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Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

AMSTERDAM. With a population of around 11,000 in 1514, Amsterdam ranked among the middling towns of Europe at the close of the Middle Ages. Two hundred years later, the city was the fourth largest in Europe, with an estimated population of 200,000. Most of this growth had occurred between 1585 and 1650. It was all the more remarkable because, among Europe's ten largest cities, Amsterdam was the only one that was not a state capital; its expansion was a commercial phenomenon.

Situated on the confluence of the River Amstel, which gave the city its name, and an arm of the sea called the IJ, Amsterdam's location provided a deep and safe natural harbor for international shipping. In the sixteenth century the city was able to capture a substantial share of the expanding trade between Holland and the Baltic, which helped feed the city's waterlogged hinterland. Amsterdam became the most significant of Antwerp's satellite ports in the northern Low Countries.

Amsterdam's position changed dramatically in the course of the Dutch Revolt. Initially loyal to the Spanish king, the city was blockaded for years before it decided to join the rebel side in 1578. Then, in 1585, Antwerp was reconquered by the Spaniards, and in retaliation the rebels cut off shipping on the River Scheldt. Antwerp's merchant community dispersed, with many eventually settling in Amsterdam. Together with the local merchants they initiated a remarkable boom. Already in the 1590s Amsterdam merchants fitted out ships to explore various routes to the East Indies. Their success led to the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) in 1602, with Amsterdam merchants providing more than half of the initial capital. When the Dutch West India Company (West-Indische Compagnie, or WIC) was established in 1621, Amsterdam merchants were again the most important providers of capital. During the first half of the seventeenth century Amsterdam developed into the "staple" of western Europe, where every conceivable product available on the world market was sold.

The economic boom attracted large numbers of people to Amsterdam, both from within the Dutch Republic and from other countries. During the seventeenth century roughly one third of Amsterdam's population was of foreign origin, while another third had migrated to the city from within the Dutch borders. To make room for all these newcomers, the city's territory had to be expanded. The most significant additions were made in two stages during the 1610s and the 1660s, when Amsterdam obtained its characteristic shape. The old city center was surrounded by a ring of three main canals, designed especially with the newly rich merchant class in mind. The canals were in turn enveloped by a ring of cheaper housing for artisan and working-class households. These two expansions also thwarted the development of suburbs and ensured that all of Amsterdam's population remained firmly under the control of the city's institutions.

Within the confederate Dutch Republic, Amsterdam enjoyed much autonomy. Its politicians, mostly recruited from the merchant community, were also indirectly involved in determining national priorities, ensuring, for example, that Amsterdam's trade interests in the Baltic remained well protected. Amsterdam's four burgomasters, three of whom were replaced each year, were sometimes considered as the most powerful men in the country. The defense of the town's political independence was of great importance to them. The burgomasters ruled Amsterdam itself with the help of a great many corporate institutions. The guilds, for example, were and remained very important in the local economy. During the seventeenth century their number doubled, and they organized as much as a third of the population. Public order was maintained with the help of the civic militias.

The city's culture reflected this emphasis on civic institutions. In 1648 work began on the building of a new town hall, which was to be the largest purely civic building created in seventeenth-century Europe. Its magnificent design in fashionable Dutch classicism, lavishly decorated with monumental sculpture and paintings, was a monument to Amsterdam's achievements. The central hall was significantly known as the Citizens' Hall. Civic virtue was also a central theme in what was to become the most famous painting of Amsterdam's Golden Age, Rembrandt's Nightwatch (1642), which depicts the officers of a militia company guarding the town at night. This, and numerous similar collective portraits of militia officers, were created to be displayed in public.

Amsterdam's political independence, and the commercial attitude of its leading citizens, also helped create a tolerant religious climate, most significantly expressed in the treatment of Jewish immigrants. Holland did not have a Jewish community before the end of the sixteenth century, and when the first Jews arrived from Portugal in the 1590s the authorities were very open-minded about their settlement in Amsterdam. Jewish residents could obtain citizenship rights, albeit on restricted conditions. In the course of the seventeenth century two large synagogues were built in Amsterdam. Although a Jewish neighborhood developed in Amsterdam, it was not a ghetto, and Jews were permitted to live throughout the city.

