Feeding the City


Project duration: 2020 - 2025 Date coverage: 1550 - 1800 Contact

Urban History Historical Documents (e.g. Notarial sources; Census records; Ecclesiastical documents; Correspondence) Social Network Analysis Socio-Economic History

Feeding the City: A Bird’s-Eye View over Amsterdam’s Food Supply from Its Hinterlands, c. 1550-1800

It is widely accepted that the ‘miracle’ that was the Dutch Republic’s economic success was propelled by reciprocity between the quickly advancing rural and urban sector. This ‘symbiotic relationship’ between city and periphery was driven by food provision. Nonetheless, virtually no attention has been paid to how early modern regional supply of food actually functioned in this period of urbanisation and rural transformations. Amsterdam and its hinterlands offer an ideal case study: while the city grew rapidly into the largest city of the Republic and became densely populated, its surrounding lakes were increasingly drained and transformed into polders in order to produce food for the Amsterdam market.

By studying everyday work practices involved in Amsterdam’s food provision from its hinterlands, this project studies what city dwellers actually ate from what was produced in the regional countryside, and why (and how) these products ended up on dinner tables in Amsterdam; who and what influenced these processes? These work practices are distilled from a wide variety of sources (such as regulations, testimonials and confessions, theoretical publications, cookbooks, manuals, tenant contracts, and visual materials), and tracked using a relational database developed by CREATE. With the help of this database, network and spatial analysis will be executed in order to answer the projects research questions.

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