Highlights of the History of Amsterdam
The origins of the city of Amsterdam lie in the 12th century, when fishermen living along the banks of the River Amstel built a bridge across the waterway near the water we call 'the IJ' (pronounce: ay) today, which at the time was a large saltwater inlet. Wooden locks under the bridge served as a dam protecting the village from the rising IJ waters, that often flooded the early settlements. The mouth of the river Amstel, where the Damrak is now, formed a natural harbor, which became important for trading-exchange from the larger koggeships into the smaller ships that sailed the merchandise deeper into the hinterland.
The oldest document referring to the settlement of "Aemstelredamme" (Amsterdam) 'dam in the river Amstel' comes from a document dated 27 October 1275 CE. Inhabitants of the village were, by this document, exempted from paying a bridge toll to the County of Holland.
Excavations between 2005 and 2012 found evidence that the origins of Amsterdam are much older than 'only' the twelfth century. During the construction of the Metro North-South line archeologists discovered, at around 30 meters below street level, pole-axes, a stone hammer, and some pottery, all dating from the Neolithic era (New Stone Age). This would mean Amsterdam, or its predecessor would have seen human habitation since about 2600 BCE.
Amsterdam in the year 1200.
The Dam Square Palace in Amsterdam was built in 1648.
The 17th century was Amsterdam's Golden Age. Ships from the city sailed to North America, Indonesia, Brazil, and Africa and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants financed expeditions to the four corners of the world and they acquired the overseas possessions which formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies. The most influential of these merchant groups was the VOC, founded in 1602, which became the first multi-national corporation in the world to issue stocks to finance their business. By allowing for sailors to invest in the cargo that they transported, it created an incentive for individual sailors to invest in the goods they carried and tightened allegiances to corporations profits. The now world famous Dutch painter Rembrandt painted in this century, and the city expanded greatly around its canals during this time. Amsterdam was the most important point for the transshipment of goods in Europe and it was the leading financial centre of the world.
The 18th and early 19th centuries saw a decline in Amsterdam's prosperity. The wars of the Dutch Republic with the United Kingdom and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic wars, Amsterdam's fortunes reached their lowest point ever; but, with the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, things slowly began to improve. In Amsterdam new developments were started.
At the end of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam. The Amsterdam-Rijn kanaal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine and the Noordzee kanaal to give the port a connection with the North Sea. Both projects improved connections with the rest of Europe and the world and gave the economy of Amsterdam a big boost.
The Vondelpark Pavillion in Amsterdam.
Tulips from Amsterdam
Leidseplein - Leidse Square - Amsterdam
During World War I, the Netherlands remained neutral, but Amsterdam suffered the effects of the war when food became scarce. When working class women started to plunder a ship with army supplies, the military was brought in. Workers joined their wives in the plundering and the soldiers opened fire on them. Six people were killed and almost 100 were wounded.
During the interwar period, the city continued to expand, most notably to the west of the Jordaan district in the Frederik Hendrikbuurt and surrounding neighbourhoods.
In 1932, the 'afsluitdijk' a dike separating the Zuider Zee from the North Sea, was completed. The Zuider Zee was no more. The new lake behind the dyke was called IJsselmeer. For the first time in its history, Amsterdam had no open connection to the sea.
During the second World War Germany occupied the city. More than 100,000 Jews were deported, including Anne Frank, almost completely wiping out the Jewish community of Amsterdam. Before the war, Amsterdam was the world's center for the diamond trade. Since this trade was mostly in the hands of Jewish businessmen and craftsmen, the diamond trade completely disappeared.
During the 1970s, the number of foreign immigrants, primarily from Suriname, Turkey, and Morocco, grew strongly. This increase led to an exodus of people to the 'growth cities' of Purmerend, Almere and other cities near Amsterdam. However, neighbourhoods like the Pijp and the Jordaan, which had previously been working class, became sought out places of residence for the newly wealthy yuppies and students.
In 1992, an El Al cargo plane crashed in the Bijlmermeer in Amsterdam Zuidoost. This disaster, called the Bijlmerramp, caused the death of at least 43 people.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, the Amsterdam city centre successfully attracted large numbers of tourists by means of campaigns such as 'I Amsterdam'. Between 2012 and 2015, 3000 hotel rooms were built, Airbnb added another 11.000 accommodations and the annual number of tourists rose from 10 million to 17 million in just a few years. Real estate prices have rocketed, so now the center unaffordable for the city's inhabitants, while local shops are made way for tourist-oriented ones. In 2019 the council of Amsterdam stated a new rule for shops in the city center. The goal is to reduce the number of tourist oriented shops. These developments have evoked comparisons by the people pf Amsterdam with Venice, also a city already overwhelmed by the tourist influx.
Construction of a metro line connecting the north of Amsterdam to the centre was started in 2003. The project is controversial because its cost exceeded its budget by a factor three by 2008, because of fears for damage to buildings in the centre, and because construction had to be halted and restarted multiple times.
Amsterdam Pride or Amsterdam Gay Pride is a citywide gay-festival held annually at the center of Amsterdam during the first weekend of August. The festival attracts several hundred-thousand visitors each year and is one of the largest publicly held annual events in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands and especially Amsterdam shows a relatively high level of social acceptance to the LGBT community. Being gay is quit normal. (and we're proud of it!)
Amsterdam Gay Pride was first organized in 1996, meant as a festival to celebrate freedom and diversity. It changed it's name to Amsterdam Pride in 2015 because the term 'Gay' did not sufficiently express the diversity amongst all the participants of the LGBTQ community who take part in the Pride.
The peak of the festival is during the Canal Parade, a parade of boats of large variety on the first Saturday of August.
Herengracht by night in Amsterdam
Gaypride canalparade in Amsterdam