to play a key role in the overall orientation of its economy after the war, with its waterways, the harbor and its main canals, enlarged and improved and commodities like grain, cacao & Japanese cars entering Western Europe through the port of Amsterdam.
Major projects like the road tunnel under the IJ waterway, the metro (subway) network and the ring-road around the city and the new housing projects, like the Bijlmermeer changed the face of the capital and solved the problem of its accessibility for years. The policy of tolerance towards the use of soft drugs made Amsterdam a popular destination of the hippies in the early 1960’s and created a whole range of youth movements and rebellious groups like the Provos who found their promised land in the magisch centrum (magical center) of Europe.
In the 1970’s the composition of the city’s population changed drastically, with many Amsterdammers moving in the satellite towns of Hoorn & Almere when in the same time an influx of Surinamese, Turkish & Moroccan immigrants increased the overall population. In the same time the booming Dutch economy had created a massive influx of cars that started to take its toll with an increasing number of deaths in everyday traffic accidents. The numbers of people using their bicycles for their trips in the Dutch capital had plunged from 80% pre-war to 20% in 1971 while whole swaths of the city had been destroyed to make way for motorized traffic. A wave of activist groups in the early 1970’s managed to put pressure in Dutch politics and city planners who started to review their plans towards a more bike-friendly future. The oil crisis of 1973 would act as a catalyst and gradually the bikers were on their bikes again, cycling around in newly established cycle-lanes.
The housing shortage in the late 70’s and early 80’s brought a sharp drop in the number of people living in a single home as the urban renewal program demolished large blocks of flats but nothing was built in order to replace them. The squatter movement developed into an independent help and support network for -and by- youngsters seeking somewhere to live. Rioting was common when the police removed squatters with the most serious disturbance happening on 30 April 1980, at the inauguration of Queen Beatrix at Nieuwe Kerk on Dam Square. The intensity of violence around the squatter movement subsided considerably after 1985.
The opening of three new museums, the Geelvinck-Hinlopen, Museum Jan van der Togt and the Miniature Museum ushered Amsterdam in a new era of prosperity and renewed optimism that was the 1990’s. Always at the forefront of tolerant and liberal societies, the people of Amsterdam proved to be as open-minded as ever with the establishment of the first Gay Pride in 1996. In that same year the Amsterdam Arena, the largest stadium in the Netherlands opened its doors for the first time.
A special mention should be given to the soccer dream team of Ajax that reigned during the 1990’s in the European and Dutch championship based on the talents coming from its youth academy, the coaching of Louis van Gaal and the love of Amsterdamers, who still hold a very dear place for that team in their hearts. In fact there is no soccer fun in the world who lived during that time, who does not share the feeling upon hearing the names of the de Boer brothers, of Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars, the stars of the team.
Today the capital of Netherlands is one of the most important financial centers in Europe steadily ranked in one of the top five positions for international businesses in the European continent. It is the city where international behemoths like Philips, ING Group, ABN AMRO and Booking.com (to name a few) keep their headquarters, dozens more like Tesla, Uber and Netflix their European headquarters and thousands more keep their offices.
Over the last decade Amsterdam has become the heart of EU’s digital economy, due to its skilled workforce, its business friendly ambiance and its superior connectivity to the rest of the continent. Tens of new startups sprout up every month with the city’s strong suit being the sharing economy and mobile and internet applications. The sharing economy of Amsterdam includes a multitude of sharing apps, from sharing storage spaces to leasing out unused cars to sharing skills or even sharing meals.
One of the traditional pillars of Amsterdam’s economy is of course its port, still among the top five in Europe, its international airport among the top three. The population of the city proper is a bit more than 850.000 while that of its wider metropolitan area close to 2.5 million. There are close to 180 nationalities in the Dutch capital with people coming from Morocco, Suriname and Turkey being the most populous among them. Amsterdam attracted 5.7 million international visitors in 2014, a 10 percent increase compared to 2013.
