Carrying immense importance since the 13th Century, the small city of Amsterdam has transformed itself from a fishing village on the river bank to an up-to-date centre for tourism, business and commerce. So how did all of this come into place? Not long after its establishment, the city was a centre for passionate and adventurous people, arriving on the bank of the river Amstel in what was then hollowed-out logs.
Evidently as time passed, the dumpy swamps and lands were transformed into infrastructure thus creating dams and dikes. These people or “Aemstelledammers” eventually started collecting money at specific appointed tolls at the Eastern Sea Trade route of Baltics from the frequent traders. With time, they employed expertise builders working on boats and brewers which proved to be a successful way to lure tourists into the attractive, sprawling new city.
Later in 1275, these practices were made more formal by accessing them to various and unique toll privileges by Count Floris of Holland to the merchant town which later added to the constitution hence in 1300 the town got its first ever charter. For any place to develop economically, trade has to be established to grant free passage rights to the traders. For the formation of this city on the basis of trade, this seemed like a challenging task. The concept of free passage, was indispensable to allow traders to move about and carry out their tasks cheaply, thus attracting and encouraging the practice of trade and commerce. From the start, edibles like beer and herring proved to be quite popular amongst the people. This was proved by the fact when in 1323 Amsterdam had the power and the utmost law to import beer from Hamburg and they certainly made use of it to a great extent. Aside from this, the herring trade spread quickly after the inception of the herring curing, a way by which the intestines of the fish caught were immediately discarded, for a fresher, long-lasting product. This technique encouraged fishermen to increase their catch productivity hence making additional profit, income and increasing morale to move forward.
Towards the end of the 15th century, the gradual development of the city started coming forth. many wealthy Jews took refuge in Amsterdam when the Spaniards conquered Antwerp. The ample money acquired by this period was put into use by organizing trips to subcontinential India. This later proved to be a huge internally commercial success. Later in 1602, the Dutch East India Company was established. The EIC was in business with the city which concluded a major share in the business, later becoming the first and most-wide reaching Multinational company in the world. Due to this applauding investment and the prosperity it generated, the city of Amsterdam entered a period known as “The Golden Age” in the 17th century.
During this era, the city went through two substantial urban expansions where functionality and beauty were taken into context. The outcome of these understandings was the famous canals in the Jordaan District. Not only commerce and infrastructure were taking a leap at this time, but the arts also prospered at this time. There was an increasing number of artists during the the first half of the 17th century which resulted in the establishment of numerous artists and art dealers in the city. In just 30 years, Amsterdam became the epicentre of culture with the legacy of several famous artists, Rembrandt Van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen to name a few.
However, a period of decline was on the horizon, as Amsterdam’s economy came to a halt in the 19th century resulting in ascending levels of poverty. Fortunately after the construction of the North Sea Canal (1876), the city evidently had a direct outlet to the sea and no longer felt landlocked. From then on the presence of steamships became an ordinary sight at the city port, boosting the economy and reversing the levels of poverty.
Due to trade with the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the city gathered a vital standing in the world spice trade whilst also benefitting from the diamond trade with South Africa. This new period of affluence is reflected in the Amsterdam’s monumental, architectural masterpieces. Central station was also announced in 1889 following the Concertgebouw, Theatre Carré and Hotel American.
When we look at Amsterdam today, we can see that its prosperity is one that dates back centuries. In the 20th century its achievements weren’t any less significant. In the beginning of the century, the Amsterdam School, a prosperous architecture movement, provided ground-breaking, accessible low-cost housing in the city. The expansion of Schiphol Airport, initially a military airbase (1916), is also of note. Today it still hosts KLM flights, the oldest airline in the world, employing over 30 000 personnel.