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The city of Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, though it is not the seat of government, as mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands. It began as a fishing village on the River Amstel in the thirteenth century.

In 1275, the people of Amsterdam received freedom of toll from Floris V, Count of Holland, meaning the fishermen, traders, and sailors of Amsterdam were exempted from paying the bridge toll in his territory, the County of Holland. The document which granted this exemption is the oldest recorded mention of the name Amsterdam (Aemstelredamm). This designation was an economic boon to Amsterdam, given that it allowed them to sell and ship goods at competitive prices.

In 1296, during a botched plot to kidnap Floris and take him to France, Gerard van Velsen stabbed Floris 20 times, killing him. Gerard was captured and brought back to Leiden for trial. For three days, he was tortured, and on the fourth day, he was quartered.

In 1306, the Bishop of Utrecht gave Amsterdam city rights, and in 1323, Amsterdam was designated a port for beer coming from Hamburg. The Miracle of Amsterdam, which led to even more commerce and people traveling through the city on pilgrimages, happened in March of 1345. According to tradition, a man who lived on Kalverstraat lay dying in his home. A priest was called to administer last rites, a ritual which included communion, or receiving the Holy Eucharist. He received the host and became very sick. He vomited, and everything that came up, including the host, was thrown into a fire, as was the custom.

The next morning, the woman who cared for the man found that the host was floating slightly above the flames, entirely unaffected by being in the fire. It was put into a box and taken by a priest to the church, though tradition says that twice the host disappeared and reappeared at the man's house. When word got out about this miracle Amsterdam became part of the Miracle Procession, and pilgrims flock there every year during Lent. A church, the Chapel of the Beguines, was erected on the site of the man's house in 1347. In 1578, the procession was made illegal due to the Reformation. But the pilgrimages continued anyway, walking silently to the place where the miracle happened.

The city joined the Hanseatic League in 1358, which helped the city's rise to one of the top trading center in northern Europe. In 1421, a huge fire tore through Amsterdam and in 1452, another fire broke out, destroying more than three-quarters of the city. Emperor Charles decreed that all houses from then on would be built using stone rather than wood.

The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, and an Anabaptist, or Mennonite, community grew in the city, but tensions about the changes grew throughout the Netherlands. In 1534, the Anabaptists in Munster tried to seized city hall, causing Emperor Charles V to command a persecution of all Anabaptists. In the next two years, Amsterdam authorities executed 71 Mennonites and exiled numerous others. The executions continued in Amsterdam until the 1550s.

The Dutch Revolt (1568-1648) was a revolt of protestant provinces of the low countries against the reign of King Philip II, the Roman Catholic Habsburg ruler of Spain. The northern provinces, including the Netherlands, split from the south.

Amsterdam's Golden Age began around 1585 and marks the high point commercial success for Amsterdam. Money was pouring in and buildings were going up. The buildings that were erected between 1613 and 1663 still make up the skyline of Amsterdam. In 1663 and 1664, the bubonic plague found its way to Amsterdam, likely via the trading ships from Algiers. More 50,000 people died in Amsterdam of the plague. Today, historians believe the Great Plague of London of 1665-1666 began in Amsterdam and was brought to England by Dutch trading whips which carried cotton.By the end of the 17th century, the population had risen to 200,000. So many immigrants poured into the tolerant city of Amsterdam that during much of the 17th and 18th centuries, immigrants were the majority. Many were fleeing religious persecution, as the French Huguenots, the German Lutheran Protestants, and the Portuguese and Spanish Jews who moved to Amsterdam.

Today, Amsterdam is known for its tolerance, despite some problems i the 20th century, as well as its bustling, thriving commerce with approximately 820,000 people living there.



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