A Brief history of Amsterdam

By G. Zaragosa

Two Frisian fishermen were fishing off the coast but had caught little. They decided to land their boat and cook up the few fish they had caught. Their dog ‘hond’, she had no other name, was tired and hungry and ready for some food. They rowed up the Amstel River a short way and landed on the bank. There they founded a small village that eventually became Amsterdam (from the Dutch; Amstelredam, Dam in the Amstel). It was about the year 1100. It would be 200 years yet before Amsterdam got its city charter and many more centuries before The Netherlands became a Republic, the earliest in Europe.

The Holy Roman Empire, The Hapsburg Empire and finally the Spanish Empire owned the Netherlands. After the Dutch revolted and gained their independence they tried to find a leader, a king or queen that would rule them, for they knew of no other way to govern. After many failures with various rulers, The Netherlands was offered to Henry III of France to rule them but he refused. Then they asked Queen Elizabeth I and she refused.  

Finally, in 1588 not finding a satisfactory leader, the seven provinces declared themselves a Republic. While dictators and tyrants ruled the rest of Europe, citizens ruled Holland, a democracy before democracy was even a word.

Holland being a trading country had no great natural recourses to use as a power base for kings or other tyrants. The wealth of this nation was in their skills and knowledge. The Dutch understood the value of the Florin and became some of the best merchants and businesspeople in the world. Amsterdam shops still carry all kinds of things from all over the world.

To this day Holland is a most welcoming place for the visitor. The Dutch understand that we live in a world together as well as in separate countries. Occasionally a country gets some of it right. Enjoy your stay in my favorite city on earth. G. Zaragosa