History of the Netherlands
History of the Netherlands
Holland, a land wrested from the sea.
In the beginning there was no Holland. Inch by inch it has risen from the river deltas on the edge of the North Sea. It began to take shape a thousand years ago when the action of wind and water produced sand dunes which now rise in places to a height of 30 metres (100 ft) and extend for many miles, held together in parts by deeprooted grass. These act as solid barriers against the sea. Even 60 years ago large areas of the present country did not exist. Today, half of Holland lies below sea level, protected by a wall of dykes (2,000 km (1,250 miles) long, and kept dry by 20.000 pumps.
Were it not for the discovery of the windmill, a crucial energy source for pumping water, the sea could heve claimed back much of the precious land. In the last 1.000 years Holland has experienced 20 major floods, such as one dramatically recorded on television screens around the world in February 1995 when the dykes came close to bursting. Not surprisingly, the Dutch are deeply concerned by the prospect of global warming. A rise in sea level could see coastal towns such as Middelburg, Haarlem and Leiden disappearing from the map.
When one considers their constant battles waged against the elements, the achievements of the Dutch people through their long and varied history are quitwe remarkable. Few other countries can claim a period comparable to the 17th-century golden age when Holland and its allied provinces dominated European culture and commerce.
The Dutch created the concepts of modern humanism, including freedom of religion and freedom of the press, ideals which have long contributed to making Holland such an open, tolerant and pleasurable place to visit.
Ironically, in view of Holland’s preference for peaceful international relations, the Dutch first made their appearance on history’s stage amid a welter of violence and blood, defending their homeland against those iron-fisted conquerors, the Romans.
The first inhabitants of the Netherlands were three tribes that settled the marshy deltas of the lowlands sometime in the dawn of recorded history.
They were the Belgae of the Southern regions; the Batavi, who settled in the area of the Great Rivers; and the fiercely independent Frisians, who took up residence along the northern coast.Each tribe posed a challenge to Julius Caesar when he came calling in the first century B.C. but he nevertheless managed, after prolonged and effective objections from the locals, to get both the Belgae and the Batavi to knuckle under.
By Caesar’s own account the Batavi made a good job of defending the meadowland of ancient Batavia. He said that they were the fiercest fighters his legions had ever encountered.
In their swampy, tidewashed homeland, between the Roman devil and the deep grey sea, The Batavi struggled to avoid going under, continuing their resistance until 12 B.C. against the General Nero Claudius Drusus. They later became allies of Rome, and the dashing Batavian cavalry took on a romatic aura not unlike that of Jeb Stuart’s. An elite unit of Batavians formed the Emperor Augustus’s personal bodyguard.
Not all Romans admired their martial virtues. The poet Martial mocked the slow-witted Batavians, saying they were as foolish as they were fierce.
Roman legionary bases, one of which grew into the city of Novio Magus (Nijmegen), were used as jumping-off points for invasions of Friesland to the north and Germany to the east. Rome never did have its way with the Frisians, however. In A.D. 47 Emperor Claudius gave up the costly attempt to acquire the marschy northlands, settling for the Rhine as the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.
Having seen off the Romans the Frisians n the 5th Century did even better against the next would-be conquerors – hordes of Saxons and Franks, who overran the by now enfeebled Romano-Batavians to the south. Not until the late 8th century did the Frisians surrender their independence, when the mighty Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Emperor of the West, forced them to give up their pagan gods in exchange for Christianity. Even Charlemagne was obliged to promise that the Frisians would remain free as long as the wind blows out of the clouds and the world stands.
Pre history on the Netherlands
The lands of present-day Holland are settled in the north by Teutonic Frisians and in the south by Belgian tribes of Celts.
150 B.C. The Romans establish a fort at Novio Magus (Nijmegen)
50 B.C. – A.D. 400 After Julius Caesar defeats the Batavi tribe, the northern border of the Roman Empire is extended to include the Rhine delta.
4th Century A.D. Maastricht’s St Servaas is the first bishop in the country.
