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An Investigation into the Historical Development of Amsterdam

This project focuses upon the development of Amsterdam between the years 1200 and 1800 AD. The city of Amsterdam is of great importance to the Netherlands, as it is the countrys nominal capital (the political centre is Den Haag). Alongside being the most carefully constructed Dutch city, Amsterdam attracts the highest number of foreign visitors to the Netherlands. The city itself stands upon the confluence of the rivers Amstel and Ijsselmeer, at the heart of the Randstad . As Amsterdam was one of the first medieval cities to be established in the Netherlands, it has a long and interesting past.

It has a present-day reputation for as a multicultural, tolerant, and prosperous area; naturally, this has arrived as a result of its history. The aim of the project is to produce a comprehensive, chronologically organised discussion of Amsterdams development. This will involve looking at the early establishment of a small fishing village upon the marshy riverbanks (c. 1200). The religious and dynastic conflicts that shaped much of the Low Countries medieval development will be discussed.

This will precede an account of Amsterdams metamorphosis into a major European market and global centre, particularly during the Golden Age of the 17th century. The consolidation of Amsterdams wealth during a nationwide recession, followed by the citys decline (1672 1813), will be considered. A secondary consideration will be the ways in which Amsterdams political and economic position influenced the Republic as a whole, and vice versa. The citys financial climate will continually be compared with the Republics wealth; I expect to find some interesting differences between the two.

Social and cultural aspects, which 00obviously play an important role in any citys development, will be addressed when relevant. The conclusion of the project will comprise a summary of the above. This will include an analysis of general effect Amsterdams prominence had on the Dutch Republic during this time period. 2. Amsterdams Origins and the Medieval City (1200 1520) Amsterdam was settled in approximately 1200 AD. According to Dedalus Cassaro, author of A Short History of Amsterdam, legend has it that a boat, containing two fishermen and their dog ran aground at the mouth of the Amstel river .

When the dog leapt out of the boat, the men dicided to set up home on the marshy land. This is reflected in many versions of the citys coat of arms, upon which the three figures can be seen. The new settlers began to build huts on ‘terpen . As the Amstel community expanded, the early residents found a way to protect themselves from the Zuiderzees unpredictable tides: this was the point at which the dam system was introduced. The first, built in 1220, was likely to have been a sluice gate across the Amstels mouth. The dam became a network of dykes, stretched across the Southern Ijsselmeers banks.

This system was later adopted by the entire country. It has been modified over the centuries, and is still essential for Dutch water management By 1275, a ribbon-shaped development of homes, as well as the predecessor of the Oude Kerk, zhad been built alongside the dykes. The hamlet known as Amstelledamme was, according to archaeologist Jan Baert, built by construction workers who had come from the Utrecht bishopric to create more dykes . Amstelledammes shaping fell under the influence of religious and dynastic conflict.

The feudalism between the German emperors and French kings, who had been involved in power struggles over control of the Low Countries, gradually began to subside. This was replaced with a complex network of local allegiances, which led to further feudal struggles. The most important conflict of the time was between the Lords van Amstel and the Counts of the province of Holland. The latter were backed by the Bishop of Utrecht, who technically held power over the future Republic. In approximately 1275, Floris V (the Count of Holland) granted the Freedom Charter, from his court in Den Haag.

This stated that Amstelledam residents were exempt from paying tolls when shipping their goods through Holland county. The Charter is the citys oldest surviving document This would later play an important role in making the city an important economic power. In 1300, ‘Amstelredam, as it had become, was granted city status by the Bishop of Utrecht. Haarlem, Delft, and Leiden also recieved formal consolidation. Amstelredam fortified itself against the two most common nedieval threats: floods and enemies. The 14th century saw a gradual development of trade in Amsterdam.

Dykes and weirs were modified to accommodate shipping and population growth. As locks were added to canals, small vessels were able to reach the city interior. Stalls mushroomed alongside canals, while wealthier fishermen hired shipmasters as transporters. Amsterdams commercial rise was a direct result of its fortunate position along the countrys main waterways. Trade routes were developed here as merchants of the future Republic exported their goods through Amsterdam. This allowed the city to develop trade with the German coastal regions and the Baltic countries. The brewing inductry became vital to the medieval economy.

Amsterdam secured a huge advantage over other cities in 1326, when the Count of Holland allowed it to levy tolls on all Hamburg beer shipped to the Low Countries. This developed into a major beer market: by 1349, one third of all Hamburg beer exports were destined for Amstelredam . This resulted in a huge increase of Amstelredams cargo trade with Germany. After 1350, the corn trade with the Baltic countries had expanded to the point of causing conflicts between Amstelredam and the Hanseatic towns. The city had associated itself with the Hanseatic league, in order to keep the sea between Denmark and Sweden open for commercial activity.

