History of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, with a population of 780,152 within city limits, an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,592. The city is in the province ofNorth Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of approximately 8.1 million according to larger estimates.
The earliest recorded use of the name “Amsterdam” is from a certificate dated 27 October 1275, when the inhabitants, who had built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel, were exempted from paying a bridge toll by Count Floris V. The certificate describes the inhabitants as homines manentes apud Amestelledamme (people living near Amestelledamme). By 1327, the name had developed into Aemsterdam.Amsterdam’s founding is relatively recent compared with much older Dutch cities such as Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. In October 2008, historical geographer Chris de Bont suggested that the land around Amsterdam was being reclaimed as early as the late 10th century. This does not necessarily mean that there was already a settlement then since reclamation of land may not have been for farming—it may have been forpeat, used as fuel.
Amsterdam was granted city rights in either 1300 or 1306. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely because of trade with the Hanseatic League. In 1345, an alleged Eucharistic miracle in the Kalverstraat rendered the city an important place of pilgrimage until theadoption of the Protestant faith. The Stille Omgang—a silent procession in civil attire—is today a remnant of the rich pilgrimage history.
In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The main reasons for the uprising were the imposition of new taxes, the tenth penny, and the religious persecution of Protestants by the Spanish Inquisition. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years’ War, which ultimately led to Dutch independence. Strongly pushed by Dutch Revolt leader William the Silent, the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance. Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Huguenots from France, prosperous merchants and printers fromFlanders, and economic and religious refugees from the Spanish-controlled parts of the Low Countries found safety in Amsterdam. The influx of Flemish printers and the city’s intellectual tolerance made Amsterdam a centre for the European free press.
The 17th century is considered Amsterdam’s Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam’s merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company. These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was Europe’s most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading Financial Centre of the world. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the Dutch East India Company became the world’s first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.
Amsterdam lost over 10% of its population to plague in 1623–1625, and again in 1635–1636, 1655, and 1664. Nevertheless, the population of Amsterdam rose in the 17th century (largely through immigration) from 50,000 to 200,000.
Amsterdam’s prosperity declined during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic Wars, Amsterdam’s significance reached its lowest point, with Holland being absorbed into theFrench Empire. However, the later establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 marked a turning point.
The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam’s second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built; in this same time, the Industrial Revolution reached the city. The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal was dug to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects dramatically improved commerce with the rest of Europe and the world. In 1906, Joseph Conrad gave a brief description of Amsterdam as seen from the seaside, in The Mirror of the Sea. Shortly before the First World War, the city began expanding, and new suburbs were built. Even though the Netherlands remained neutral in this war, Amsterdam suffered a food shortage, and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed. These riots are known as the Aardappeloproer (Potato rebellion). People started looting stores and warehouses in order to get supplies, mainly food.
Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and took control of the country. Some Amsterdam citizens sheltered Jews, thereby exposing themselves and their families to the high risk of being imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. More than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Perhaps the most-famous deportee was the young Jewish girl Anne Frank, who died in theBergen-Belsen concentration camp.At the end of the Second World War, communication with the rest of the country broke down, and food and fuel became scarce. Many citizens traveled to the countryside to forage.
Dogs, cats, raw sugar beets, and Tulip bulbs—cooked to a pulp—were consumed to stay alive.Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel, and all the wood was taken from the apartments of deported Jews.
Many new suburbs, such as Osdorp, Slotervaart, Slotermeer, and Geuzenveld, were built in the years after the Second World War. These suburbs contained many public parks and wide, open spaces, and the new buildings provided improved housing conditions with larger and brighter rooms, gardens, and balconies. Because of the war and other incidents of the 20th century, almost the entire city centre had fallen into disrepair. As society was changing, politicians and other influential figures made plans to redesign large parts of it. There was an increasing demand for office buildings and new roads as the automobile became available to most common people. A metro started operating in 1977 between the new suburb of Bijlmer and the centre of Amsterdam. Further plans were to build a new highway above the metro to connect the Central Station and city centre with other parts of the city.
The incorporated large-scale demolitions began in Amsterdam’s formerly Jewish neighbourhood. Smaller streets, such as the Jodenbreestraat, were widened and saw almost all of their houses demolished. During the destruction’s peak, the Nieuwmarktrellen (Nieuwmarkt riots) broke out, where people expressed their fury about the demolition caused by the restructuring of the city. As a result, the demolition was stopped, and the highway was never built, with only the metro being finished. Only a few streets remained widened. The new city hall was built on the almost completely demolishedWaterlooplein. Meanwhile, large private organisations, such as Stadsherstel Amsterdam, were founded with the aim of restoring the entire city centre. Although the success of this struggle is visible today, efforts for further restoration are still ongoing. The entire city centre has reattained its former splendor and, as a whole, is now a protected area. Many of its buildings have become monuments, and in July 2010 the Grachtengordel (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht) was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.