700 Utrecht becomes a bishopric under the English Monk Willibord, establishing itself as a power centre.
845 Death of Charlemagne , the Frankish leader who had united much of Western Europe. His empire is divide; the region south of the Schelde is awarded to the West Franks, the lands of the Netherlands are given to his grandson Lothar 1.
925 The region becomes part of the Holy Roman empire of the German Nation. Internal struggles lead to the break up of the region into the counties of Holland and Zeeland and the bishoprics of Liege and Utrecht. With other counties in modern Belgium and Luxembourg, they come together as the ‘lowlands near the sea’ – The Netherlands.
1220 The first Dam, or sluice, is built to hold back the tidal waters of the Zuider Zee.
1330 The bishop of Utrecht grants Amsterdam official city status. The city subsequently becomes the export centre for local beers and an entrepot for Baltic grain.
1452 After many of Amsterdam’s timber and thatch buildings are destroyed by fire, a law ordains that future buildings shall be built of brick.
1467 Death of Philip the Good of France who had united the region through the dynastic marriages of the house of Burgundy.
1477 The fall of the Duchy of Burgundy. The country comes under the Habsburgs after the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Maximilian of Austria, and is ruled by governors. The Netherlands are broken down into a number of different territories: the duchies of Gelderland and Brabant, the counties of Holland and Zeeland and the bishopric of Utrecht.
1519 Under the Habsburg Charles V of Spain, these regions are united with Belgium and Luxembourg to form the Low Countries.
1555 Death of Charles V. He is succeeded by Philip II.
1566 Calvinist protests at the lack of religious freedom and storm many of Amsterdam’s churches. A year later Philip II sends the Duke Alvarez to restore Catholic control. Many Protestants are executed and others flee to England.
1568 The 80-year struggle for independence and freedom of thoughts and religion begins. Prince William of Orange, the German Count of Nassau and inheritor of possessions in the Netherlands and Orange in France, leads the campaign, to be later revered in Dutch history as the ‘Father of the Fatherland’.
1576 Antwerp falls to Spain.
1578 Amsterdam capitulates to Prince William. Protestant exiles return to the city and Calvinists take over the churches and government.
1579 Treaty of Utrecht unites the seven northern provinces against their Spanish Habsburg rulers. Protestant refugees from Antwerp, Amsterdam’s main trade rival, seek asylum in Amsterdam, laying the foundations for the city’s Golden Age.
17th century Holland leads the world in art and commerce. Dutch merchants establish trading colonies in North America, the East and West Indies and India. Ships from the East and West Indian Company sail the high seas. The Golden Age brings undreamt-of prosperity to Holland.
1602 The Dutch East India Company is established to co-ordinate trade between the Northern provinces and the lands east of the cape.
1606 Rembrandt van Rijn is born in Leiden.
1609 The Bank of Amsterdam established, placing the city at the forefront of European finance.
1613 Work commences on the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, the concentric canals ringing Amsterdam.
1632 Jan Vermeer is born in Delft.
1648 The Treaty of Westphalia finally grants sovereignty to the Dutch Republic, Southern Netherlands remain under Spanish rule, and eventually become Belgium.
1652 The first of numerous wars with England for maritime supremacy.
1688 William III of Holland is crowned as King of the United Kingdom, having married Mary Stuart. William’s wars do much to strain the economy of the Netherlands.
18th century Exhausted by wars with England and France, the country goes into a decline.
1795 The French army under Napoleon invades and William V flees to England.
1810 Holland is incorporated into the French Empire.
1814 French occupation ends and the Kingdom of the Netherlands is established, consisting of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. William V’s son is declared King Willem I of the Netherlands at the Hague in 1815.
1831 Belgium wins independence. Holland’s present-day borders are recognized.
1848 Constitution revised. Holland becomes a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government.
1853 Vincent van Gogh, the son of a Luthern pastor is born in Groot-Zundert.
1870-1876 A period that see massive improvements in education and welfare. The Dutch railway system is established and the new North Sea Canal revives Amsterdam’s position as a port.
1914-1918 Holland remains neutral during World War I.
