Amsterdam and the road to ‘The Third Golden Age’

Last year our former mayor Eberhard van der Laan stated that Amsterdam had entered its ‘Third Golden Age’. He referred to two earlier prosperous and successful periods. Of course he was right: economically things couldn’t be better, the city is clean and safe – and beautiful! Amsterdam now is a magnet unlike any other Dutch city; even though the cost of living goes up every month, we attract people from all over the country and many expatriates come to live here too. And we get a whole lot of tourists.

The rapid changes in the here and now have a lot to do with the past of this great port city. To get a thorough understanding of the developments that lead up to that ‘Third Golden Age’, our AVGO in collaboration with the City Archives offer an exciting overview of Amsterdam’s history. In ten lectures historian Dionijs de Hoog covers the ten most important years in our past – the ten years that matter. These are the years that have made Amsterdam what it is today: the most dynamic city in the Netherlands.

During this course we will cover:

Lecture 1:

Friday March 9th, 2018

1275 – The Toll privilege

In the first lecture we start with the toll privilege. With this document, the history of Amsterdam officially begins. We discuss why the moment the city was provided with town privileges has not been chosen as the starting point for the existence of Amsterdam. We will also discuss soil conditions in the Netherlands and the importance of peat rivers for transport. The course of the Amstel river is discussed and the construction of the Dam. We look at the origins of the medieval city and the role that Floris V plays, not to mention the Bishop of Utrecht, Guy of Avesnes, who gives the city its ‘real’ town privileges.

Lecture 2:

Friday March 16th, 2018

1345 – The Miracle

In the second lecture we look at Amsterdam as a religious city. Amsterdam wants to play a prominent role as a distinctly Christian city, and that ambition is fulfilled when a miracle occurs. The medieval town center is crammed with monasteries and the only parish church we have dedicated to the patron saint Saint Nicholas no longer suffices. A new church is built that will compete with the old one. Pilgrims from all over Europe come to Amsterdam – which is also good for trade. The Silent Procession is also discussed and the Beguinage with its Beguinage chapel as the center of devotion.

Lecture 3:

Friday March 23rd, 2018

1578 – The Alteration; a merchant city makes a wise decision

In the third lecture we will discuss the role of Amsterdam during the Eighty Years’ War. Although there was not much enthusiasm in our city to convert to Protestantism, there was a very good reason to do so anyway – it was a business matter. Competing cities in Holland did resort to Protestantism and were gaining advantages over Amsterdam because of their new loyalty. In order not to fall behind, a velvet revolution took place on 26 May 1578: the Catholic city government was deposed.

Lecture 4:

Friday March 30th, 2018

1662 – The Canal Belt and the Golden Age

During the fourth lecture we will discuss the construction of the Canal Belt during the Golden Age. Since 1525, the population of the cities in Holland had been growing steadily and trade was doing well in Amsterdam. This combination led to the development of a grand plan for the expansion of Amsterdam at the end of the sixteenth century, and in 1613 the construction of the Canal Belt began. The design was a thoughtful combination of beauty and economic functionality. Not long after the Canal Belt had been completed, the number of inhabitants in Amsterdam reached a climax. The economic miracle that was taking place here not only attracted Dutch people to the city, but also laborers from all over Europe. Out of a total of some 850,000 residents in the northern Netherlands, approximately 200,000 lived in Amsterdam in 1675.

The City Archives has beautifully visualized the construction of the canal belt during the Golden Age. Watch their three-dimensional explanation here.

Lecture 5:

Friday April 6th, 2018

1808 – City Hall and Palace; symbol of power

During the Golden Age, the Peace of Münster was signed in 1648. That peace brought an end to what later would be named the Eighty Years’ War. A mood of euphoria brought about the construction of a new and special city hall on the Dam square. In the fifth lecture we look at how the city hall becomes the pride of a city state that rules the world. When a century and a half later with the climax of the Enlightenment the French invade the Netherlands, they also see the importance of Amsterdam. The Hague initially remains the most important administrative center, but that changes when our republic becomes a kingdom in 1806 – the Kingdom of Holland. Although the new king Louis Napoleon initially took up residence in The Hague, he decided to move to Amsterdam in 1808. He made the city hall his new residence and that city hall would now become his and also our Palace –  and Amsterdam would become the capital of our new and enlightened nation-state.

