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The history of Leiden

here you find a brief summary of the history of Leiden

The beginning

Leiden began as a settlement on the left bank of the Rine, where the two branches of the Rhine flowed into the rivers Mare and Vliet. Here the Counts of Holland had their court. Gravensteen (Count's Stone House), Pieterskerkhof (St. Peter's Churchyard) and Burcht (Citadel) remind us of that period. The city was probably granted a charter some time before the year 1222. Leiden, which had some importance as a market town, soon developed a textile industry. Because of the need for more space and power the city was enlarged four times in the 13th and 14th centuries.

15th and 16th century

The next 200 years turned out to be a period of stagnation, with severe floods insecurity, hunger and pestilence. The textile industry went into a decline and finally production was closed down altogether. Then there was the Spanish siege of 1573/1574 an important landmark in Leiden's history, when the city held out against the Spanish forces in the tumultuous years of the "Dutch Revolt". the population fell from 15.000 to 12.000 inhabitants. When the siege was over, Leiden was granted permission to found it's university (the first university in the Netherlands), which has played a prominent part in the city's affairs even since. When the city's economy was rebuilt , the emphasis was again on the textile industry. The city took measures to attract skilled labourers, and many arrived from Flanders and other countries, usually refugees from religious persecution (like the Pilgrim Fathers) Mainly through their efforts the industry revived and flourished once more, but the influx of immigrants greatly swellswelled Leiden's population and made further expansion necessary in the course of the 17th century.

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