1920 Beginning of the project to drain the Zuider Zee. In 1932 the 30-km (19 mile) Afsluitdijk is closed off to form the important E22 highway linking Holland and Friesland and creating the freshwater IJsselmeer lake.
1939-45 World War II. In 1940 Rotterdam is destroyed by aerial bombing, and, after a five-day battle, German troops occupy the country. The royal family goes into exile in London. In 1941, Amsterdam’s dock workers strike against the deportation of Jews. In August 1944 Anne Frank is discovered hiding in Amsterdam and is sent to Belsen. Some 100.000 people are taken to German concentration-camps.
1945 Dutch East Indies declare independence.
1952 Holland becomes one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC).
1953 One of the country’s worst flood disasters hits the Dutch coast on 1 February.
1958 BeNeLux customs and economic union founded with Belgium and Luxembourg
1975 Suriname, formerly Dutch Guyana, gains independence
1986 In January Flevoland becomes the 12th province. The Oosterscheld flood barrier is opened. The Delta Plan – the huge scheme to protect the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde delta from flooding – comes into operation.
1993 Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is extended to become the fourth-largest in Europe. Popular protest oppose rail projects suc as the Betuwe line to Emmerich and the TGV to Antwerp which would cause seriopus damage to the landscape by the river Waal
1994 Elections in May result in loss of absolute majority for the grand coalition of Social Democrats (PvdA) and Christian Democrats (CDA)
1995 Devastating floods submerge much of the country.
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 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.
At any rat, 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.
The marshy terrain left these early settlers at the mercy of tides and storms, and many must have died or lost their homes as a result of flooding.
Traders followed the fishing families, distributing the catch to the more developed surrounding towns and villages.
Amsterdam - The Golden Century
In 1602, the famous East-Indian Company (Oost-Indische Compagnie) was founded by the merchant cities of Holland and Zeeland, but more than half of the invested funds come from Amsterdam, where the company has its headquarters. Several times a year, a fleet leaves for the Orient, and the company obtains the monopoly of import of all Indonesian spices (nutmeg, pepper and clove), Chinese and Japanese vases, Indian fabrics. South Africa, the Mauritius islands, Ceylon and Indonesia are colonized. All this by a little, tiny country!!
The fact that the war with Spain had closed down the ports of Spain and Portugal to Dutch traders, promptly set them out to forge their own trade routes to the New World. After the founding of New-Amsterdam (future New York) overseas, in 1614, under Peter Stuyvesant (smoking his first cigarette??), the Company of the Occidental Indies was created (West Indische Companie) in 1621, in Amsterdam.
With its own navy and army to protect its ships and factories the West Indische Companie was enormously powerful and incredibly wealthy. This company controlled the transport of slaves between Africa and the Americas (not very Calvinistic or Lutheran as a business!!). The island of Curacao became the main market of slaves in the New World. Amsterdam, becoming the import centre of sugar, tobacco and cacao imported from Brazil, and a lot of other products became the most important stock exchange in the world!
Typical Dutch machinery, the windmill, helped to transform large quantities of raw materials in semi-finished products. Thousands of windmills in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas (Zaandam) were unheard of industrial park for that epoch (and still a stunning touristy park today).
The symbol of the prosperity and power of this town was the New Town Hall on the Dam square, edified with German imported stones, as enormous as hideous, and built from 1648 on 13,000 wooden piles. But slowly, inside the Republic, Amsterdam loses its political role in the 18th century to the prejudice of the princes of Orange (Prinsen van Oranje) residing in The Hague. And because the sandbanks invade more and more the access to the Amsterdam port from the Zuiderzee, it abandons a part of the commerce to the Dutch cities located nearer to the North Sea, like Rotterdam, and foreign cities, like London and Hamburg. Nevertheless, the wealth accumulated during the Golden Century, keeps Amsterdam in its position of the European financier and banker until 1780.