Economic prosperity lasted longer in Amsterdam than in any of the other Dutch towns. However, in the course of the eighteenth century it became clear that Amsterdam's heyday was over. Most tellingly, the growth of its population, already slackening in the second half of the seventeenth century, was really over by 1740. The extra space that had been added by the extension of the 1660s remained partly unoccupied. The merchants, once the most dynamic force of the city, became conservative in their outlook, and many families retired from business altogether. Banking became the most significant element of the city's service sector, but it did little in terms of local employment. Poverty skyrocketed, especially during the 1780s and 1790s, when ultimately one in five families depended on poor relief. By then, the glory days of the Golden Age were still treasured by the small part of the population fortunateand wealthyenough to live on one of the main canals. Elsewhere, in the narrow back alleys where whole families were crowded into a single room or cellar, Amsterdam had come to look like any other European city.

See also Dutch Literature and Language ; Dutch Republic ; Dutch Revolt (15681648) ; Guilds ; Netherlands, Art in the ; Rembrandt van Rijn ; Trading Companies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bodian, Miriam. Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam. Bloomington, Ind., 1997.

Fremantle, Katharine. The Baroque Town Hall of Amsterdam. Utrecht, 1957.

Frijhoff, Willem, and Maarten Prak, eds. Geschiedenis van Amsterdam. Vols. 2 and 3, Zeventiende en achttiende eeuw. Amsterdam, forthcoming.

Gelder, Roelof van, and Renée Kistemaker. Amsterdam 12751795: De ontwikkeling van een handelsmetropool. Amsterdam, 1983.

Gelderblom, Oscar, "Antwerp Merchants in Amsterdam after the Revolt (15781630)." In International Trade in the Low Countries (14th16th Centuries): Merchants, Organisation, Infrastructure, edited by Peter Stabel et al., pp. 234241. Louvain, 2000.

Haverkamp-Begemann, E. Rembrandt: The Nightwatch. Princeton, 1982.

Israel, Jonathan I. Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 15851740. Oxford and New York, 1989.

Lesger, Clé. Handel in Amsterdam ten tijde van de Opstand. Kooplieden, commerciële expansie en verandering in de ruimtelijke economie van de Nederlanden ca. 1550ca. 1630. Hilversum, 2001.

Lourens, Piet, and Jan Lucassen. "Ambachtsgilden binnen een handelskapitalistische stad: aanzetten voor een analyse van Amsterdam rond 1700." NEHA-Jaarboek voor economische, bedrijfsen techniekgeschiedenis 61 (1998) 121162.

Nusteling, Hubert. Welvaart en werkgelegenheid in Amsterdam 15401860. Een relaas over demografie, economie en sociale politiek van een wereldstad. Amsterdam, 1985.

Maarten Prak

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"Amsterdam." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Amsterdam." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved October 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/amsterdam

Amsterdam (city, Netherlands)

Amsterdam (ăm´stərdăm´, Dutch ämstərdäm´), city (1994 pop. 724,096), constitutional capital and largest city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, North Holland prov., W Netherlands, on the IJ, an inlet of the Markermeer. The city derives its name from the fact that it is situated where the small, bifurcated Amstel River (which empties into the IJ) is joined by a sluice dam (originally built c.1240).

The city is cut by about 40 concentric and radial canals that are flanked by streets and crossed by 400 bridges. The canals give the city its nickname, "Venice of the North." Because of the underlying soft ground, Amsterdam is built on wooden and concrete piles. The many old and picturesque houses along the canals, once patrician dwellings, are now mostly offices and warehouses. The main streets of Amsterdam are the Dam, on which stand the Nieuwe Kerk (15th–17th cent.) and the 17th-century Dam Palace (formerly the city hall, since 1808 a royal palace); the Damrak, with the stock exchange (completed 1903); and the Kalverstraat and Leidenschestraat, which are the chief shopping centers. Notable buildings are the Oude Kerk [old church], built in 1334; the weighhouse (15th cent.); the city hall (16th cent.); and the Beguinage (Dutch Begijnenhof), or almshouses, of the 17th cent. An ethnically diverse city, Amsterdam has many new residents from former Dutch colonies, including Indonesia and Suriname. Near Amsterdam is the Bosplan, an enormous man-made national park.

