Civilopedia entry Edit
Amstelredamme, the original name of the Dutch capital Amsterdam, was a small fishing village founded at some point in the 12th Century AD near a dam on the River Amstel. The inhabitants soon figured out they could make more coin from tolls over nearby bridges, and by digging peat out of the surrounding muck – inadvertently beginning the reclamation of the polder around the town. Amsterdam was granted city rights c. 1300 by its liege lord, the Count of Holland and Zeeland. When the Dutch revolted against Catholic Spain’s rule, economic and religious refugees (those insidious Protestants) from Spanish-controlled areas flooded into Amsterdam. Soon it was the largest city in the free Netherlands, and a thriving port as well.
During the 17th Century, Amsterdam became the world’s wealthiest city … at least until the English beat the Netherlands in the Anglo-Dutch Wars and Napoleon overran the country during the Napoleonic Wars. But the city still dreams of its “Golden Age,” when merchants from Holland traded across the globe, sailing to North America, Africa, the Far East, and all about Europe. It was the center of great art, since artists tend to be drawn to easy money. In 1602, the Amsterdam offices of the Dutch East Indies Company became the world’s first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.
The city did eventually recover its position as a great port after the troubles of the 1800s. The Industrial Revolution arrived early in Amsterdam, as the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal and the North Sea Canal dramatically improved commerce and an early train station brought goods from central Europe to its docks. Despite the effects of the Second World War (Holland managed to avoid the First), Amsterdam remains one of the world’s great commercial centers, home to some 1.5 million people (metropolitan area).