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The largest city in Netherlands which also serves as the capital is located in the Northern part of the country. The city with an array of historical riches and a peculiar way of coming into existence has become one of the most important ports in the world. The city which also doubles up as a financial and capital center for the Netherlands was originally a dam. The city has a variety of rich attractions which further propels it into significance as an important destination both in Europe and the world as well. The strategic location of this great city has earned it the title of a "special place in the Netherlands". The carefully and magnificently planned out city has through the years been an envy of many cities in Europe. By the 17th century the city had reached exceptional heights as a force to be reckoned with in the world economy. The city still continues to be a major player in the world economy and is nowadays extensively recognized for its "tolerant character" (Roegholt, 2006).
The history of Amsterdam spans to a period in the 12th century although some chroniclers seem to suggest that the date could have been much older dating to the 10th century. However, it has been established that the real historical significance of Amsterdam was actually at the end of the 12th century. The city is believed to have been formed out of a fishing village in the 13th century and was later developed from the vast Amstel River where the name Amsterdam is believed to have been coined from. It was in the year 1275 that the city would change all its fortunes and rise to the lime light. Count Floris V. exempted the residents of the area from paying tax after they had built a bridge and this allowed them to flourish in business activities such as trade and fishing (Wijk and Carmiggelt, 1958).
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The residents who had built a dam across the river Amstel also coined up the name Aemstelledamme which had developed to Aemsterdam by the 1327. The name latter evolved to Amsterdam which was considered as a latecomer as compared to other older cities in Netherlands such as Rotterdam, Nijimegen and Utretch. The inhabitants of this area had built this bridge with the aim of combating floods from the southern sea (Zuider Zee). Although the Zuider Zee still remained the same stretch of seething sea, its forces had been sealed off by a civil Engineer by the name of Leeghwater. There however seems to be evidence that the "reclamation of land" in Amsterdam may have had its roots as early as the 15th century. However, this reclamation may have had the main gist of producing peat which is used as fuel. A painting depicting the land by a famous artist by the name of Grachtebgordel in 1544 illustrates this land (Wijk and Carmiggelt, 1958).
By the year 1300, Amsterdam had been acknowledged as a city and with this came the rise of a city that would flourish to great heights. Its prosperity was mainly driven by the trade that existed between it and the Hanseatic League which was an alliance of like minded economic trading cities that had established a trading monopoly along the Northern Europe coastline. This great city was propelled into regional significance especially after the so called "Eucharistic miracle" in which a woman noticed the "Blessed Sacrament" in a rake of fire (Steven, 2009).This made the city a sort of pilgrimage up to the time the city adopted a Protestant bearing from its Catholic roots. The Dutch rebellion against the Spanish which spiraled into the infamous Eighty Year War led to the independence of the Dutch. The resultant independent Dutch, became renowned for their religious tolerance in which an exodus of religious refugees who were economically empowered found Amsterdam as their safe haven. This had the apparent effect of raising Amsterdam into a supreme force in the economic world.
The "golden age" of Amsterdam was in the 17th century when this great city earned itself the bragging rights for being the wealthiest city (Schama, 1988). Its strategic location and favorable environment ensured that trade flourished with ease. Ships would sail from most corners of the earth and converge at Amsterdam and thus it was this trading network that worked in favor of Amsterdam in establishing itself as an economic hub to be reckoned with. Its prominence had risen to such great heights that by 1602 it had developed a trading mechanism by which the Dutch East India Company which was owned by wealthy Dutch merchants, became the first stock exchange center after it traded some of its own shares. This would set precedence for the rest of the world to adapt. Although Amsterdam lost a significant part of its population through plague, it recovered well mainly thanks to immigration and the potential that many had of it.
However, in the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, its prominence had been declining and this was mainly attributed to the wars that reigned during that period especially against England and the Republic of France. These wars had the effect of reverberating across the economic arena of Amsterdam its negative aspects. The toll had taken Amsterdam to its lowest point during the Napoleonic wars after the French Empire led by Emperor Napoleon took over and absorbed Holland. It was not until the formation of Netherlands that Amsterdam started to reconstruct slowly and this made a turning point for both the present and future of Amsterdam. The stage for the rebirth of Amsterdam had been set and what can be considered the second golden age had the perfect time to prosper.
