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, city, Netherlands

Amsterdam (ămˈstərdămˌ, Dutch ämstərdämˈ), city (2021 pop. 1,157,519), constitutional capital and largest city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, North Holland prov., W Netherlands, on the IJ, an inlet of the Markermeer. The city derives its name from the fact that it is situated where the small, bifurcated Amstel River (which empties into the IJ) is joined by a sluice dam (originally built c.1240).

The city is cut by about 40 concentric and radial canals that are flanked by streets and crossed by 400 bridges. The canals give the city its nickname, “Venice of the North.” Because of the underlying soft ground, Amsterdam is built on wooden and concrete piles. The many old and picturesque houses along the canals, once patrician dwellings, are now mostly offices and warehouses. The main streets of Amsterdam are the Dam, on which stand the Nieuwe Kerk (15th–17th cent.) and the 17th-century Dam Palace (formerly the city hall, since 1808 a royal palace); the Damrak, with the stock exchange (completed 1903); and the Kalverstraat and Leidenschestraat, which are the chief shopping centers. Notable buildings are the Oude Kerk [old church], built in 1334; the weighhouse (15th cent.); the city hall (16th cent.); and the Beguinage (Dutch Begijnenhof), or almshouses, of the 17th cent. An ethnically diverse city, Amsterdam has many new residents from former Dutch colonies, including Indonesia and Suriname. Bordering the city is the Amsterdam Forest (Dutch Amsterdamse Bos), an enormous urban park created largely in the 1930s on reclaimed land.


A major port, Amsterdam is also the seat of one of the world's chief stock exchanges, a center of the diamond-cutting industry, and one of the great commercial, intellectual, and artistic capitals of Europe. Its manufactures include clothing, printed materials, and metal goods. Amsterdam is connected with the North Sea by the North Sea Canal (opened in 1876), which can accommodate large oceangoing vessels, and by the older North Holland Canal (opened 1824). The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal connects the city with the Rhine delta and thus with industrial NW Germany, with which there is considerable transit trade. Amsterdam is a major road and rail hub and is served by nearby Schiphol airport. Tourism is an important industry.

Cultural Institutions

Rembrandt and the other Dutch masters are best represented in the world famous Rijksmuseum, or National Museum, founded in 1808 by Bonaparte. Among the many other notable museums are the municipal museum, the Van Gogh museum, the Stedelijk Museum with an outstanding collection of contemporary art, the National Maritime Museum, the Hermitage (an extension of the St. Petersburg, Russia, museum), the house of Anne Frank, and Rembrandt's house. Amsterdam is also famous for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Univ. of Amsterdam, which was founded as an academy in 1632 and achieved university status in 1876, is the largest center of learning in the Netherlands. The Free Univ. (1880; Calvinist) also is there. The city's large modern library is the Centrale Bibliotheek (2007).


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.


See R. Kistemaker and R. Van Gelder, Amsterdam (1983).


, city, United States
Amsterdam, city (2020 pop. 18,219), Montgomery co., E central N.Y., on the Mohawk River; inc. 1885. Historically famous for the manufacture of carpets, its manufactures now include machinery, apparel, leather goods, furniture, transporation equipment, and consumer goods. The area was settled in 1783 and was named Amsterdam because of the many early Dutch settlers. Nearby stands Fort Johnson, home of the British colonial leader Sir William Johnson.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(originally Amstelredam—a dam on the Amstel River), the capital of the Netherlands, an important economic center, the most populous city in the country, and a prominent seaport. Population in 1967: city, 866,400; with suburbs, more than 1 million. At the beginning of the 18th century the population was 100,000; in 1920, 642,000; in 1946, 769,000; and in 1958, 872,000.

The city is governed by a municipal council, elected by the populace to a four-year term; it is headed by a burgomaster, appointed by the king for six years, and from two to seven aldermen (wethoubers), appointed by the council from among its members. The burgomaster acts as the chief of police in questions of maintaining social order.