In the 17th and 18th centuries wars start again! At the zenith of its glory, the new Dutch republic, still dominant on the maritime front, has to fight a lot of enemies: Portuguese, Spaniards, French, Swedes and above all these damn English;-) (a humble apology for my English readers that’s how the French called the English at that time, “ces sacres Anglais!). Its handicap of being a small country had its first consequences in its colonies. England and France sapped the country’s energies and drained its coffers. In 1795 revolutionaries backed by the new French Republic overthrew the government of Stadhouder Willem V and the States-General and declared the Batavian Republic. This was soon swept away and Louis Bonaparte (1778-1846) was installed King of the Netherlands. It’s really an astonishing fact that the French revolution will provoke a diametrically opposed reaction as in other countries.
Republic will be abolished and monarchy restored! This must be the special way of the Dutch to have the “right of difference”! Louis Bonaparte transforms Town Hall on the Dam in Amsterdam into a royal palace and proclaims Amsterdam capital of the country. However on the economic level, the city is becoming impoverished and on the calamities list they find: continental block (like an embargo) obligation to participate in all Napoleon war campaigns, the loss of South Africa and Ceylon. After the defeat at Waterloo, the Netherlands and Belgium are reunited again.
End of this thriller in next article…..
Amsterdam - Modern times and involvement in World War II
The union with Belgium was not to last long. In 1831-32 the southern provinces rose in revolt and Belgium became an independent kingdom with Leopold I, a German prince, as first king.
Amsterdam recovers very slowly and its population finally reaches again the same as in the 18th century: 200,000 inhabitants. The age of steam made Amsterdam a vital link between Europe’s booming railway networks and the transatlantic liner and freight services, while wealth poured into the city from the newly discovered South African diamond mines.
The reprise of the commerce with Indonesia and Surinam, the drainage and drying up of the Haarlem Lake, the industrialization and digging of a canal connecting Amsterdam with the North sea (Noordzeekanaal), will increase the population of Amsterdam spectacularly. A belt of popular quarters is built outside the Buitensingel, interrupted in the south only by the Leidsplein and the Museum plein where the concert hall “Concertgebouw” and the modern art museum “Stedelijk Museum” are built. A park is added: Vondelpark, in 1889 a railway station in the old port.
During the first world butchery, the Netherlands remained neutral. The city builds more and more to embellish and you lose count of the houses and edifices decorated with brick and stone, which style will be called “the Amsterdam school” (de Amsterdamse school). But the economic crisis of 1933 hits without pity, and a lot of foreign refugees start pouring in, like Jews and Germans.
Germany occupies the Netherlands during WW II but curiously Amsterdam was never seriously bombarded. Another very bizarre fact I just mention without wanting to enter in a debate is that almost the total Jewish population (100,000) will be deported by the Germans. Now this is a very controversial and painful episode of Dutch history. I first thought of not mentioning the facts to my readers, but I have to stay honest. This happened and there is no way of hiding it for the sake of keeping an ideal image of Holland. Is it possible to deport 71.4 % without some active aid from local authorities, police and …population? Let’s not get too deep in that given that some historians claim that the proof the population was not collaborating and anti-Semite is the solidarity strike of February 1941 the attitude of the whole country facing the oppressor forcing admiration of international community. Underground resistance groups and individuals helped shelter Jews and other fugitives. The example of the aid given to Jewish families, like Anne Frank, hiding in a house of the Prinsengracht, will become highly symbolic. Amsterdam, 262 Prinsengracht. The revolving bookshelf leading to the roof rooms where Anne Frank was hidden. It's here that at the liberation the moving, terrible diary was found.
I would incline to that explanation even if finally…. Anne Frank was deported and died in concentration camp because of a denunciation of Dutch neighbours.
I personally believe that the special regime and administrative efficacy of the German administration was the cause of the high percentage of deported and not the collaboration of the people of Holland.
Let’s not forget that the Dutch authorities, especially queen Wilhelmina, called the Dutch up to resist the invaders, from England. After the disastrous battle of Arnhem and the starvation winter of 1944, the Canadians only liberated Amsterdam on the 8th of May.
Those who know the Dutch today cannot believe that they could be a collaborating nation with the Nazis.
