Amsterdam’s recorded history starts in the 12th century, as the area was first discovered as a fishing village. The name comes from the term Amstelredamme, which is the dam of the river Amstel. Fishermen living on the banks of the river once built a bridge across the waterway near IJ, and then also added a saltwater inlet. Of course, the area did have activity in the B.C. era, though not much is known about it. Recent archaeological findings point to tools and pottery dating from the Neolithic era. There are only a few remaining buildings from the Middle Ages, such as the churches and HoutenHuis.
A war with Spain kept the city busy for much of the 16th century, and the Dutch fought against Philip II due to religious intolerance and the rights and power of local nobility. Amsterdam actually started fighting on the side of Spain, but eventually changed allegiances and gave support to the Dutch Revolt. The Eighty Years War followed and Dutch independence was achieved.
It’s interesting to note that a period of Dutch tolerance followed the years of Spanish intolerance. The people were given the right to believe as they wanted, therefore allowing a presence of Roman Catholicism, the Reformed Church, and other Protestant religions. To this day, Amsterdam remains one of the most tolerant cities in the world, regarding recreation and leisure, and that attitude is truly characteristic of its long warring history.
The Golden Age of Amsterdam happened in the late 16th century and into the 17th, with the Golden Age of trading and commerce. At that time, the capital city was biggest market city in the world, and there are plenty of buildings standing from this time period, such as Dam Square or Royal Palace, and the Westerkerk.
The late 1600s, however, saw an age of war. The French and English both attacked the Dutch Republic in 1672, ending the Golden Era. While the city did recover, it was no longer the definitive trading capital of the world. The true recession came later, in the late 1700s, when the government was overthrown and the old Republic ended. When the French occupied the city, a recession occurred and many houses were vacated and not kept up. The Napoleonic Wars led to the city’s lowest ebb. However, the rise of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 began a new era of recovery. Immigrants began coming into the city about this time and had a huge impact on the diversity of culture.
It would take another century or two for the capital city to recover financially and become a tourist attraction. By 1870, the city began growing its wealth and benefiting from the Industrial Revolution. There was also infighting during this time over the rise of socialism. The 1900s saw working class neighbourhoods built for greater business opportunity.
World War I came but the Netherlands maintained neutrality, even though the scarcity of food took its toll; in fact, it led to violence between working class women and men, and the military. World War II prevented neutrality, since Germany occupied Amsterdam, deporting over 100,000 Jews. With the exit of many influential Jews, diamond trade all but ceased.
The later 20th century saw conflict, not with drugs, but with squatters and police. Riots occurred involving anarchists, the mafia, and government. As recently as 1980, there was warring and protesting in the streets, as well as military intervention. The 1970s saw another influx of immigrants, leading to further growth and particularly modern tourism. This helped a once and poor and almost destitute city (a few times in history) become a rich city, effectively turning away from industrial product to a service economy.
Modern times in Amsterdam, while not as aggressive as in past centuries, have still seen their share of ethnic discrimination and segregation. About 45% of the population comes from immigrant parents. Nearly ten years ago, a filmmaker named Theo van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist, leading to further debate. There does remain some religious and social divisions within the population. Luckily, the profitability of cooperation and tourism keeps Amsterdam safe.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
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