The end of the 19th century came with it an array of technological advancements that had the effect of putting Amsterdam into a path of prosperity and also gave this great city a chance to regain its lost glory. The building of a train station, museums and the Concergebouw marked a transition from a period of sleep to a grand awakening for this city. It was in this century that the industrial revolution was taking shape in Europe and it managed to be felt in the city where it thrived to thrust Amsterdam into the path of industrial revolution. It was this boost of industrial revolution that the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was built as a shortcut to the North Sea. The canal was dug so as to connect Amsterdam port to the Rhine which is a major shipping artery of the North Sea. The canal generally follows the south eastern route passing through the cities of Utrecht and Wijk bij Duurstede where it bisects Lek branch then it follows the path to the extensive Waal River. This projects that were carried out during this time added to the magnificence of this great city and had the role of defining its prosperous future that it enjoys today (Steven, 2009).
The establishments of these projects generally opened up Amsterdam and thus the trade and commerce industries were the most focal beneficiaries. The strategic location of Amsterdam also had a positive influence in ensuring that these projects fulfilled their intended purposes. The short term effect of these projects was the springing up of suburbs. The First World War however decelerated Amsterdam's efforts in realizing its full potential as an economic power house in the region. Although Amsterdam took a neutral stand point in this war it still had to suffer the consequences with the reduction in fuel throwing the once vibrant city into a spin. Food shortages also bit the population and with this the infamous riots tagged the "Potato Rebellion" took place. Businesses in Amsterdam suffered the blunt of this pinch especially when people turned to looting of stores and warehouses to get food.
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The 2nd World War also had some negative attributes attached to it and this further had the effect of derailing Amsterdam's efforts of rejuvenating itself in all aspects both economically as well as socially. However, after the war, various suburbs started springing up with Slotervaart, Osdorp, Guexznveld and Slotermeer among other leading the pack. Most of these suburbs were characterized by an assortment of parks which have characteristic wide open spaces. The damage that the war left behind prompted the concerned authorities to redesign the whole city and also the fact that many residents in the city had better living standards, and then the need to redesign the system became necessary. Large scale upgrading of the city took place with the authorities demolishing most structures and expanding some. Roads and super highways were built in order to satisfy the increasing demand as most inhabitants obtained automobiles.
Although Amsterdam ahs undergone major restorations and innovations in the recent past, the city still retains its vintage buildings which have now become a protected part of the city. Amsterdam's pride is clearly reminiscent in the structures and this has made it one of the major tourist destinations in the vast continent of Europe. Most of the buildings in Amsterdam have earned protection status and UNESCO has given them the cherished titles of World Heritage Sites. Some of the buildings that have earned this title include Prinsengracht, keizersgracht and herengracht. Amsterdam which also doubles as the capital city is extremely urbanized with a variety of nature reserves and a number of scenic parks which take up a considerable amount of Amsterdam's dry land. The city is characterized by a cool oceanic climate which is attributed to its closeness with the North Sea.
Amsterdam's architectural history is one that spans over a number of decades. One of its highly regarded architectural masterpieces is the Oude Kerk which is also known as the Old Church in English. The church which dates back t0 1306 is at the center of Wallen. Another piece of architectural brilliance in the city is the Royal Palace that is located at Dam Square. The French influence in the fashionable vintage buildings is still evident with these structures. Amsterdam is administered in 15 boroughs with Centum being the central one. The city is governed by the mayor and unlike other Dutch cities; it is further subdivided into seven boroughs in order to improve local governance. Amsterdam is one of the most treasured cities in Europe and its stance as a tourist hub makes it the even more fascinating. One cannot help but marvel at the thought that it was reclaimed out of water. The presence of some of the worlds most distinctive and masterpiece buildings also proves that Amsterdam is a city that has a lot to offer not just as an economic powerhouse but also as an attraction in its own right.