Antwerp (English: /ˈæntwɜrp/ ( listen); Dutch: Antwerpen, [ˈɑntˌʋɛrpə(n)] ( listen); French: Anvers, [ɑ̃vɛʁs]]) is a city and municipality in Belgium and the capital of the Antwerp province in Flanders, one of Belgium's three regions.
After the silting up of the Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, then part of the Duchy of Brabant, became of importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp, and the building assigned to the English nation is specifically mentioned in 1510.
Fernand Braudel states that Antwerp became "the center of the entire international economy, something Bruges had never been even at its height." Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time. Antwerp's golden age is tightly linked to the "Age of Exploration". Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. Francesco Guicciardini, the Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2,000 carts entered the city each week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo. According to Luc-Normand Tellier "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas."
Without a long-distance merchant fleet, and governed by an oligarchy of banker-aristocrats forbidden to engage in trade, the economy of Antwerp was foreigner-controlled, which made the city very cosmopolitan, with merchants and traders from Venice, Ragusa, Spain and Portugal. Antwerp had a policy of toleration, which attracted a large orthodox Jewish community. Antwerp was not a "free" city though, since it had been reabsorbed into the Duchy of Brabant in 1406 and was controlled from Brussels.
Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age: The first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559, based on the textiles industry. At the beginning of the 16th century Antwerp accounted for 40% of world trade. The boom-and-bust cycles and inflationary cost-of-living squeezed less-skilled workers.
The religious revolution of the Reformation erupted in violent riots in August 1566, as in other parts of the Low Countries. The regent Margaret, Duchess of Parma, was swept aside when Philip II sent the Duke of Alba at the head of an army the following summer. When the Eighty Years' War broke out in 1572, commercial trading between Antwerp and the Spanish port of Bilbao collapsed and became impossible. On 4 November 1576, Spanish soldiers plundered the city. During the Spanish Fury 6,000 citizens were massacred, 800 houses were burnt down, and over 2 million sterling of damage was done.
Antwerp became the capital of the Dutch revolt. In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and as part of the terms of surrender its Protestant citizens were given two years to settle their affairs before quitting the city. Most went to the United Provinces in the north, starting the Dutch Golden Age. Antwerp's banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa, and Amsterdam became the new trading centre.
|Map of Antwerp, its buildings |
and the march. (1624)
The recognition of the independence of the United Provinces by the Treaty of Münster in 1648 stipulated that the Scheldt should be closed to navigation, which destroyed Antwerp's trading activities. This impediment remained in force until 1863, although the provisions were relaxed during French rule from 1795 to 1814, and also during the time Belgium formed part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands (1815 to 1830). Antwerp had reached the lowest point of its fortunes in 1800, and its population had sunk under 40,000, when Napoleon, realizing its strategic importance, assigned two million[clarification needed] to enlarge the harbor by constructing two docks and a mole and deepening the Scheldt to allow for larger ships to approach Antwerp. Napoleon hoped that by making Antwerp's harbor the finest in Europe he would be able to counter London's harbor and stint British growth, but he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo before he could see the plan through. (...)