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History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the greatest planned city of northern Europe, has always been a well-known name in world history and played a central role in the history of the Netherlands. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of world economy, and nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.

1200-1585: The Early History
Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. Amsterdam developed round a dam in the Amstel river at the end of the 12th century. The name Amstelledamme occurs for the first time in the toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland, dated October 27, 1275. During the 14th, but especially the 15th century, Amsterdam underwent a rapid development, which laid the foundation for the Golden Age. Only very few medieval buildings survive today. Some examples: the Old and New Churches and the Houten Huis (Wooden House) at the Begijnhof. Throughout the Middle Ages houses were generally built of wood, a vulnerable type of construction material. The famous Houten Huis is no exception to this rule. Consequently, most of them were destroyed. Nevertheless, a surprisingly large number of Amsterdam dwellings still have timber frames.

1585-1672: The Golden Age of Amsterdam
The period 1585-1672, the Golden Age, was the hey-day of Amsterdam's commercial success. At the time Amsterdam was the staple market of the world. During this period the characteristic Amsterdam cityscape developed; the 1613 and 1663 urban expansions still determine the city's characteristic appearance. Some of the most important historic buildings date back to this period, e.g. the town hall in the Dam Square (now the Royal Palace), the Westerkerk, Zuiderkerk, as well as a large number of canal houses among which De Dolfijn (Dolphin), De Gecroonde Raep (Crowned Turnip), the Bartolotti Huis, the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads), the Poppenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 95 (commissioned by the Poppen family), the Trippenhuis (built for the Trip family), the Van Raey-huizen, Keizersgracht 672-674, and Sweedenrijk, Herengracht 462.

1672-1795: An Age of Gold and Silver
The year 1672 was a year of disaster for the Dutch Republic with the French and English attacking simultaneously. The Golden Age had come to an end. Nevertheless, Amsterdam managed to consolidate its prosperity during the period 1672-1795 in spite of the predicament the Republic found itself in. The city remained a major staple market and managed to retain its position as the financial centre of Europe. Whereas the Golden Age was primarily a period of pitch and tar, the new era is better characterised as an age of gold and silver. The large number of dwellings built at this time, both simple ones and rich canal houses, reflect the city’s prosperity. As a result the majority of the houses located in the city centre date back to the 18th rather than the 17th century. Some examples: Huis Van Brienen, Herengracht 284, Huis De Vicq-De Steur, OZ Voorburgwal 237, Zeevrugt and Saxenburg, Keizersgracht 224.

1795-1813: Recession and Decline
In 1795 the government of the patrician oligarchies was overthrown and the old Republic ceased to exist. Soon the French were to occupy the country. During the period 1795-1813 Amsterdam suffered badly from the economic recession, a state of affairs reflected by the stagnation of the demographic development. Many houses were vacant and some even collapsed for lack of maintenance. Fortunately some facades and interiors dating back to the Empire period survive today.

1813-1940: Recovery and Expansion beyond the Singelgracht
The period 1813-1940 is marked by economic recovery and, from 1870 onwards, by expansion. The increasing wealth brought about a rapid population growth. This development was primarily the result of the Industrial Revolution which triggered off a New Golden Age. The city now ventured into the area beyond the Singelgracht. Large poorly built working-class neighbourhoods were built. The period 1920-1940 was a time of economic recession. Therefore it is all the more remarkable that the so-called Ring 20-40 compares favourably to the 19th century jerry-building. This was also the period of large-scale damage to the historical city centre; canals were filled in and new traffic breakthroughs were realised.

Sources: www.bma.amsterdam.nl



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