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Multicultural Amsterdam

Amsterdam has been a multicultural city for centuries, due to wars and conflicts, (labor) migration, the arrival of refugees, the consequences of colonialism, etc. 

During the Dutch Golden Age, which started around 1600, the population of the city exploded from about 50,000 to 200,000 a hundred years later. Most came as a result of the Dutch War of Independence from Spain, which is referred to as the 80-year war in the Netherlands. Many refugees were Jews who had escaped persecution in Spain and Portugal. Never in its history has Amsterdam seen such a population explosion.

The total population of Amsterdam remains under 1 million.

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Black History

Dutch colonialism between the 16th and 20th century, both in South America and in Asia, and the slavery history of the Netherlands in South America (primarily Surinam), have also had a significant impact on the multicultural fabric of Amsterdam and the Netherlands, though hardly mentioned in schoolbooks. There is now also a Black History Month in Amsterdam, paralleling the emergence of a Black History month in the United States.




Slavery Monument

There is also a Slavery Monument in Amsterdam that commemorates the history of the Dutch as Slave Traders.



Jewish history

The darkest chapter in Amsterdam’s multicultural history relates to the history of the Jews during the Holocaust.  About 10% of the population of Amsterdam was Jewish just before the Holocaust (80,000 out 800,000). Only 20% survived the Holocaust. The city continues to be seen as a center of Jewish culture in the Netherlands.
For a description of Amsterdam’s Jewish history and the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust:



The most ethnically diverse city in Europe

At present, approximately half the population of Amsterdam can trace its cultural origins to countries outside of Western Europe, making Amsterdam one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Europe. During the second half of the 20th century, immigrants came especially from Indonesia, Suriname, Turkey and Morocco. Most recently, thousands of refugees from especially Syria have settled in Amsterdam and now call it home. In 2017, there were some 6500 refugees living in the city (a little less than 1% of the population). It is expected that within the next few years, more than half of the Amsterdam population will have been born abroad or will have parents or (great) grandparents who were born abroad. 
More than half of all school students in Amsterdam have a migration background. Like many other cities in the West, Amsterdam is challenged by both residential and school segregation.



Policies: Anti-discriminatory measures and Emancipation 



The Municipality has installed five advisory bodies to assist it in its migrant policy. Further, the ethnic composition of the civil service in the city must reflect the population of the city and various programs are in place to realize this.
Support for the emancipation of women and of people who are subject to discrimination based on their sexual preferences is part of the city's policy. The city pursues a specific emancipation policy and in 1995 installed the Ombudsman Service for Women to deal with complaints relating to the legal and social position of 'black, white and immigrant women' in Amsterdam.


LGBT rights

The City of Amsterdam pursues an active policy to combat discrimination against LGBT residents and visitors. Darker times are remembered at the foot of the Westerkerk church with the Homomonument – a memorial consisting of three pink granite triangles. It was the first monument to the victims of persecution and discrimination of homosexuals in the world. 
Amsterdam's then-mayor, Job Cohen, acted as registrar at the country's first same-sex civil marriage ceremony at the Town Hall, held in the early hours of 1 April 2001. Four same-sex couples said 'I do' and placed their signatures in the register, for the first time enjoying the same legal status as heterosexual married couples. In his previous post as State Secretary for Justice, Cohen had been instrumental in ensuring that this legislation reached the statute book. The opening of civil marriage to same-sex couples was approved by the Dutch government in December 2000. The Netherlands had already introduced registration of same-sex partner-ships, another legal landmark, in 1998.



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