When commuters, day trippers and Dutch locals are included, the city welcomed 17,3 million visitors that same year (18,3 million in 2015). A recent evaluation of the city’s tourism policy shows that the number of tourists will grow by 5 percent each year, culminating in 23 million visitors in 2025. (Source: http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/4456-amsterdam-europe-eight-most-popular-city-destination). Whether for work or leisure, Amsterdam still holds the values that made it one of the greatest cities in the history of the world. It is a vibrant, brilliant city that will enchant you with its picturesque beauty, its quality of life, its modernity. Most of all it is a city you will want to return to again and again. Maybe if you are lucky enough, stay for ever.
By the 17th century, the water level in the city was determined by the high and low tide. However, after the installation of water locks, the lock-keepers could influence the quantity and quality of the water in the canal system. In the same time an ambitious expansion project was adopted and implemented by the municipality in 1612. At completion 50 years later, the city was four times as large and had the most efficient and finely-meshed waterway system in the world. Through a spider web of connecting canals, merchandise from all over the world could be delivered to the door of more than a thousand warehouses. A fleet of thousands of barges acted as the ‘fueling pipeline’ of the port. Rowing, or with a draft sail, the freight was carried through the canals by boats much like transferring trucks in modern cities today.
In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia reshaped the European map, ending the Eighty Years’ War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648). The future of the United Provinces of the rebelled north would follow the lines of a new sovereign state, one that would follow a completely different course from the Spanish Netherlands of the south. The Dutch Republic would be a confederation of seven provinces, with the county of Holland being the one with the largest cities in the republic (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leiden, Alkmaar, Delft, Dordrecht, Haarlem, and the nation’s capital at the time the Hague).
The two Dutch conglomerates (East & West Indies Corporations), had until then established trading posts in several corners of the earth, from Indonesia, Japan & China in the East, to the east coast of North America (areas of modern day New York, New Jersey, Delaware & Connecticut & others) that were basically operating as colonies, funneling raw material and money to the motherland. The Dutch Republic, although a small size of a country in land, had become a colossus of the seas & a leading European power.
The new Dutch Empire would be the first capitalist superpower in history with many of its characteristics resembling the ones of modern multinational conglomerates. One of these was the new set of economic instruments like the public bonds and company stocks. The first company to go to the exchange was the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602 followed by the Dutch West India Company a few years later. Although in the beginning stock exchange took place in several cities of Netherlands it became evident very quickly that the widest spectrum of trading took place in Amsterdam.
So broad was that spectrum, that the Amsterdam city council saw reason to improve the facilitation of trade in the early 17th century with the creation Amsterdam got a Wisselbank (Bank of Amsterdam), which aimed in the upgrading of the whole system of exchange transactions. A new Merchant Exchange, the Beurs van Hendrick de Keyser, was inaugurated, providing a structured and well regulated hub for traders. It was largely because of these two institutions that in the 17th century the Netherlands – and Amsterdam in particular – developed into the global center of trade and capital provision. (http://www.exchangehistory.nl/story)
The unprecedented sophistication of the Dutch economy had progressed to such a level that the country would experience a capitalist shock, of the kind modern 21st century people still strive to grasp. The flower of tulip had been imported from the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century. Its novel and alluring peculiarity coincided with a time of confidence and prosperity for the Dutch who turned their love for the beautiful flower into a commercial craze. By the mid 1630’s the tulip mania had reached such heights that a single bulb of the flower could be sold at a price, ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. By then the tulip bulb had become a leading export product of the Netherlands together with gin, herrings and cheese. There were even several formal and informal futures markets where contracts to buy bulbs at the end of the season were bought and sold. In reality things had gotten out of hand. The first recorded speculative bubble in history burst in February 1637, the prices collapsed and many people lost their fortunes. It was not however a shock that could by itself, reverse the upward swing of the Dutch economy. It was not even enough to reverse the love of the Dutch for the flower, that remains a popular symbol of Netherlands to this day.
