POPULATION: Approx. 78,000
It is said that Amsterdam was founded at the place where two fishermen and a seasick dog jumped ashore from a small boat to escape a storm in the Zuiderzee. The dog threw up, thus marking the spot. The Fishermen slogged up a muddy bank and had a stiff drink, thus laying the foundations of a tavern around which the entire metropolis would grow. The city’s original coat of arms backs up this tale, and you can see representations of it on the façade of the Beurs van Berlage (Old Stock Exchange) and the Munttoren (Mint Tower) and above the Mayor’s fireplace in the Old Town Hall (now the Royal Palace) on the Dam. Although it’s a far-fetched tale, it seems that fishermen did play the decisive role in founding Amsterdam. Early in the 12th Century, some fishermen realized that the area at the mouth of the Amstel River allowed their wooden cog ships easy access to the lucrative fishing in both the IJ inlet and the Zuiderzee. They built huts there, probably on raised mounds of earth, called terps, examples of which still abound in coastal Friesland. Amsterdam’s name derived from the river Amstel and a dam built into it by the cities inhabitants.
Eighty Years War
This is the war fought between Catholic Spain and the Protestant Netherlands which resulted in the independence of the Netherlands from Spain, the separation of the Southern part of the Netherlands (Flanders) from the Northern part. The result was the formation the Dutch Republic. Charles V's son Philip II, inherited the throne of Spain. And as King Philip of Spain he sought to annihilate the reformation in the Netherlands. Many of the Dutch rebelled. They wanted to keep their freedom and opposed the idea of religious persecution. Prince William of Orange became their national leader. His ironic nickname, William the Silent, came from his skill as a negotiator - never committing himself until the last possible moment. In 1572, the province of Holland chose the side of William of Orange. Only Amsterdam remained loyal to Spain. Indeed, Amsterdam helped the Spanish army capture Haarlem. But there were also the foreign forces who raided the provinces and by late in the 16th century the Dutch powers had captured and by force converted to Protestantism the provinces of Holland and Zeeland. Then the other provinces joined them in the revolution against Spain and they formed a general union. There was a 12 Years' Truce the Dutch tried hard to secure their borders. However fighting resumed early in the 17 century and the revolt had become part of a more general conflict known as the Thirty Years' War. In this time, with the help of the French, the Dutch begun to conquer lands. Mid 17th Century saw the Spanish Republic, now worried about the growing power of France, make peace with the Netherlands. This came to be known as the Treaty of Munster by which Spain recognized the independence of the Dutch.
The Dutch East India Company
The 17th century brought with it prosperity for the Dutch in nearly every form. The Dutch East India Trading Company, (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) brought a large part of this economic success. Established in 1602, the VOC was granted a 21-year monopoly, carrying out colonial activities throughout Asia. This was the first company to issue stock in the world and was one of the first world mega-corporations whose powers included waging war, negotiating treaties, coining money, and establishing colonies. The VOC was the richest private company in the world by 1669 with over 50,000 employees, 10,000 soldiers in a private army, 40 warships, and 150 merchant ships. Between the years 1602 and 1796, the VOC traded 2.5 million tons worth of Asian goods. They cast a shadow over the rest of European trade in Asia. Profits were gained through a monopoly of the spice industry. Due to corruption, the company eventually became bankrupt and so it was dismantled in 1800,...