Amsterdam dates back to the early 1200s, when it was established as a humble fishing settlement. A dam that was subsequently built on the Amstel River encouraged its growth. The name of the new village, Amstelledamme, was first documented in the toll concession of 1275. Throughout the 1300s and 1400s, the village grew very quickly, ushering in what is now known as the Golden Age. Unfortunately, only a small number of structures from this period are still standing, due to the trend for building with wood, which does not tend to whether the test of time very well. The Houten Huis (Wooden House) and Old and New Churches date from this period.
The years between 1585 and 1672 are known as the Golden Age of Amsterdam, when the city reached the pinnacle of trade and development and was an international market for staple goods. It was during this time that the city developed its unique appearance. Amsterdam still maintains the layout introduced by the 1613 and 1663 expansion projects. Significant landmarks such as the Royal Palace, Zuiderkerk, Westerkerk and many historical houses along the canals, to name just a few, were built during this time.
In 1672, French and British forces attacked Holland, bringing about an abrupt halt to Amsterdam’s Golden Age. Despite this upheaval, Amsterdam maintained its status as a commercial center for staple products and its importance in the finance world as recently as 1795. However, there were some big changes; whereas previously tar and pitch were the goods of trade, now silver and gold were the new commodities. A huge number of houses were constructed during the period – a sign of how well the city clearly was doing. This is why today, most residential buildings in the center date from the 1700s.
In 1795 the French came to power, defeating the incumbent government and bringing an end to the old Republic. As they began to occupy Holland, Amsterdam felt the adverse effects and fell into recession. This was a period of first stagnation and then decline, which was to last up to 1813. A large number of homes were abandoned and remained empty for long periods of time. Eventually a significant number became derelict and fell down as no one had tended to them for so long. By a stroke of fortune, a small number of interiors and facades from the Empire period remained intact for us to admire today.
From 1813 onward, Amsterdam slowly started to recover economically. From 1870, it actually began to expand once more. As money again flowed back into the city, people moved back and the Industrial Revolution began. This was the catalyst for a modern day Golden Age, and Amsterdam expanded beyond the Singelgracht. Low quality suburbs for the less well off sprang up, and the two decades from the 20s to the 40s again brought a recession. Nevertheless, the Ring 20-40 is of comparable quality to the jerry-building, which dates from the 1800s. It was also during these 20 years that much damage was done to the historically significant city center, as canals were filled in to make way for new roads. Today Amsterdam’s spirit of tolerance is hailed internationally. The Dutch government may sit in The Hague, but Amsterdam is the unofficial capital and the largest city in Holland.

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