Het stadsfabrieksambt : de organisatie van de publieke werken in de Noordelijke Nederlanden in de zeventiende eeuw

G. van Essen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


The cities and towns of the Dutch Republic were established fairly late in comparison to many other urban centres in Europe: starting around the mid-twelfth century with Dordrecht and followed in the thirteenth and fourteenth century by most other cities and towns. One or two officials were assigned to supervise the construction, condition and maintenance, as to control the finances of the municipal works. Major public works in this period included both buildings for trade and government, such as meat markets, weigh-houses, town halls and urban expansions in the fourteenth, and especially in the late sixteenth century. At the same time it took constant effort to maintain a city’s fortification, harbour, canals, locks, sluices, bridges, streets and existing municipal buildings. In the earliest stages until the sixteenth century, citizens and other city-dwellers were responsible for the maintenance of urban space: the maintenance of almost all streets, canals, quaysides and bridges was performed or financed by local residents, or was the task of the urban district in question. The laying-out, construction, building and maintenance of the fortification (town-walls, moats and gates), the town hall and city planning were the responsibility of the municipality. Late sixteenth, early seventeenth century, as a result of prosperity and urban expansions and the accompanying increase in both temporary and structural public works, many of the Dutch towns began to organize the execution and maintenance of their public works in a more technically skilled manner. The expansion of public works made a town like Groningen decide to contract out all their public works. Although other cities in the Republic also contracted out municipal works projects, they preferred to manage most such projects themselves. This meant setting up a small or large organization: the municipal building company. Amsterdam went furthest in this regard, partly to its great prosperity and two major expansions of the city. Around 1660 Amsterdam’s municipal building company employed master craftsmen with a fixed annual wage to supervise almost every conceivable branch of the building sector. In nearly every city and town the vast growth of public works during the seventeenth century eventually reached the point where the management, supervision or funding of municipal projects got sufficiently out of hand to need reorganization. During the closing decades of the century, the municipal building companies were either swiftly or gradually reduced to a ‘skeleton service’ so that municipal works could be maintained at minimum cost. On a governmental level all independent Dutch cities and towns managed their public works the same way. On the level of execution and maintenance all cities choose their own method, mostly based on local tradition and practice. The search for a efficient organization, to match local necessities, the economic situation, and the complexity of the area of responsibility, was in constant demand during the seventeenth century.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Ottenheym, Koen, Primary supervisor
Award date14 Oct 2011
Print ISBNs978-94-6103-013-9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2011


  • Specialized histories (international relations, law)
  • Literary theory, analysis and criticism
  • Culturele activiteiten
  • Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek
  • Geschiedenis en Kunstgeschiedenis (GEKU)

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