The proclamation of the independence of Indonesia in 1949, gives the “tropical commerce” of Amsterdam a heavy blow. It’s the port of Rotterdam, directly connected to the Rhine that will grow and extend to the disadvantage of Amsterdam. This loss of income will only partially be compensated by the development of Schiphol airport. The city diminishes its industries and specializes in the service sector.
The modern city of Amsterdam is a mixture of bohemianism, sleaze and solid respectability. On the Old Side, it is not unusual to see an elderly housewife carrying her shopping into an apartment doorway flanked on one side by a neon-lit window in which a plump prostitute displays her charms and on the other by a “coffee-shop” where the fumes of hash are heavy on the air. The age-old tradition of turning a blind eye continues to thrive.
The compact city-centre---within the inner Singel canal---buzzes with tourism the year around, but the heart of the city is still very much a place where local people live, work and play. In the more modern suburbs outside the old city centre ---and even in the Jordaan and the harbour neighborhoods---there is hardly a visitor in sight.
Today, Amsterdam has found his right place in the concert of Dutch cities. If Rotterdam holds the industrial power, the Hague the political power, this modest fisher village, which became for a while the centre of earth, stays—with its central bank, its two universities, its three grand museums and its historic centre---the financial, university, artistic and historic capital of the Netherlands. ……
Amsterdam - The wipeout of the Jewish quarter
The “Jodenbuurt” (Jewish neighbourhood) has no dilemma today of having lost its form of survival, since it no longer exists. But until its extinction during WWII, the Jodenbuurt, like the Jordaan, greatly contributed to the city’s language, humour, culture and character. In this neighbourhood, Jewish immigrants of all periods traditionally settled. The poorest of the residents used to live around the Waterlooplein and farther east, in a section called the Plantage (Plantation), the houses were larger, the streets wider, and the people more well-to-do. As in the Jordaan, a strong sense of community existed in the Jodenbuurt, but it was based on religion and custom rather than working-class solidarity.
It was not a ghetto or a “separate world”. Religious prejudice has always been quite foreign to the mentality of Amsterdam and so there has never been a need to cloak it under circumlocutions or for Amsterdam’s Jews either to seek to avoid identification. The question simply does not arise.
For instance, one of the great Amsterdammers of the 19th century was a man named Samuel Sarphati. The Amsterdam schools teach that he was a promoter of public housing, an organizer of municipal services such as garbage collecting, and the builder of a bread factory that provided better and cheaper bread for the city (he also built the Amstel hotel).
Sarphati is seen by Dutch (and not Jewish) history as a great philanthropist. Nobody ever knew he was Jewish—until the Germans authorities changed the name Sarphati street into “Muiderschans”.
I read in an old magazine that in 1975 an editor of an Amsterdam weekly angrily fought against the (well meant) initiative to ban the Amsterdam word “voddenjood” (rag-and-bones Jew), and change it into “voddenman” (rag-and-bones man). In Amsterdam, he wrote, a man collecting rags and bones was traditionally a Jew, and not interested in hiding that fact either. The editor was a Jew himself.
I’m not just touching on what is admittedly a complex phenomenon. It should not be thought that I want to paint the Amsterdammers as too good to be true, and I do not want to imply that Anti-Semitism was entirely unknown in Amsterdam. When the 1930’s brought an influx of new Jewish refugees from Germany, there was a lot of unpleasant comment. However, the hostility of Amsterdammers was really aimed at the German, not the Jewish, character of the newcomers. They had what is called a “bei-uns” (in our country) complex. Indeed, the real nature of nazism had not yet been quite recognized by its first victims, and the immigrants spoke how, bei-uns, things were done more efficiently than in Holland.
But these were petty irritations, wiped away forever by a massacre that utterly appalled all Amsterdammers. After the German invasion in 1940 and the imposition of nazi racial policies, the first reaction of the Gentile population was: “They can’t do that to our Jews!” My uncle Arnold, 80 years old today, living in Amsterdam, told me that he heard that from a lot of Amsterdammers in those days. And many Dutch Jews failed to hide or escape because they, too, felt that the Germans would not dare differentiate between them and their fellow Amsterdammers. The ensuing horrors were made all the more tragic by the fact that they took place in a city that for centuries had been known for the protective welcome it extended to people of different faiths.
