Amsterdam: Cosmopolitan city

After 1600, Amsterdam undergoes rapid economic development. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC) are established. The VOC controls trade in the Indian Ocean, often using brute force to establish trading posts. The WIC engages in privateering and slave trade. Enslaved Africans are forced to work on plantations in Brazil and Surinam under wretched conditions.

Relative religious freedom, security and legal certainty turns Amsterdam into a financial and cultural centre that attracts immigrants. They include religious refugees, such as Protestants from Flanders and Jews from Spain and Portugal, as well as Germans in search of adventure, who often work for the VOC.

All of them bring their own traditions and expertise, thereby contributing to the city’s cosmopolitan culture. The theatre and book trade occupy a central place in all of this. More books are published in Amsterdam than anywhere else in Europe.