The Dutch golden age was not a glorious period just for the economy, urban development and overseas conquests. It was also a heyday for the sciences and the arts. A period of true enlightenment for the Dutch and Amsterdamers in particular. Great rationalist philosophers like Spinoza who was born in Amsterdam (1632-1677) by Portuguese Jews parents fleeing the Portuguese inquisition, or René Descartes (1596 – 1650), the father of modern western philosophy, Pierre Bayle 1647 – 1706), one of the forefathers of European Enlightenment,the great English philosopher John Locke (1632 – 1704) considered the Father of Liberalism & then the Dutch masters of painting like Rembrandt & Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a pearl earring), Frans Hals & more, all lived during the Dutch Golden Age which was driven to a great extent by Amsterdam’s phenomenal development.
Despite the new wealth pouring in Amsterdam the city had an inherent lack of space. In the same time a policy of taxing buildings by the width of their facade gave vent to a fad of tall and narrow new houses that were built along the network of canals traversing the city by the wealthy bourgeoisie. The skinny mansions that served as both houses and workplaces would very quickly become a very distinct architectural signature of Amsterdam.
Two massive places of worship were built in the first half of the century, the Zuiderkerk (the South Church) and Westerkerk (the West Church). The gothic city hall was destroyed by fire in 1652, and the present building, the Dam Palace rose up on the same site (1655). Dam Square – still De Plaetse in those days – was expanded considerably. The population also grew apace, and by 1700 it boasted some 200,000 inhabitants.
Despite Amsterdam’s wealth & importance to the Dutch Republic the city was not yet the capital of the state. At the time most Dutch cities were governed by a large but closed oligarchy of wealthy & long-established families (the Regenten) who acted as local governments. Amsterdam’s regents were the dominant voice in the affairs of the county of Holland, which in essence meant they pretty much had the control of the whole country. Flemish, Scottish, French & German, economic & religious immigrants, or plain seekers of a more tolerant & open-minded society, started forming the majority in the city which integrated them zealously.
Of course the golden days could not last forever. The wars with the English, in the beginning against the forces of Oliver Cromwell (1652-1654), after the mercantile policies of the latter, a few years later (1665-1667) with the forces of the recently restored monarch Charles II due to his anti-Dutch policies (the Dutch lose New York in this war), a third one between 1672-1674 & finally the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678), all weakened the Republic’s powers, consumed its resources & halted its commercial transactions. Especially due to the last war, the year 1672 is often referred to by the Dutch as Het Rampjaar which translates into the year of disaster.
An outbreak of bubonic plague between 1663 to 1666 cost the lives of an estimated 10% of the city’s population. In the same time the debts of the republic had started to amass especially after the Third Anglo-Dutch War and the loss of important colonies like New York. The rivalry between the Republicans & Royalists or Orangists, was the icing on the cake that undermined the unity and therefore the strength of the country. Unemployment became a growing distress and poverty a towering hurdle. The rift between the ruling class of the wealthy families who controlled the city (the Regents) & the rest of the population started to widen, with the lower classes suffering from atrocities, heavy taxation of basic necessities & nepotism that made them long for changes. The members of the expanding middle class on the other hand, adopted new, progressive ideas & began claiming their part in the formation of the domestic policies.
The people’s need for change combined with the continuing Dutch losses in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and of course in the constant warfare with the French, led the terrified Dutch public into the restoration of the House of Orange and the appointment of Prince William IV of Orange as stadtholder (head of state) & captain general in all provinces in 1747.
By 1748 the reform movement that had sprang up in Amsterdam demanding an end to the corruption of the Regents, had spread across the Seven Provinces with the violence directed at the hated tax-gatherers. Their houses were systematically plundered and destroyed. In Amsterdam the epicenter of the insurrection became today’s Rembrandt’s Square. The buildings were vandalized and broken, their stones became ammunition, dozens of houses were looted and three people died. The authorities acted with an iron fist: the leaders were captured and hanged. In the riots that followed the hanging, more than 200 people were killed.