Next, the history of Jews in Amsterdam through the centuries.
Eastern Docklands Amsterdam
Some background information on the history of the Eastern DocklandsHistory of sailing, steam ships, shipping companies, workers, artists and passengers
The history of the dockland area dates back to the seventeenth century, and it has been turbulent from time to time. Many important national and international historical events took place in this dockland area; traces of them can still be found.
In the Middle Ages and up to the seventeenth century the Eastern Docklands were part of the sea. There were some swamps and some small islands in this area.
The island Paardenhoek (horse corner) was a cavalery station. The island Pampus, further out in the sea, was a tricky place for sailors, where ships trying to reach the docks often got stuck when the tide was low.
The seventeenth century is often referred to as the Dutch Golden Age. This was a time of expansion and increasing wealth, of international trade and overseas travelling. It was also a time of war. Some of the great Dutch seafaring heroes (or pirates) sailed the seven seas and fought the Spaniards in the Eighty Year liberation war.
Piet Hein was one of the best known among them. The main street and tunnel in the Eastern Docklands are named after him. A group of silvery apartment and office buildings in the central part of the area is called Zilvervloot, recalling a well-known battle, when a Spanish silver fleet coming back from colonial areas was conquered.
At that time, this area connecting Amsterdam to the sea was often crossed by smugglers, who avoid paying duty on goods brought into the city. To prevent this, the city council decided to change the area into a military training ground, but this turned out to be impossible. Then it was decided to use this area near the city walls for business purposes. Several city windmills were built on newly made islands.
The first three windmills, called Hope, Love and Fortune, were used for sawing wood. They are gone now, but they are still commemorated in a spectaculair new apartment building in the central area of the Eastern Docklands. The only remaining city windmill of this time, de Gooyer, now houses a brewery and a cafe selling the traditional Y-lake beer.
One of the two city hospitals, the Plague house, had also been established in the area. As its name suggests, this hospital was used to treat victims of the plague; it was also used for general medical treatment of the poor. The hospital owned a fish pond near by, popularly known as the sick water.
It was believed that eating fish would be helpful for restoring the health of the sick poor. But possibly it was also believed that the water itself caused sickness.
This was quite possible in an age when malaria and cholera were still common diseases in this area.
In this time, the painter Rembrandt liked to stroll through this area and he made several sketches of it, so we have a good idea of what it looked like, even today. Rembrandt's work shows a quiet, picturesque area with the developing city in the background.
The local people were traditionally known for having a mind of their own. In the eighteenth century the dockland areas now known as the Eastern Islands had seen many struggles between royalists and republicans (so-called patriots). The royalists, knows as ‘the axes’ were violently subdued on a day still remembered as the ‘day of the axes’. Somewhat later the Dutch republic changed to a monarchy.
During the time of French government at the end of the eighteenth century, part of the dockland area was used by the Napoleonic army for housing and exercise purposes. Some former barracks are situated south of the dockland area, now housing apartments and offices.
In the nineteenth century, the seventeenth century docks built on the neighboring Eastern Islands had become too small for the demands of the time and they were gradually expanded to the Eastern Docklands.
The main part of the Eastern Docklands was built in the early twentieth century. During several decades around the turn of the century new islands were made in the wetlands.
The traditional sailing ships were gradually replaced by twentieth century steam ships and the dockyards and warehouses changed according to the new demands.
Trade mainly took place with the former East-Indies (mainly Indonesia) and West-Indies (mainly Central America) and the Levant (Near East).
Some of the new islands were named after islands in the East-Indies, for example Java or Borneo.
The warehouses in the western part of the Eastern Docklands were named after the continents. They were each used for storage of different kinds of goods.
The dockworkers were specialized in handling certain products. They were organized in a kind of guild system, often named after the colour of their hats. Only the blue hat guild (Blauwhoed) still exists. This organization is not a guild corporation any more; it has become a regular business. It built the shopping center Brazilie in a renovated warehouse.
