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Leiden...City of Knowledge, History and Canals
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Leiden in short

Leiden is a Dutch University city and is located in the province of South Holland along the old Rhine. The city has nearly 117,000 inhabitants. Leiden forms an urban area with Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten, Rijnsburg, Valkenburg and Katwijk.

Leiden through the centuries

The city nowadays known as Leiden was founded as a town on an artificial hill where the old and new Rhine were located. In the oldest records of this town, dating back from the year 860, the name Leithon is first to be mentioned. On the hill a stronghold was situated in which the landlord lived who was subject to the Bishop of Utrecht. From 1100 the city was ruled under the Duke of the county of Holland.

Leiden began to grow as a city partly because of its attractive location along the Rhine.
In 1266 the city officially received the city rights and began to grow more, mainly because of the textile industry which allowed Leiden to grow as one of the biggest cities of the county of Holland. With the growth of the textile industry the population grew and therefore the city borders had to be expanded by the year 1389.

15th and 16th century

In 1420 Leiden was captured by John of Bavaria. The city refused to pay the new count of Holland.
When the city was invaded by the Spanish in 1572 the city decided to join an uprising against the invaders. The city was liberated on the 3rd of October 1574, a date that is still celebrated by the current inhabitants of Leiden. In 1575, a year after the liberation, the famous University was granted to the city to be the first of the Northern side of the Netherlands. The University was granted in appreciation to the loyalty of the inhabitants of Leiden by William of Orange. By the 16th century, Leiden is an important centre for the printing and publishing industry.

17th and 18th century

In the 17th century the textile industry gets a large boost from Flemish refugees. The city begins to flourish and has almost 70,000 inhabitants by 1670. In the golden ages of the Netherlands Leiden was the second biggest city of Holland next to Amsterdam. The growth of Leiden made it necessary to build ditches and canals. The current canal pattern of the city was completed in 1695.  By the 18th century the textile industry suffers from competition and tax pressure. The industry is moved to other (cheaper) parts of the Netherlands. The population of Leiden decreases due to this to a number of 30,000 by the end of the 18th century.

19th and 20th century

Infrastructure is being improved with the inauguration of a railroad between Leiden and Haarlem in 1842. A year later a connection with The Hague is completed. The social-economical sitation improves little by building these rail roads but still Leiden had just 50,000 inhabitants by 1900. From the early 20th century Leiden begins to grow again by adopting new industries such as the canning and metal industry. The annexing of Leiderdorp, Oegstgeest and Zoeterwoude is the start of building beyond the old city limits. New neighbourhoods are built in the early 1900’s completing the city as we know it today.