(Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Keywords: The Netherlands, urban development, GIS, Jacob van Deventer, medieval towns

The cities in Holland are famous because of their emergence as commercial and industrial centres or maritime powers in the Dutch Golden Age, from the late 16th century onwards. Most medieval towns, especially Amsterdam, were hubs in a rapidly expanding network of trade relations and became the centres of much larger towns. This development wiped out most of the medieval townscape, not only its buildings but also parts of its functionality. The few remaining medieval buildings, such as churches, gates, towers, and monasteries, were much altered in later periods. What is left in most places is the pattern of streets, canals, and blocks.
The highly accurate set of city plans from the 1550s and 1560s by the famous cartographer Jacob van Deventer has been the starting point for scholars to look back into city’s past ever since their discovery in the 19th century. Recently, these plans were combined with a reconstruction of the infrastructural system and the palaeogeography and put into GIS by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.
How to reconstruct medieval towns from this end situation? From the above it is clear that reconstruction is not only reduction – a past city cannot be reconstructed by leaving out later changes, such as city extensions, infrastructural improvements, new public buildings. The effects of the transformation and modernization of pre-existing structures is important as well, for instance building in brick, densification, regularizing street plans, and the development of harbours and markets. Geographical, archaeological, and archival data need to be integrated to create the overall picture.
On the basis of a multidisciplinary approach we will present the functional development of three towns, located in very different landscapes: Dordrecht, the oldest town of Holland, located in a highly dynamic river landscape, Haarlem, located on a beach ridge near the river Spaarne, and Amsterdam, located in a peat bog on the IJ sea-branch.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
We will present a new multidisciplinary approach to the reconstruction of medieval urban structures, based on new digital cartographic resources.

We will combine new techniques and a variety of sources for this reconstruction.

R.J. Rutte & J.E. Abrahamse (eds.), Atlas of the Dutch Urban Landscape. A Millennium of Spatial Development, Bussum 2016.
K. Zweerink, ‘The spatial maturity of Dutch towns (1200-1450). A comparative analysis of the emergence of the outlines of the Randstad, with reference to town maps’, OverHolland 10/11 (2011), 149-171.