Overseas passenger traffic also took place from this area. People travelled between Amsterdam and the former colonies; and emigrants arriving by train from Central and Eastern Europe left for North and South America. Sometimes they had to wait for days for their connecting ship, staying in the Lloyd hotel.
Some officers or middle management of the shipping companies were housed in the docklands. Their houses are still there.
The housing quarters of the dockworkers, railroad workers and sailors were next to the docks.
At the end of the nineteenth century, living conditions were very poor. They were gradually improved during the twentieth century. The Eastern Docklands had been a centre of social struggle for improvement of working and living conditions.
Many strikes took place during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Probably the best-known strike in Dutch history was the railroad strike of 1903, taking place in this dockland area. The strike was ended by military force, but it became a symbol for the socialist movement, becoming an influential political movement during the twentieth century.
In the hunger winter of 1917, during the First World War, the potato riots took place in this area. Many hungry people stopped the potato trains and distributed the food amongst themselves. The riots were stopped by military force and contributed to the communist movement becoming quite strong in the traditional dockworkers quarters.
Some of the first new housing projects and sanitation projects to improve the lives of the poor took shape in this area. New houses with big windows and running water were built; fairly paternalistic socialization projects for the unsocial poor were started.
In World War II, the Lloyd hotel for overseas emigrants was taken over by the Nazis and it became a torture prison for resistance fighters. Partly because of this and partly for more traditional reasons, the February strike against the Nazi occupation got a lot of support in the dockland area.
After the Second World War the Lloyd hotel was changed into a prison for Nazis and shortly afterwards it became a youth prison. It remained so until the 1970s, when social sensibilities could not tolerate this practice any longer. The Lloyd hotel was taken over by squatters, mainly artists, who have lived and worked there until the year 2000.
In the 1970s, the docklands were abandoned by the shipping companies. The area had become too small for their needs and they left for new docks on the west side of the town. The area was now taken over by squatters, city nomads and houseboat dwellers. Thousands of them created a large alternative community in the docklands.
Most of the squatters left in the 1980s, when redevelopment of the area started, but many artists and houseboat dwellers have remained. The time of the squatters community is recalled in some books, films and local restaurants. It has definitely influenced the present atmosphere in the Eastern Docklands.
After many years of planning and discussion, the municipality started redeveloping the Eastern Docklands. This great project is now nearly finished and a new living area is acquiring its own shape, style and atmosphere.
Many things have changed and some things have stayed the same. A minor, but symbolically important local struggle took place at the start of the twentyfirst century, when one of the hundred-year-old trees in the area was cut down. This tree, a poplar tree, was one of a group commonly known as the Seven Sisters. Lots of potted plants were put out everywhere by the people living in the neighborhood.
The millennium green uproar faded out after one of the local politicians was replaced and hundreds of young poplar trees were planted in the area. The event is remembered as a fitting conclusion of the twentieth-century history of the Eastern Docklands.
Low Countries Geography
Amsterdam was chartered c.1300 and in 1369 joined the Hanseatic League . Having accepted the Reformation, the people in 1578 expelled the pro-Spanish magistrates and joined the independence-oriented Netherland provinces. The commercial decline of Antwerp and Ghent and a large influx of refugees from many nations (in particular of Flemish merchants, Jewish diamond cutters and merchants, and French Huguenots), contributed to the rapid growth of Amsterdam after the late 16th cent. The Peace of Westphalia (1648), by closing the Scheldt (Escaut) to navigation, further stimulated the city's growth at the expense of the Spanish Netherlands. Amsterdam reached its apex as an intellectual and artistic center in the 17th cent., when, because of its tolerant government, it became a center of liberal thought and book printing. The city was captured by the French in 1795 and became the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which was ruled by Louis Bonaparte . The constitution of 1814 made it the capital of the Netherlands; the sovereigns are usually sworn in at Amsterdam and reside in a palace outside the city. However, The Hague is the seat of government. During World War II Amsterdam was occupied by German troops (1940-45) and suffered severe hardship. Most of the city's Jews (c.75,000 in 1940) were deported and killed by the Germans. Since the 1960s Amsterdam has become known for political and social activism.