Amsterdam is one of the most planned cities in northern Europe. The city has an important role in the history of the Netherlands, which is only a small patch in the world map. Even though the country is very small, it has made a significant impact in the culture of Europe, and the city of Amsterdam has secured a permanent place in the world tourism map.
Amsterdam was the centre of world economy in the seventeenth century and is now very famous for its tolerant character. When you tour Amsterdam, do not forget to explore the historic buildings in the city, which can shed light into the history of the place.
The Early History of Amsterdam
The city of Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village and it developed around a dam that was made across the Amstel River. The name Amstelledamme first appears in the toll concession of Floris V, who was the Count of Holland. The concession was dated October 27, 1275.
The place underwent rapid changes in the fifteenth century that led to the Golden Age. Only some of these medieval buildings survived and a few examples are the Wooden House (Houten Huis) at the Begijnhof and the Old and New Churches.
In the Middle Ages, houses in Amsterdam were built of wood and the Houten Huis was one among them. As wood is a very vulnerable construction material, most of the houses were destroyed. However, many Amsterdam houses still feature timber frames.
The Golden Age
The period from 1585 to 1672 is called the Golden Age and was the time of commercial success for the city. In this period, Amsterdam emerged as a staple market of the world and the cityscape of Amsterdam developed. It is the urban expansions in the 1613 and 1663 that determined the characteristic appearance of Amsterdam.
Some of the historic buildings of the city still date back to the Golden Age. For instance, the Westerkerk, the town hall in the Dam Square, the Zuiderkerk, numerous canal houses like De Dolfijn (Dolphin), the Bartolotti Huis, the Poppenhuis, De Gecroonde Raep (Crowned Turnip), and many more were constructed in the Golden Age.
The Age of Gold and Silver
The year 1672 was much disastrous for the Dutch Republic with the English and the French attacking simultaneously. The Golden Age of the country came to an end in 1672. However, the city managed to regain its prosperity in the period from 1672 to 1795. In fact, Amsterdam managed to recover its position as one of the biggest financial centers in Europe.
The Golden Age of the city was characterized by pitch and tar, but the new era was an age of silver and gold. The buildings that were built in this period reflected the prosperity of the city. Most of the houses that are located in the city centre date back to this period, rather than the seventeenth century. A few examples are Huis De Vicq-De Steur at Voorburgwal, and Huis Van Brienen at Herengracht. So make sure to check out these buildings when you tour Amsterdam to know more about the culture and history of Amsterdam.
The Age of Recession and Decline
In the year 1795, the old Republic ceased to exist due to the disestablishment of the government of the patrician oligarchies. In the period from 1795 to 1813, the city of Amsterdam badly suffered from economic recession. The French occupied the country. Many houses in the city collapsed due to lack of maintenance. Nevertheless, you can still find some interiors and facades that date back to the Empire period of the city.
Recovery and Expansion
The period from 1813 to 1940 marked the economic recovery of the country. The expansion started from 1870 and the increase in wealth and resources lead to rapid increase in population. The recovery and expansion was mainly due to the Industrial Revolution that set off a New Golden Age of development. The city of Amsterdam developed into the areas beyond the Singelgracht. Many working class neighborhoods were built in this period.
In the period from 1920 to 1940, the country faced another economic recession. In this period, large-scale damage was caused to the city centre. In addition, canals were filled in and traffic breakthroughs came into effect in this period. After the initial damages, more housing projects like the Bijlmermeer were planned and implemented.
The history of Amsterdam is rich and eventful, and is worth exploring. While you are on your Amsterdam tours, ask your tour guide to explain about the history and culture of the city as you pass through from one tourist hub to another – it would definitely be an amazing new experience for you.