In October 1751, William IV dies unexpectedly at the age of 40, four years after his inauguration, leaving his son, William V, 3 years old at the time, as his heir. The lack of actual & effective leadership in the period that followed, as well as the following incapacity of the heir, William V, to govern in a way that would help his country emerge from the downward spiral, escalated the Dutch demise & transformed the Dutch navy into a shadow of its glorious self. The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784) proved to be a disaster for Netherlands. The size of its renowned navy was diminished & the prestige of the country collapsed. The Dutch trade ground to a halt, the country’s ports were blockaded & most of its colonial properties in the West & East Indies were seized by the British.
The disastrous results were blamed on the incompetence of the head of state Willem V of Orange by his opponents, who formed the Patriot party & ventured the restriction of his powers. In 1787 Prussian forces (William V’s wife Wilhelmina was sister of Frederik William II King of Prussia) along with a small contingent of the British army, managed to suppress the rebellion & re-establish William V as a ruler.
Many of the Patriots fled to the French Brabant (Antwerp) & other parts of France where a successful this time Revolution in 1789, would change the course of history & have an immediate effect in their affairs as well. In 1795 the Patriots returned to the Netherlands & with the help of the French revolutionary army established the Batavian Republic.
Soon after his self-exile in Great Britain William V handed over the Dutch colonies to the English, by ordering the colonial governors to resign of their authority and temporarily transfer the Dutch colonies to the British, in order to prevent the overseas territories from falling into French hands. The so-called Kew Letters became the official beginning of the end for the Dutch Empire. French influence soon evolved from plain interference, to the establishment of a client state, to dictatorship. In 1801 the Batavian Republic was given a single head of state, only to become a Kingdom, under Napoleon’s brother Louis Bonaparte in 1806. Louis-Napoleon chose Amsterdam as his royal residence and Netherlands was given the name of its most important county. Amsterdam became the capital of the Kingdom of Holland.
Financially the burden of the French regime would prove to be unbearable for both the country and its capital. First a huge chunk of of the state’s coffers was seized, then the French defaulted on their own public debt (much of it was owed to the Dutch), then when the Kingdom of Holland was annexed to the French Empire in 1810 they defaulted on the Dutch public debt as well, completely shuttering a trust for a financial edifice that had taken hundreds of years to build. The last stroke was Napoleon’s economic warfare that closed off the two most important markets, the English and the French to the Dutch. Amsterdam would survive the shock but would forever lose its place as the capital of international banking to the city of London.
In 1813, the allies defeated Napoleon and the French left the Netherlands. A triumvirate of former Orangist regents which had already been formed before the French retreat stepped up and promptly called upon, Willem Frederik, son of William V of Orange who had died in exile in 1806, to be king. The new king would have to rule in a system of constitutional monarchy. On 30 March 1814 Willem Frederik was proclaimed Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands with all due solemnity in Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam which continued to serve as the nation’s capital. A few months later Willem was given the control of Austrian Netherlands and soon after of the Duchy of Luxembourg by the winners of the Napoleonic wars who wanted to keep France in check with a strong realm on its northeastern borders. Sovereign Prince Willem Frederik had very quickly become King William I of the United Kingdom of Netherlands, fulfilling a centuries-long-dream of the Orange dynasty.
The son of Philip the Handsome, Charles V, born in the Flemish city of Ghent in the year 1500, inherits his father Burgundian territories in 1506. Charles V would be one of the most powerful European monarchs in history, being the heir of three of Europe’s leading dynasties, the House of Habsburg, the House of Valois-Burgundy & the House of Trastámara. With the gradual outward expansion of the city, the old defensive canals would prove to be extremely useful for transferring sea freight, with the ships reaching all the way to the core of Amsterdam depending on the shipment. Amsterdam became one of the most important warehouses in Northern Europe. In the same time the marshy land east of the Geldersekade (the Nieuwmarkt area today) developed into a large shipyard.
The Burgundian treaty of 1548 that came after the French loss of the French Flanders in the Schmalkaldic War , organised the Burgundian territories of Netherlands into one administrative and judicial unit, independent from the rest of the empire. The mighty Habsburg ruler ratified the treaty with a Pragmatic Saction in 1549 which established the Seventeen provinces later known as the Low Countries. The provinces would be a separate entity from the Empire & France, a united state that would be inherited by a single monarch.