Economy

A major port, Amsterdam is also the seat of one of the world's chief stock exchanges, a center of the diamond-cutting industry, and one of the great commercial, intellectual, and artistic capitals of Europe. Its manufactures include clothing, printed materials, and metal goods. Amsterdam is connected with the North Sea by the North Sea Canal (opened in 1876), which can accommodate large oceangoing vessels, and by the older North Holland Canal (opened 1824). The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal connects the city with the Rhine delta and thus with industrial NW Germany, with which there is considerable transit trade. Amsterdam is a major road and rail hub and is served by nearby Schiphol airport. Tourism is an important industry.

Cultural Institutions

Rembrandt and the other Dutch masters are best represented in the world famous Rijksmuseum, or National Museum, founded in 1808 by Bonaparte. Among the many other notable museums are the municipal museum, the Van Gogh museum, the Stedelijk Museum with an outstanding collection of contemporary art, the National Maritime Museum, the Hermitage (an extension of the St. Petersburg, Russia, museum), the house of Anne Frank, and Rembrandt's house. Amsterdam is also famous for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Univ. of Amsterdam, which was founded as an academy in 1632 and achieved university status in 1876, is the largest center of learning in the Netherlands. The Free Univ. (1880; Calvinist) also is there. The city's large modern library is the Centrale Bibliotheek (2007).

History

Amsterdam was chartered c.1300 and in 1369 joined the Hanseatic League. Having accepted the Reformation, the people in 1578 expelled the pro-Spanish magistrates and joined the independence-oriented Netherland provinces. The commercial decline of Antwerp and Ghent and a large influx of refugees from many nations (in particular of Flemish merchants, Jewish diamond cutters and merchants, and French Huguenots), contributed to the rapid growth of Amsterdam after the late 16th cent. The Peace of Westphalia (1648), by closing the Scheldt (Escaut) to navigation, further stimulated the city's growth at the expense of the Spanish Netherlands. Amsterdam reached its apex as an intellectual and artistic center in the 17th cent., when, because of its tolerant government, it became a center of liberal thought and book printing. The city was captured by the French in 1795 and became the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was ruled by Louis Bonaparte. The constitution of 1814 made it the capital of the Netherlands; the sovereigns are usually sworn in at Amsterdam and reside in a palace outside the city. However, The Hague is the seat of government. During World War II Amsterdam was occupied by German troops (1940–45) and suffered severe hardship. Most of the city's Jews (c.75,000 in 1940) were deported and killed by the Germans. Since the 1960s Amsterdam has become known for political and social activism.

Bibliography

See R. Kistemaker and R. Van Gelder, Amsterdam (1983).

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Amsterdam

Amsterdam Capital and largest city in the Netherlands, on the River Amstel and linked to the North Sea by the North Sea Canal. Amsterdam was chartered in c.1300 and joined the Hanseatic League in 1369. The Dutch East India Company (1602) brought great prosperity to the city. It became a notable centre of learning and book printing during the 17th century. It declined when captured by the French in 1795 and blockaded by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Amsterdam was badly in the German occupation during World War II (1939–45). A major port and one of Europe's leading financial and cultural centres, it has an important stock exchange and diamond-cutting industry. Sights include the Old Church (c.1300), the house of Rembrandt, the Royal Palace, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House. Industries: iron and steel, oil refining, rolling stock, chemicals, glass, shipbuilding. Pop. (2001) 736,538.

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Amsterdam (city, United States)

Amsterdam, city (1990 pop. 20,714), Montgomery co., E central N.Y., on the Mohawk River; inc. 1885. Historically famous for the manufacture of carpets, its manufactures now include machinery, apparel, leather goods, furniture, transporation equipment, and consumer goods. The area was settled in 1783 and was named Amsterdam because of the many early Dutch settlers. Nearby stands Fort Johnson, home of the British colonial leader Sir William Johnson.

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Amsterdam

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