Amsterdam Early Origins Recent History Overview

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Amsterdam  Overview

Amsterdam Early Origins

The origins of Amsterdam as a known residence date back to the latter part of the 12th century when what then were the waterlogged shores of the river ‘Amstel’ became the home of two fisherman from the string of islands to the north of Holland and Germany. During the following hundred years the shores were supported by a man made dam and the area was called ‘the dam in Amstel’.

At the beginning of the 14th century it was granted the status of a city as it increasingly became a important trading post with the Baltic States Germany and its Spanish rulers.

During the 16th century and the Eighty Years War the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain gathered momentum and on 1578 the City of Amsterdam joined other rebels towns and cities in their rejection of the Catholicism of Spanish Rule by aligning their beliefs to the Protestant religion. The end of Spanish rule in Holland and Amsterdam in particular attracted economic and Jewish migrants (many of whom where merchants) from areas still under Spanish rule – Belgium, France and Spain itself to Holland.

By the 17th century the city of Amsterdam was the hub of international sea trading routes which now extended beyond Europe to the Americas and the Dutch East Indies – Indonesia. The companies involved in these operations were the founders of Dutch Imperial rule. The wealth which these activities is often described as ‘Amsterdam’s Golden Age’ during which the city’s stock exchange was the most important in the world.

The Golden Age petered out in the 18th century as Dutch wars with England and France diverted trade from Amsterdam. The occupation of the city by Napoleon at the turn of the 19th century was seen some as the economic rape of Amsterdam.

In 1815 Holland and Amsterdam, regained their independence under the name of the ‘ Kingdom of the Netherlands’ and Amsterdam was gradually rebuilt. In the latter part of the 19th century Amsterdam benefited from the European Industrial revolution and aligned the building of railways. The North Sea Canal between Amsterdam and Holland eastern coast with the North Sea was built. This development, combined with the another canal linking the city with the Rhine put Amsterdam back on the map as a key European trading area.


Amsterdam Recent History

During WW1, though Holland remained neutral the city suffered from severe food and fuel shortages.

In May 1940 Holland was invaded by Nazi Germany. During the Nazis occupation Jewish areas of the city were gutted and thousands of Jews deported to concentration camps. As many as 100,000 Dutch Jews are thought to have perished this way. There are accounts that towards the end of the war many people had to eat their own cats and dogs to survive the food shortage in the city.

Today visitors to Amsterdam are able to see many examples of it historic architecture. The 14th century Begijnhof Courtyard (see sightseeing and attractions) being one of the most intriguing.

The main red light area Rosse Burt also is home to some quite aesthetically pleasing architecture even if the church in its midst seems a little out of place!



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