Chapter 3: The dynamics of the Dutch system of cities
Urbanization is a process of population concentration. It proceeds in two ways: the multiplication of points of concentration and the increase in size of individual concentrations. Hope Eldridge Tisdale, 1942. When you look at a seventeenth-century map of the Netherlands, you will be able to recognise a lot of its current urban structure: it will take no effort to find Leyden, Dort, Gouda, Breda, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Gorcum and Delft. The smaller cities of, for example, Bodegraven, Nieuwcoop, Boscoop, Diemen and Duivendrecht are also outlined. The river-based cities of Bommel, Montfoort, Ysselsteyn, Willemstat, Geertrudenberch, Duierstede Wijck and Culemborch even had serious fortifications in those days. However, if you are trying to find Zoetermeer and Amstelveen, you will not be able to find them. Nor is there any trace of Almere, Haarlemmermeer, or Emmeloord – where the sea was wet as wet could be. As for the rest, most of the cities and villages have a long history. The Dutch urban pattern is reasonably stable. Once in a while something new emerges, but in general the structure seems to be an irreversible fact – even though this is a relative conclusion. Almost all of the river-based cities have lost their economic value. Apart from its fortifications and the church steeple of Bommel that the Dutch sing about, there is little to remind us of its glorious past. The boundaries of Amsterdam have since reached those of Diemen and Duivendrecht.
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