Middelburg History

First a little history of our small city. Middelburg is also called ‘small Amsterdam’ because of its resemblance. It has city rights over 800 years (1217 AD) now and was originated in 844 by the construction of the Catholic Monastery, which was later taken over by the Reformed Church. Even then Middelburg was a centre for commercial trade between England and the main Flemish cities.

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In the 16th century ( the Golden Century), during the colonial time, it was the second most important city, after Amsterdam. Both the VOC (Dutch United East Indian Company), one of the first multi-nationals, and the WIC (Dutch West Indian Company) had an important office in the city and it played an important role in the economy in the 16th and 17th century as a trading centre for the Dutch Indian Company. They imported products such as spices, tea, and other items of value. In the 18th century, Middelburg also played an important part in the overseas slave trade (Middelburg Commerce Company). They bought or took slaves in Afrika to sell them in Suriname and The Dutch Antilles. Both Suriname and the Dutch Antilles were Dutch colonies for many years but now only Bonaire, Saba, and St Eustatius are special Dutch provinces.

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In the 19th century, the VOC days are over and the French occupiers of Napoleon leave Middelburg exploited and looted behind. During the second world war, Middelburg was bombed and went up in flames. Many of the buildings have been restored and renovated in the traditional way in the years that follow. Middelburg is also the city of the inventors of the Microscope and the Telescope come from.

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In the old city centre of Middelburg, you can find ‘de Kuiperspoort’ with its medieval alleyways and the old trade quays with beautiful monumental buildings that date back from the colonial time. We still get amazed by our own city and its buildings. Many of the mansions have names written above the front door which refer to the original destination of the companies. For example Londen (London office) and Bourdeaux Oxhoofd (Oxhoofd is an old measure of capacity for wine and beer). So don’t forget to look up.


Nowadays, Middelburg is a touristic province capital. In the summer it can get pretty crowded, but nothing compared to its bigger sister Amsterdam. It’s cosier, compact and full of history. The inhabitants are somewhat stubborn and headstrong but full of entrepreneurship. We love to invite you to check out our history for yourself and let us know what you think of it.

Check out our other blog about Middelburg here. Would you like to see more of The Netherlands? Check out this page.


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