The trade expansion of Amstelredam led to war with the Hanseatic towns (1338 1341). Victory enabled Amstelredam to control the Baltic trade: it soon owned 50% of all ships passing through the Sont . The export market expanded herring when a method of preserving herring was discovered in 1385. As all trade markets grew, Amstelredam’s industry made it the Low Countries leading centre for early medieval textiles, amassing further wealth. As Amstelredam grew, it found rivals in the Southern cloth towns of Flanders (i. e. Ghent, Ieper, and Bruges).

These towns became wealthy cities thanks to their manufacturing and exporting of cloth. Similarly to Amstelredam, the Southern cities fortunes depended upon trade: in this case, a supply of quality English wool. Amstelredams advantage over these towns was that, unlike Flanders, itn did not have clashes of economic interest between the city merchants and the local lord. Once Holland passed into the hands of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, Flanders became anxious. It was keen to maintain a good relationship with Englands king in order to preserve its supplies; however, its Count was a vassal of the French King.

Therefore, Flanders was often trapped in disputes between the two monarchs. The 13th and 14th centuries were a time of sporadic, oscillating power struggles for the South. Amstelredams northern location meant that it was less directly affected in this manner by these conflicts. It exploited its strategic position at the confluence of the countrys main trade routes. As Flanders had not been exempted from tolls, it had to pay Amstelredam for shipping goods, as did all other towns outside Holland . This helped the city to achieve economic dominance of the country.

The Amstelredammers profited enough to become skilled medieval architects. Their buildings deep foundations prevented houses sinking into the porous top soil, resting on on long pinewood poles driven through into further ground. The Dutch tradition of making the most of small spaces developed: wasrehouses were narrow but tall, with long rear annexes . As the predominent construction material was timber, fires were inevitable. The Great Fire of 1452 destroyed two thirds of the city. A by-law was immediately passed, forbidding thatched roofs and wooden side walls: one ofn historys earliest fire codes.

Stone and brick became the accepted materials; however, maps indicate that even in 1500, Amstelredam was largely made of wooden houses . By 1500, Amstelredam was the largest city of the Low Countries, with a population of 30,000 . Space was created by the digging of more canals, parallel to the early dykesl on each side of the eiver Amstel. When the city fathers were satisfied, the city boundary of encircling canals and walls was constructed. Medieval times, therefore, brought the establishment of small settlements, which expanded into towns and cities.

The city that became Amsterdam had overtaken its Flemish rivals by the 16th century, in terms of trade and urban development. Amsterdam became renowned for its economically strategic position and international trade, bringing it prosperity. 3. Intolerance: Religious Conflict (1520 1600) By 1520, Amsterdam had become the main power in the province of Holland, overshadowing neighbouring Leiden, Rotterdam, and Haarlem. It fell slightly behind its wealthier rival, Antwerp, the major business city of the south. The growth of the commercial climate and of population led to a clash of religious beliefs.

The divisive issue of religion played an important role in the shaping of both Amsterdam and the Low Countries as a whole. The beginning of the century saw a backlash against the elaborate rituals of the established Catholic Church, throughout Northern Europe. Until 1521, 98% of Amsterdam residents were Catholic . This was the case in most of the Republics cities, particularly in Flanders. This was increasingly affected by new schools of thought that developed around the nation, particularly in the North. One example is the concept of man being the crowning of creation, the ideal, as advanced by Erasmus of Rotterdam.

The most influential movement was that of Calvinism . John Calvins theological philosophy relied on the doctrine of predestination. Although this idea was radical and gained a large following, many were confused by the ambivalence of its teachings. One central notion was that people are inclined to hate God and their neighbours. The developmemt of typography enabled Calvinism to spread. For the first time, cheaper Bibles could be printed in quantity. The Bible was no longer exclusive property of Catholics. The Catholic church made its disapproval clear, urging strong punishment upon Calvinists.

Amsterdam, however, adopted a laissezfaire attitude. According to Michael Grey: Very little was done in Amsterdam. There was no wish to shatter the comfortable relationship between the city fathers and the Calvinists, at the behest of the Catholic Bishops… who, technically, held pastoral authority over the country . This was an early indication of Amsterdams inedpendence, in comparison with its fellow cities. This relaxed attitude led to problems such as the Anabaptists uprising of 1535. These prophets of doom were an extremist Protestant cult, whosieged Amsterdams town hall in order to convert the city residents.