Upon Charles V‘s abdication in 1556 his son Philip II, born & raised in Spain, became King of Spain & inherited the Seventeen Provinces. Charles had ruled from Brussels, he had been born in Flanders and spoke the language. The new emperor did not. Philip’s decision to move his seat from Brussels to Madrid would widen the rift between him and his subjects in the Seventeen Provinces. Raised as a devout Catholic and tutored by the Archbishop of Toledo in his early age, Phillip II had become a fervent enemy of the constantly growing Protestant movement. In fact he considered himself as the chief defender of Catholic Europe. The Iconoclastic fury in 1566, in which hundreds of churches were stripped of their statuary & other religious decoration by the Protestant crowds, in several cities of the Low Countries, incited the immediate response of Philip II & the consequential outbreak of the Dutch Revolt.
During the first years of the revolt Amsterdam was under a royal Catholic government. After a series of blockades and a siege that lasted three months the royalists were forced to surrender Amsterdam to the army of William of Orange in the end of 1577. A treaty of reconciliation was signed between Amsterdam and the rest of the revolted states but the ruling elite continued to be Catholic. That would change on 26 May 1578 with the so-called Alteration (Alteratie) a new peaceful revolt this time by Amsterdam’s protestant bourgeoisie, which managed to depose its Catholic government. Soon after Amsterdam joined Holland and the rest of the northern protestant provinces that had started the Dutch Revolt. The so-called Union of Utrecht would later evolve into the independent state of Netherlands.
In 1584 a big army sent by the Spanish King Phillip II captures most of the revolted provinces in the south, among them Antwerp, the most important city of the region at the time. The captured Protestant citizens of the conquered provinces were given 2 years to settle their affairs before quitting their homes. Most of them headed north where they would play a great part in the Dutch Golden Age that would follow. From then on, Amsterdam would be the new economic Mecca of the Low Countries. Large Jewish populations, along with wealthy and educated Protestant merchants, craftsmen & printers sought for a safe haven that would provide them religious & intellectual tolerance along with the prospect of a more liberal economic operation. Amsterdam would offer them just that. What followed in North and South was portrayed most vividly in the numbers of the general population of the different cities. While in Antwerp the number fell to 47.000 in 1600, from 140.000 in 1560, in Amsterdam the population doubled from 30.000 to 65.000.
In 1596 the Dutch, motivated by the new wealth created in the independent cities of the north, the suspension of Portugal’s naval trade with the east, after the country’s annexation by the Spanish Empire & the blockade of Antwerp, organize a commercial trip to Indonesia that is proved to be extremely lucrative. Inspired by the results, Amsterdam’s merchants start financing more expeditions to the East and the New World. They proceed in the foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 & the Dutch West India Company in 1623. East India Company would be the very first multinational corporation in the world, in which Amsterdam’s merchants had of course the biggest share, a norm (shares) that was also introduced for the first time.
17th century was the golden age of Netherlands and Amsterdam was at the center of it. The city became a world trade center with commodities from all the corners of the world & shipments heading to all ports of Europe, the far east and the Americas. The city’s population increased rapidly and the construction of new canals along with the characteristic slim & high houses on their banks started giving the city its famous picturesque shape.
Business for the Dutch was going so well that by 1670 the size of their merchant fleet probably exceeded the combined fleets of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany. Many of these ships were produced in Amsterdam’s shipyards, all of them docked in one of the quays and piers of the canal-shred city.
By the end of the 14th century Amsterdam was divided in two almost equal parts, the old side with the Oude Kerk (Old church)and the new side with the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). The first two canals with a defensive wall (burgwal) were built to defend the city against the invaders. After 1380 Oudezijds and Nieuwezijdsachterburgwal were dug around the existing canals. Soon however the expansion would prove to be too modest, and in 1425 the Singel moat was dug out around the existing embankments. The moat would evolve into a canal and would determine the boundaries of Amsterdam until the end of the 16th century.