Lecture 6:

Friday April 13th, 2018

1864 – The Palace of Popular Diligence and the Second Golden Age

The industrialization in the Netherlands between 1800 and 1900 results in such an impressive improvement for the capital, that there is talk of a ‘Second Golden Age’. In this sixth lecture, we look at how the gold of that ‘Second Golden Age’ becomes visible with the construction of the Palace of Popular Diligence (het Paleis voor Volksvlijt). This exceptionally large and beautiful building was the brainchild of the man who devoted his life to the elevation of the lower social classes. For that man, Samuel Sarphati, that meant better education, better housing, better care and better nutrition. The latter he realized by setting up a bread factory that could supply bread for 30% below the normal price. Sarphati believed in industry – there it was that the key to the uplifting of the Amsterdam people was to be found. In this lecture the significance of the Netherlands Trading Society (de Nederlandse Handelsmaatschappij) is discussed and the role that society played in the industrialization of the Netherlands. Of course we will also discuss in detail the moving of the head office of that company to Amsterdam in the year 1858 and the majestic new office of the trading society that was built in 1924 on the Vijzelstraat. Today, it shelters the City Archives.

The developments during the ‘Second Golden Age’ were also visualized by the City Archives. Watch their three-dimensional explanation here.

Lecture 7:

Friday April 20th, 2018

1941 – The February strike

The most traumatic period in Dutch history started on 10 May 1940 with the Second World War. Especially in Amsterdam, that period yields a black page in the history of the city. During the seventh lecture, we look at the act of resistance that no one ever forgets: the February strike. Nowhere in occupied Europe has such a large and open form of resistance to the Nazi regime occurred. This act has made the memory of the war somewhat tolerable afterwards. From there we assess the war in Amsterdam and what follows: a very quick reconstruction with the aid of the Marshall plan. The economic miracle of Schiphol plays an important role in all this.

The City Archives has also visualized the growth of Schiphol Airport in a beautiful and comprehensive way. Watch their three-dimensional explanation here.

Lecture 8:

Friday May 11th, 2018

1965 – Counterculture I: Provo

With the loss of the last part of the Dutch East Indies in 1962, namely the moment we lose Netherlands New Guinea, the Netherlands is completely thrown back onto itself. The eighth lecture is about how the Netherlands turns from a world power with provincial proportions into a tiny province in a globalizing world. During this turnaround, a new generation arose that opposed the mores of the previous generation that had been conservative and devoted to ‘Our East Indies’. Armed with unlocked knowledge of what had actually happened during the war, that generation blows up the culture of the conservative Netherlands with protest and provocation. To this very day, a small group of Amsterdammers represents the counterculture of that time. They were perfectly in touch with the spirit of the times – their name was ‘Provo’.

Lecture 9:

Friday May 18th, 2018

1975 – Counterculture II: Nieuwmarkt riots

In the ninth lecture we see how the same generation ten years later stands up against the ideals of ‘city-formation’, which go all the way back to the fifties. In Amsterdam these ideas reach a saddening nadir with the plans of American traffic expert David Jokinen. The last straw that breaks the camel’s back is the construction of the metro lines; these require the demolition of a number of well-habitable properties in the Nieuwmarkt neighborhood. Nieuwmarkt residents and sympathetic Amsterdammers defend the buildings against brutal police force. They lose the battle, but win the war: after the Nieuwmarkt riots and the demolition of the buildings that were defended, the city council ends all further initiatives for the construction of new metro lines and the integrity of Amsterdam’s city center is respected.

Lecture 10:

Friday May 25th, 2018

2018 – Migration, tourism and the Third Golden Age

In the tenth and final lecture we look at how a little more than a decade later Amsterdam’s city council changes their earlier position completely and decides to construct a new metro line. It is constructed with utter respect for the integrity of the inner city. It is needed because Amsterdam continues to grow. Approximately 15,000 new inhabitants enter the city every year; last year we got 38,000 new inhabitants! These are immigrants from Western and non-Western countries who come here for political reasons, but also for economic reasons. When they are rich, we no longer call them migrants, but instead we call them ‘expats’ – Amsterdam also has a lot to offer for that group. They come to Amsterdam to work, but also because it is good here. So good, that our previous mayor Eberhard van der Laan said that a ‘Third Golden Age’ had commenced. Because you can go out here and because there is a lot of ‘Culture’ with a capital ‘C’. For this reason, more and more tourists are coming to Amsterdam as well. The idyllic old inner city has almost no equal and is exceptionally well preserved. Oh yes – and that has a lot to do with the resistance to demolition plans for the construction of a metro line.


This course consists of ten lectures, that are given on Fridays from 10 o’clock in the morning until 12:30 in the afternoon at the Amsterdam City Archives (het Stadsarchief) at Vijzelstraat 32. The course starts on Friday March 9th, 2018 and ends on Friday May 25th, 2018. Due to the May holiday there will be no lecture on Friday April 27th and on Friday May 4th.

Price: € 243,00

With this lecture series you will receive a free digital syllabus afterwards.


You can book this course here.