Antwerp is a city and municipality in Belgium and the capital of the Antwerp province of Belgium. With a population of 510,610, it is by far the most populous city in Belgium. The capital region of Brussels, whose metropolitan area comprises the city itself plus 18 independent communal entities, counts over 1,190,769 inhabitants, but these communities are counted separately by the Belgian Statistics Office. The Antwerp metropolitan area is currently the second largest in Belgium. Antwerp is located on the river Scheldt, which is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. The Port of Antwerp is one of the biggest ports in the world, ranking third in Europe and within the top 20 globally. Antwerp is classified as a Global City.
Antwerp has long been an important city in the Low Countries, both economically and culturally, especially before the Spanish Fury (1576) in the period of the Dutch Revolt. The inhabitants of Antwerp are locally nicknamed Sinjoren, after the Spanish honorific señor or French seigneur, "lord". It refers to the leading Spanish noblemen who ruled the city during the 17th century.
Origin of the name
According to folklore, notably celebrated by a statue in front of the town hall, the city got its name from a legend involving a mythical giant called Antigoon who lived near the Scheldt river. He exacted a toll from those crossing the river, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. Eventually, the giant was slain by a young hero named Brabo, who cut off the giant's own hand and flung it into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen, akin to Old English hand and wearpan (to throw), which has evolved to today's warp.
A longstanding theory is that the name originated in the Gallo-Roman period and comes from the Latin antverpia. Antverpia would come from Ante (before) Verpia (deposition, sedimentation), indicating land that forms by deposition in the inside curve of a river (which is in fact the same origin as Germanic waerpen). Note that the river Scheldt, before a transition period between 600 to 750, followed a different track. This must have coincided roughly with the current ringway south of the city, situating the city within a former curve of the river. However many historians think it's unlikely that there was a large settlement that would be named 'Antverpia', but more something like an outpost with a river crossing.
However, John Lothrop Motley argues, and so do a lot of Dutch etymologists and historians, that Antwerp's name derives from an 't werf (on the wharf, in the same meaning as the current English wharf). Aan 't werp (at the warp) is also possible. This "warp" (thrown ground) is a man-made hill or a river deposit, high enough to remain dry at high tide, whereupon a construction could be built that would remain dry. Another word for werp is pol (dyke) hence polders (the dry land behind a dyke, that was no longer flooded by the tide).
Historical Antwerp allegedly had its origins in a Gallo-Roman vicus. Excavations carried out in the oldest section near the Scheldt, 1952–1961 (ref. Princeton), produced pottery shards and fragments of glass from mid-2nd century to the end of the 3rd century. The earliest mention of Antwerp dates from the 4th century.
The Merovingian Antwerp, was evangelized by Saint Amand in the 7th century. At the end of the 10th century, the Scheldt became the boundary of the Holy Roman Empire. Antwerp became a margraviate in 980, by the German emperor Otto I, a border province facing the County of Flanders.
In the 11th century Godfrey of Bouillon was for some years known as the marquis of Antwerp. In the 12th century, Norbert of Xanten established a community of his Premonstratensian canons at St. Michael's Abbey at Caloes. Antwerp was also the headquarters of Edward III during his early negotiations with Jacob van Artevelde, and his son Lionel, the Duke of Clarence, was born there in 1338.
After the silting up of the Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, then part of the Duchy of Brabant, gained in importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp, and the building assigned to the English nation is specifically mentioned in 1510. Antwerp became the sugar capital of Europe, importing product from Portuguese and Spanish plantations. The city attracted Italian and German sugar refiners by 1550, and shipped their refined product to Germany, especially Cologne. Moneylenders and financiers did a large business loaning money to the English government in the 1544–1574 period. London bankers were too small to operate on that scale, and Antwerp had a highly efficient bourse that itself attracted rich bankers from around Europe. After the 1570s the city's banking business declined; England ended its borrowing in Antwerp in 1574.
Fernand Braudel states that Antwerp became "the centre of the entire international economy, something Bruges had never been even at its height." Antwerp was the richest city in Europe at this time. Antwerp's golden age is tightly linked to the "Age of Exploration". Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second-largest European city north of the Alps. Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. Francesco Guicciardini, the Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2,000 carts entered the city each week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo. According to Luc-Normand Tellier "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas."
Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age: The first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559, based on the textiles industry. At the beginning of the 16th century Antwerp accounted for 40% of world trade. The boom-and-bust cycles and inflationary cost-of-living squeezed less-skilled workers. In the century after 1541, however, the city's economy and population declined dramatically, while rival Amsterdam experienced massive growth.
Subsequently,the city joined the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and became the capital of the Dutch revolt. In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and as part of the terms of surrender its Protestant citizens were given two years to settle their affairs before quitting the city. Most went to the United Provinces in the north, starting the Dutch Golden Age. Antwerp's banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa, and Amsterdam became the new trading centre.
The recognition of the independence of the United Provinces by the Treaty of Münster in 1648 stipulated that the Scheldt should be closed to navigation, which destroyed Antwerp's trading activities. This impediment remained in force until 1863, although the provisions were relaxed during French rule from 1795 to 1814, and also during the time Belgium formed part of the Kingdom of the United Netherlands (1815 to 1830). Antwerp had reached the lowest point of its fortunes in 1800, and its population had sunk under 40,000, when Napoleon, realizing its strategic importance, assigned funds to enlarge the harbour by constructing a new dock (the still named Bonapartedock) and an access- lock and mole and deepening the Scheldt to allow for larger ships to approach Antwerp. Napoleon hoped that by making Antwerp's harbour the finest in Europe he would be able to counter London's harbour and stint British growth, but he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo before he could see the plan through.
In 1830, the city was captured by the Belgian insurgents, but the citadel continued to be held by a Dutch garrison under General David Hendrik Chassé. For a time Chassé subjected the town to periodic bombardment which inflicted much damage, and at the end of 1832 the citadel itself was besieged by the French Northern Army commanded by Marechal Gerard. During this attack the town was further damaged. In December 1832, after a gallant defence, Chassé made an honourable surrender, ending the Siege of Antwerp (1832).
Later that century, a double ring of Brialmontfortresses was constructed some from the city centre, as Antwerp was considered vital for the survival of the young Belgian state. And in the last decade Antwerp presented itself to the world via a World's Fair attended by 3 million.
Antwerp was the first city to host the World Gymnastics Championships, in 1903. During World War I, the city became the fallback point of the Belgian Army after the defeat at Liège. The Siege of Antwerp lasted for 11 days, but the city was taken after heavy fighting by the German Army, and the Belgians were forced to retreat westwards. Antwerp remained under German occupation until the Armistice.
Antwerp hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics. During World War II, the city was an important strategic target because of its port. It was occupied by Germany in May 1940 and liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division on 4 September 1944. After this, the Germans attempted to destroy the Port of Antwerp, which was used by the Allies to bring new material ashore. Thousands of Rheinbote, V-1 and V-2 missiles battered the city. The city was hit by more V-2s than all other targets during the entire war combined, but the attack did not succeed in destroying the port since many of the missiles fell upon other parts of the city. As a result, the city itself was severely damaged and rebuilt after the war in a modern style. After the war, Antwerp, which had already had a sizeable Jewish population before the war, once again became a major European centre of Haredi (and particularly Hasidic) Orthodox Judaism.
Ryckewaert argued for the importance of the Ten-Year Plan for the port of Antwerp (1956–1965). It expanded and modernized the port's infrastructure over a 10-year period, with national funding, intended to build a set of canal docks. The broader importance was to facilitate the growth of the north-eastern Antwerp metropolitan region, which attracted new industry. Extending the linear layout along the Scheldt River, planners designed further urbanization along the same linear city model. Satellite communities would be connected to the main strip. Ryckewaert, argues that in contrast to the more confused Europoort plan for the port of Rotterdam, the Antwerp approach succeeded because of flexible and strategic implementation of the project as a co-production between various authorities and private parties.
Starting in the 1990s, Antwerp rebranded itself as a world-class fashion centre. Emphasizing the avant-garde, it tried to compete with London, Milan, New York and Paris. It emerged from organized tourism and mega-cultural events.