Under the Burgundians, Holland’s economy grew rapidly, especially in the areas of shipping and naval trade. The new rulers defended Dutch trading interests and actively sought to overcome the dominance of Hansa‘s ships in the Northern Seas. After a series of successful naval battles Hansa’s fleet was sidelined (Treaty of Utrecht, 1474), Dutch ships took over the transport of Polish and Baltic grain and Amsterdam stepped up to replace the city of Bruges as the main market and distribution center of the trade in the latter part of the 15th century. In a couple of years the Dutch would regard Amsterdam’s grain trade as the mother of all trades (Moedernegotie).
On 5 January 1477 Mary of Burgundy , the sole heiress of the Burgundian territories (hence her nickname Mary the Rich) becomes the official ruler after the death of her father in the Battle of Nancy. A few weeks later she would have to sign an inclusive agreement known as the great privilege that acknowledged a wide range of communal rights for the cities of her domain such as her commitment to peace, the stability of the taxing system and the employment of natives in official posts. In August 1477 Mary the Rich selects Archduke Maximilian of Austria as her husband & co-ruler, making Holland part of the Habsburg dynasty.
Upon the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1482 the Burgundian Netherlands passes to her son Philip the Handsome who becomes the ruler under the guardianship of his father Maximilian I. The succession would lead to a revolt by many Flemish cities that wanted to keep the increased autonomy given to them by Mary a few years earlier. Among them was Bruges, the most advanced city of the region. The fall of Bruges would mark the rise of Antwerp & Amsterdam, which were among the ones that lent their support to Maximilian against the rebels, as the leading cities of the Flemish lands.
Amsterdam’s significance for Holland was growing by the day, following the pace of the city’s trade which was quickly expanding to include new, important trades such as grain and timber. Αt the death of William IV of Holland in 1345, his lands were inherited by his sister Margaret II of Avesnes, who was married to emperor Louis IV of Bavaria. That made Amsterdam part of the imperial crown’s domains for the first time.
That would only complicate things for Holland which fell into a turbulence of civil unrest known as the Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten (Hook and Cod Wars) with Amsterdam siding with the progressive faction of the Cods against the conservative Hooks . In 1425 the Cods chose to support Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy although he had no historical claim against Jacqueline Countess of Hainaut (or Jacoba of Bavaria) partly due to their admiration of the successful Flemish economic and legal system, a system perfectly suited to the life of a contemporary tradesman. In 1432 and after a series of battles between the two factions the County of Holland and the city of Amsterdam became part of the Flemish empire of Philip the Good, a realm within the lines of both the Holy Roman Empire & the Kingdom of France.
In 1306 Amsterdam is recognized as a city by its feudal lord, the bishop of Utrecht Guy of Avesnesin who grants Amsterdam its first city charter and rights that went with it. After the death of the Bishop of Utrecht in 1317, Amstel-land & Amsterdam were inherited by the Bishop’s nephew Count Willem III making the fief of Amsterdam part of the County of Holland once again. As an integral part of Holland, the city grew rapidly mainly due to the trade of beer & herring, its two staple commodities. The exemption from extra taxes helped Amstel-dammers to quickly evolve into effective tradesmen. In 1323 Aemsterdam obtains exclusive rights for importing beer from Hamburg, acquiring an important monopoly that would form the basis for a wider collaboration with the mighty Hanseatic League in the future. In the same time the herring trade boomed based on the invention of herring-curing, a technique that meant removing the fish’s intestines directly after they were caught in order to keep them fresh for a longer period. This allowed fishermen to catch more fish and thus make more profit.
In 1345 the so-called Miracle of Amsterdam makes the city an important pilgrimage town and helps it grow considerably in size in a few years. The miracle that was officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, a large pilgrimage chapel, the Heilige Stede (Holy Site) was built on the site and the Heiligeweg (Holy Way) was constructed as a new pilgrimage route leading to it.