Amsterdam had accepted the Anabaptists prior to this, but when the civic rule was openly challenged, severe punishment was given. Many rioters heads were placed upon the city gates after decapitation, as warning to other heretics! The uprising led to a period of Protestant repression. Naturally, the forbidden teachings of Calvinism were met with widespread curiosity. It gained momentum, gaining support from wealthy merchants and even liberal Catholic burgomasters . This might have been partly due to the fact that the wealth of the Republics merchants could not be accommodated in a rigid caste society.

Meanwhile, Philip II (the King of Spain), became ruler of the Republic through marriage. The Protestant Reformation was strongly opposed by the Spanish Hasburg rulers, who wanted to halt its European influence Fiercely Catholic Philip vowed to end the heresy of Protestantism. Philip garrisoned the Republics cities, sent the inquisition in, and established anti-Protestant edicts. The immense opposition to this pushed Philip to tactically withdraw. He recalled his sister, Margaret, who continued her brothers manifesto. Margaret wrestled power from civil authority and the local aristocracy, creating 14 new bishoprics across the country.

Protestants petitioned Philip, to no avail. Theses tensions reached a peak during the Summer of Discontent (1564), when Protestant services were held outside the city. Riots occurred in many cities, of which Antwerp and Amsterdam suffered the worst damage. Resentful at being oppressed, groups of Calvinists smashed windows, altars, and statues, destroying much of the Catholic churchs wealth, in the Iconoclastic Fury. This continued with the destruction of priories. The city fathers responded in typical Amsterdam fashion: in return for profitable peace, the Calvinists were granted use of an old Franciscan church .

This compromise was temporarily successful. The nationwide conflict drew the attention of Phillip II once again. In 1567, Philip sent the Duke of Alva to restore Catholic control to Amsterdam. The result was the execution of many Protestants, while others fled to the UK. The bitter Dutch Revolt followed: a war between Catholics Philip II and Alva, and Protestant William of Orange (the countrys greatest landowner) . William was a firm believer in individual freedom and religious tolerance, this made him a national symbol of Liberty. William led his troops into Brielle on the Maas, seizing the province of Holland.

Alvas response was to seize Gelder and Overijssel. Despite Amsterdams growing tolerance of religious freedom, 76% of its residents remained loyally Catholic . In comparison to the rest of the Republic, Amsterdam was the only city in which the majority remained loyal for a great time period. Its eventual capitulation to William brought the return of the exiled Protestants. Calvinists took over all churches and reigns of government in the Alteratie, the peaceful revolution that liberated the north from Spanish rule. The influx of Protestants forced Catholics to worship secretly.

Although an official agreement, which tolerated the Catholic faith, was reached, the Amsterdam authorities would not allow them to have visible churches. This was the first visible sign of the important north/south divide. Many wealthy merchants relocated to Amsterdam from the Spanish-ruled south. Their financial input was invaluable to Amsterdams economy. As the Spanish massacred Antwerp, its population fled to William, who by then controlled most of the land. The rich southeners in Amsterdam financed the expanding Dutch merchant fleet.

As the citys status was raised, Amsterdam regained its place as Antwerps main economic rival. After the death of King Philip and the assassination of William of Orange, Amsterdam began to shift into further prosperity, alongside the ethos of religious tolerance for which it is now famous. In 1579, the Treaty of Utrecht was created. This was signed by all seven northern provinces . It stipulated freedom of religious belief, plus the agreement that each province would have autonomy. The treaty allied the seven provinces against attack from Spain.

This was the earliest consolidation of the northern Low Countries into an identifiable united state. In the same year, the southern provinces were united in loyalty to Spain. Their Catholic-led agreement, the Union of Arras, counterbalanced the Utrecht Treaty. This was the first official major political division between north and south, therefore being an early sign of the later separation between the two areas. Amsterdam was vying for supremacy against bigger Antwerp. Antwerps vulnerability, caused by its dependence upon forign trade, led to its fall in 1585.

As England was preoccupied with surrency changes, it had postponed trade, while the decay of the German metal industry deprived Antwerp of its commerce with central Europe. Its riches were drained. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Haarlem actively traded with the Baltic ports, purchasing grain for the entire country. The three cities rose commercially, Amsterdam prospering further due to its location on the trade route. By the end of the 16th century, the citys population had more than trebled to c. 38,000 . Amsterdams commercial strength enriched the United Provinces of the north, setting the foundations for the Golden Age.

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