Amsterdam - major seaport in Holland
"Amsterdam began as a fishing village in the in the late 12th century. According to legend Amsterdam was founded by two Frisian fishermen, who landed on the shores of the Amstel in a small boat with their dog. The damming of the river Amstel gave it its name (in Dutch: Amstelredam 'Dam in the Amstel', turned into Amsterdam in the course of time). The traditional founding of the city of Amsterdam is October 27, 1275, when the inhabitants living around the Amstel dam were granted freedom from paying the tolls associated with the locks and bridges of Holland. It was given city rights in 1300 or 1301. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely on the basis of trade with the cities of the Hanseatic League.
"In the 16th century the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years' War which ultimately led to Dutch independence. After the break with Spain the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance. Jews from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp (economic and religious refugees from the part of the Low Countries still controlled by Spain), Huguenots from France (persecuted for their religion) sought safety in Amsterdam.
"The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's "Golden Age". In the early 17th century Amsterdam became one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, Africa and present-day Indonesia and Brazil and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants had the biggest share in the VOC and WIC. These companies acquired the overseas possessions which formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was the most important point for the trans-shipment of goods in Europe and it was the leading financial centre of the world. Amsterdam's stock exchange was the first to trade continuously." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam#History