In 1275 Count Floris V of Holland (province of South Netherlands today), in an attempt to win the support of Amstel-land peasants in his struggle against rival lords and nobles, grants Aemstelledammers exemption from the tolls in his county. It would be the first ever written mention of the settlement with the name of Aemstelredamme in history. Count Floris V (r. 1256 – 1296) managed to annex the lands of his rival lords on the north and become the safe-keeper of the interests of the Bishop of Utrecht John I until he was assassinated in 1296 a few kilometres away from Amsterdam. After his assassination the region passed again under the direct control of the Bishopric of Utrecht.
Although recent excavations have shown that human presence in the area of modern day Amsterdam existed from the time of the New Stone Age (2600 B.C), the formation of the city has its roots in the small fishing settlement of the twelfth century located near the marshy mouth of River Amstel. The wider region of West Friesland was inhabited by the ancient Germanic tribe of Frisii after the year 500 BC until the end of the 3rd century AD when the historic traces stop. Some new references about Frisians re-emerge again in the mid 6th century. The Frisian Realm had its epicentre in Utrecht in West Friesland which was gradually separated from the rest of mainland Friesland because of several floods in the Zuider Zee (Southern Sea in Dutch) bay. Practically an island, West Friesland became autonomous under the administrative control of the Bishopric of Utrecht while the lands around Amstel were drained in order to be cultivated.
In the beginning of the 1200’s, a bridge that also served as a dam, was constructed near the mouth of the Amstel and the IJ inlet. It would give the people living in its proximity, mostly fishermen, their future name. The Aemstelledammers. “Aeme Stelle Redamme” in medieval Dutch is translated into: Dam in an aquatic area. The town of Aemstelredamme started to expand right on the land of the River Amstel that was drained and reclaimed, while the area that is Damrak today, became the town’s main waterway and trading harbor.
Last but not least on the banks of Prinsengracht at number 267, lies one of the most visited sites in Amsterdam, a famous house-museum that immerses its visitors in the world of one of the most amazing stories of WWII.
Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who had to go into hiding during WWII to escape from the Nazis. Together with seven others she hid in the secret annex at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. After more than two years in hiding they were discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the only one of the eight people to survive. After her death Anne became world famous because of the diary she wrote while in hiding.
Opened to the public in 1960, the house on the canal serves as a present-day reminder of the war, the plight of its Jewish inhabitants, Anne Frank’s indomitable spirit and the celebrated diary she wrote during the time she spent in hiding in its Secret Annex.
While it is now a world-famous museum receiving around a million visitors yearly and the most visited building of its kind in Amsterdam, the present status of Prinsengracht 263 stands in sharp contrast with its condition some 50 years ago, when the building was slated for demolition.
Description / More : http://www.annefrank.org/en/
Prinsengracht canal is the closest canal to the Singel, the canal that is adjacent to the Museum Quarter (Museumplein). Close to its northwestern edge we can find another amazing neighborhood of the Dutch capital. According to many the Jordaan district is currently the most exciting area of all in today’s Amsterdam. A former working class quarter, the area of Jordaan was built during the largest expansion of the city at the start of 17th century. It was initially packed with political & religious refugees coming from Catholic countries who lived in cheap slums & small houses in between open sewers & makeshift workshops. The area attracted writers & artists like Rembrandt who chose to live here due to its low rents.
In the 1970’s the area was spared by the city council that modified its plans for extensive demolitions of an otherwise degraded district. The city council changed its plans after a wave of protests by many of the city’s residents. The small scale improvements left the district’s character unharmed. Since then a new generation of students, artists & entrepreneurs occupied has stepped up, making Jordaan a favorite for both locals and tourists alike. About 40 modern art galleries, retro & antique shops, historic houses, pubs & cafes, picturesque canals & 17th century churches, along with many small, flea markets, trading all sorts of commodities, from organic food to fabrics & finally many museums such as the Pianola Museum, the Houseboat Museum, the Jordaan museum & Anne Frank House guarantee you an extremely interesting time through the district’s narrow streets.