Amsterdam, in the delta of the Amstel River, occupies an advantageous geographical position for transport; at the IJsselmeer Bay it is connected by two canals to the North Sea. It can accept oceangoing ships along the North Sea Canal. Amsterdam is second only to Rotterdam in freight turnover for the country: 17.9 million tons in 1968. Amsterdam has canal, railroad and highway connections with The Hague, Rotterdam, and other cities of the Netherlands; the Federal Republic of Germany is across the Rhine. The international Schiphol Airport, which serves up to 8 million passengers per year, is located in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam provides one-tenth of the national income of the country. It is one of the most prominent finance and trade centers in the world; up to 39 percent of the banking and endorsement operations of the country take place there as well as up to 15 percent of the retail and wholesale trade. The Bank of the Netherlands, the stock exchange, the boards of directors of the most important commercial banks—the Algemene Bank Nederland, the Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank—and other boards of directors for many industrial and shipping companies and the commercial exchange are located in Amsterdam.

Heavy and electrical engineering enterprises, located in Amsterdam and its suburbs account for one-third of the city’s industrial workers; aircraft construction, the production of computers, and machine construction, including shipbuilding, are especially developed; chemical manufacture—acids, fertilizers, lacquers, and dyes—wood processing, and oil refining—4 million tons annually—are important. The service industries are widely represented in Amsterdam. The Kleding Center, which concentrates approximately one-half of the turnover of the clothing industry in the country, has been in Amsterdam since 1968. The food industry, traditionally connected with the use of imported raw and semifinished materials—processing cocoa, coffee, tobacco, and coconut oil as well as local and imported sugar beets, potatoes, and grains—is well represented in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has also long been known as an important diamond cutting and trading center.

During the postwar period in Amsterdam the number of employees in services increased to 60 percent in 1968; there has also been a 15 percent decrease in industrial employees from 1960 to 1968.

The old center of Amsterdam is the dike region on the Amstel River, now called Dam Square; located there is the royal palace, formerly the town hall, built in 1648–55 by architect J. Van Kempen in the Dutch classic style. From 1610 to 1662 semicircular and radial canals were dug; Amsterdam has a total of some 50 canals and 500 bridges. Private houses and warehouses with narrow façades, patrician homes, hospitals, asylums, and buildings of 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century guilds and companies stand on the tree-lined quays of the old city. There are also city gates and towers of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries; gothic churches—Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk, built in the 15th and 16th centuries; and classic churches—Zuiderkerk, Westererk, and Nordekerk, built in the first third of the 17th century by architect H. de Keyser. In the 19th century P. J. H. Cuypers built the State Museum (1877–85) and the Central railroad station (1881–89) in the spirit of Dutch gothic. The building of the Stock Exchange (1897–1903, architect H. T. Berlage) laid the foundation for the new development of Amsterdam, which grew to the south (planned in 1902—17 by Berlage in the national romantic spirit, and by M. de Klerk and others), west, north, and northeast and southeast (according to architect K. van Esteren’s functionalist plans of 1935). There are many prominent 20th-century buildings by Dutch architects J. M. van der Mey, K. P. C. de Bazel, J. F. Staal, W. M. Dudok, and others. The State Museum, the Municipal Museum, which houses 19th- and 20th-century art, and the home of Rembrandt are among Amsterdam’s museums.

Amsterdam, initially a small fishing village, is first mentioned in 1275. In 1300 or 1301 it received town rights. By the 16th-century Netherlands bourgeois revolution, it occupied the leading position among the trading towns of the Northern provinces. Even though it joined the revolution only in 1578, Amsterdam gained most by it. In the 17th century during an economic upsurge in Holland, it became a trade and credit center of worldwide significance; this was made possible by the decline of Amsterdam’s major trade rival—Antwerp. Soon after the creation of the Stock Exchange in the 16th century, an exchange bank was founded in 1609. Amsterdam was the capital of the Batavian republic from 1795 until 1806 and then of the kingdom of Holland. A new economic upsurge, which began in mid-19th century after the temporary decline during the 18th and early 19th centuries, was connected with the development of capitalist industry, banking, and colonial trade. Amsterdam, the most powerful center of the workers’ movement in the country, played a leading role in the general strike of 1903 and in the February 1941 strike against the German fascist occupiers; it was occupied by the German fascist forces from May 1940 until May 1945.


Baasch, E. Istoriia ekonomicheskogo razvitiia Gollandii XVl–XVlll vv. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from German.)
Brugmans, H. Geschiedenis van Amsterdam, vols. 1–8. Amsterdam, 1930.
D’Ailly, A. E. [ed.] Zeven eeuwen Amsterdam, vols. 1–6. Amsterdam, 1942–51.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the commercial capital of the Netherlands, a major industrial centre and port on the IJsselmeer, connected with the North Sea by canal: built on about 100 islands within a network of canals. Pop.: 737 000 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005